Thursday, November 18, 2004

Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter,

I'm not sure how old I was but the first time I dropped the needle on my dad's Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits LP I wasn't exactly sure what to think. Trombones?! The voices cheering and calling from the background? It seemed to me that it was put down by an amateur without the use of a real recording studio. It sounded gritty, it sounded raw, I didn't know why but I thought it sounded too adult for me. My junior high school ears knew that I was listening to something that I just didn't understand yet. You all know the words...

Well, they'll stone ya when you're trying to be so good,
They'll stone ya just a-like they said they would.
They'll stone ya when you're tryin' to go home.
Then they'll stone ya when you're there all alone.
But I would not feel so all alone,
Everybody must get stoned.

Stoned? Like they'll force you to smoke weed? Rainy Day Women #12 and 35? What did women have to do with getting stoned? Why are they all screaming? How could a voice like that be the famous Bob Dylan? For me being young so young I just didn't get it yet. My confusion and curiousity hooked me. Over the next year or so I listened to that record nearly every day.

Last night Wifey and I saw Bob Dylan at the Ryan Center on the URI Campus. That man knows how to put on a show. I have seen many shows before and left the arena saying "That was the greatest show I've ever seen!". But this was not one of them. I left this show smiling at The Wife, both of us knowing that while we didn't have to say it like we did when we were in college, on the inside, buth of us were screaming "THAT WAS THE GREATEST SHOW I HAVE EVER SEEN!!"

This guy was bopping his head and bouncing up to the drum kit between songs. No the guy I saw onstage was not 63 years old. The guy I saw was a young singer songwriter enjoying himself. He was bouncing between racks of harmonicas and a large electric piano setup where he stayed for the whole show. He stooped towards his microphone and never used a stool or bench. This little guy was mobile. His attire would have placed him a bit closer to Nashville than Greenwich Village.

Being as prolific a songwriter as he is I will admit that I didn't recognize the bulk of his set. That didn't matter a bit. This set had a driving beat that didn't seem to stop all night. There seemed to be a swelling of energy on the stage as if this guy who has found himself on stage for forty years was more comfortable there than anywhere he could be. He didn't address the crowd between songs except to introduce the band before the last song. That one I knew, sort of. I know it was "A Hard Rain's A-gonna Fall" but this is not your father's "Hard Rain.." by any means. A new hard driving beat for the new and improved Bob Dylan.

The encore was "Like a Rolling Stone" followed by "All Along the Watchtower". These songs are tried and true classics. Their status is confirmed and these songs will be remembered through the ages and I can always say that I had the good fortune to see him perform it. I have seen the Dave Mathews Band and more than a few smaller bands try to cover "Watchtower" live. Some have done it better than others. About halfway through this I leaned over to The Wife and said in her ear "kind of makes the others seem like a joke doesn't it?" There was really no question.

I realize that Bob Dylan has had a rebirth in the past years with movie soundtracks, his latest new album, his book, and even a ladies underwear commercial and I haven't seen him before so I have no frame of reference but this was a damn good Bob Dylan show. I hesitate to reveal this out of respect for Clapton but I saw him in the Garden a few years ago, well I guess who I really wanted to see was Clapton in the seventies because Clapton in the nineties was a bit of a bore. What with the orchestra and all. Dylan last night in a word Rocked!

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