Saturday, November 03, 2012

Fickle Fans and True Love

The trajectory of celebrity is a mercurial thing.  Its arc swings up and down or levels at the fancy of the fan base which can go from hot to lukewarm to cold faster than Miley Cyrus changes hairstyles.  From time to time, an arc that seemed destined for oblivian reverses.  Mickey Rourke comes to mind.  I’m struggling to think of others. 

Yesterday, I blogged about Bob Dylan’s reinvention and how I, personally, enjoyed the “new” artist (or this permutation, anyway) a lot more than the “old” one.  For every one of me, there are probably 1,000 others who feel cheated when old familiars—iconic songs—are spun differently, both musically and lyrically. I can think of a number of once-popular musical groups whose changes over the years have left me sulking.  There’s disappointment when a favorite artist strays from his roots. Music fans, for the most part, want consistency.  Regardless of how many years or decades have passed between the chart-busting hit and the live performance, fans want to hear what they are familiar with.  They want a fuzzy blanket not a polar splash.  They go to concerts, maybe in large part, to recapture a moment.  Changing out lyrics or mixing up a beat or dropping some notes is like putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.  Meanwhile, the artist is thinking, how do I stay current?  How do I keep breathing in a dub step world?

The end result of this is fan base erosion and, more often than not, the artist just kind of fades away.   Venues get smaller and smaller.  Groups that could pack an amphitheater are playing at apple festivals or, arguably worse yet, not at all.

So, people are both generally fickle and lacking a certain loyalty.  Imagine if the creator of the universe went hot and cold on his creatures or walked away and never looked back on us when we became less amusing. Chilling thought, huh?

Theologians write about the “immutability” of God.  This means that God doesn’t change with respect to his nature, character or attributes. God will always be an all-powerful God impeded by nothing and capable of accomplishing all he envisions.  God is the same today as he always was, undiminished or reshaped by time, and will be the same forever.    

Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is form above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow (James 1:17)          

Looking for something to celebrate today?  How about that?

In my DVD Player…  The Last Lions.  Love, loss, loyalty and courage are not exclusive to the human domain.  This is a suspenseful, heart wrenching and ultimately redemptive film that shows us life is both hard and precious.        

Photo from Pastor Lynette Santiago's blog.

Friday, November 02, 2012

On Reinvention and Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan
I had a really interesting experience at the Mark Knopfler/Bob Dylan concert in Grand Prairie last night.  A huge fan of Mark Knopfler’s music from his Dire Straits days up until, well, the album before last,  I was thrilled that he was finally coming to Texas!  When I heard that Knopfler and Dylan were playing separately, I was beyond happy.  My fear when I first heard about the concert is that they would be playing together and I really didn’t want to listen to Bob Dylan on top of Mark Knopfler.  Call me shallow, but I don’t get Dylan.  The greatest songwriter of all time?  Really?  And who can tell?  You need sheet music to understand what he’s saying beneath the plugged-nose warble.  (Not trying to be mean here… just a small critique… sorry.)

Knopfler did not disappoint.  Backed by what must have been some of the best musicians in the world, he and his band beat out mostly newer fare.  Only two songs, however, hearkened back to the "older" Knopfler I most enjoy:  Brothers in Arms and So Far Away.  So, I had to kind of get past the new Knopfler’s bluesy, folksy, Appalachian story-telling schtick.  Still, a dazzling show.

So, then Dylan takes the stage with a back-up band that was probably going straight to somebody’s wedding reception.  It mystified my husband and me as to how this iconic legend couldn’t pull together a better group of musicians.  It’s not that they were awful.  It’s not that they were bad.  It’s just that the opening act’s band blew them out of the water.  The contrast between Band Knopfler and Band Dylan was like chocolate and vanilla. 

So, anyway, Dylan’s up on stage.  We were in a tiered-seating venue in the mid-section.  Lots of people down front were standing up, but there were no obstructions to our view.  We could see fine until some guy in front of me decides to stand up, too.  Hey, it’s a concert.  That’s what people do.  But, I was not really in a stand-up mood.  And neither was anyone behind or around me.  We were all sitting down in our section.    My husband immediately wanted to change seats with me.  I didn’t want him staring at this guy’s back.  So, I declined.  Then my husband said, “Why don’t I ask him to sit down.”  I thought about this for a second.  My biggest consideration was the people behind me, because I really didn’t care.  I’d already seen what I came to see (Knopfler). Maybe Todd should ask for the people behind me, I thought.   But, I could see that this guy was having a moment.  He was watching someone he really admired… so obviously thrilled to be there. I didn’t want to mess with the vibe.  So, I just put my head on my husband’s shoulder and was content to let #1 Dylan Fan soak in it.        

So, this guy was really into the performance, swaying back and forth and grinning, for about four songs.  Then, he sat down and I noticed his attention seemed to wane.  He was a little bit more conversant with his wife and looking around a bit. Dylan saved his three biggest songs for the end:  Like a Rolling Stone, All Along the Watchtower and Blowing in the Wind.  Dylan did wildly different interpretations of all three songs.  In fact, it wasn’t altogether clear until he got well into the songs what they were.  As soon as it became obvious that he was playing Like a Rolling Stone, #1 Dylan Fan did something bafflingly, crazily unpredictable.  He got up… and left.  #1 Dylan Fan up and walked out just as the artist was getting down and legendary.   Why?  Could have been an emergency?  It was more than a bathroom break, because he and his wife kind of packed up and left never to return.  Who knows?  But, my guess is that #1 Dylan Fan had come to the concert, maybe, hoping to recapture some of the magic and what he got, instead, was a reinvention.  History rewritten.  The song did not remain the same. 

Then something else happened that took me by utter surprise.  As #1 Dylan Fan was walking out, I got a chill and goose bumps and suddenly got Bob Dylan.  I not only got him, but think I fell in love. It all clicked for me.  And it took a reinvention to do it.  I don’t like old Bob Dylan.  It’s the new Bob Dylan I fancy.  It’s the new take on the old songs that did it for me.  #1 Dylan Fan, I suspect had a totally opposite experience.  He came for the old Dylan and walked out on the new one.  Which is kind of the way I feel about Mark Knopfler, frankly. 

I think there’s a spiritual application to this story.  But, we got home at midnight, the dog needed to go outside four times before 5:00 a.m. and I’m really tired.

Pondering it, though.

 On my iPod... thinking I got to get some Dylan