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     

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