Last night I went to one of Bob Dylan's three concerts in Hollywood. It was... quite something.
I'm beginning to notice something about myself and concerts-- apparently they're pretty momentous occasions. I don't know if it's because I'm a sensitive person or if I overthink or if my heart is just a special kind that wants to burst at the slightest expansion, but at concerts or any momentous occasion to me I seem to realize on several levels that it's momentous, so much so that perhaps I fail to be in the moment because I know I should be in the moment. I can't help it. I know that life is short-- maybe I realize that more than some young people (for no particular reason- I'm neither naive nor overfamiliar with death or anything) so I want to wallow and soak and let things carry me away, but of course they never will be able to lift me if I'm aware of them-- if I throw myself at them. Yes, sometimes they get by me anyway, but I can't help but think I feel things a bit differently. I think I am Tereza from Unbearable Lightness-- the world is heavy.
Point is, the concert was a strangely surreal experience-- as alot of them have been, but this one in particular for a few reasons. One, I was alone and thus... well, we'll get to that. Two, it's so bizarre to see a figure you're so familiar with not a few yards from you- someone you feel like you know, but who does not and will not know you ever. In a way you are a voyeur. Three, Bob Dylan in particular has so much significance attached to him (for me, I can't imagine the oldsters's experience). He's a co-founder of rockn'roll, modern folk, pop songs with deep significance. No one is like Bob Dylan, no one has his mythic history or his image. I realize all that IS indeed image (and I have theories about that too, mostly concluding with my opinion that he has no personality of his own left), but still. It's a pretty affecting image. I look at him like I look at a beautiful old building or pictures of Europe-- the complexity, the history, the magnificent things that have passed before it/him and, furthermore, the beautiful and strange things he has created. The history alone gives me chills. I don't want to make him out to be a god or even a musician who can do no wrong (because lord knows he can) but it is a rather striking and strange feeling to be in the same concert hall as that.
That said, I faded in and out of that surreal feeling throughout the event. He didn't do anything to help- he didn't speak until the end when he introduced the band. He sang and played the keyboard (never the guitar, alas) and was, well, Bob Dylan. Some moments were absolutely sublime, some songs could have been skipped or replaced with material I would much rather hear- sadly he did not play Desolation Row, which I've had on repeat lately, or Positively 4th Street, or Times (which I suppose he'd feel funny singing now that he belongs to the old world), or Mr. Tambourine Man. He played a few new ones which I was not familiar with but which I liked very much (one being Forgetful Heart, which was pretty moving. now that I listen to it, I really like it, but allow me to say that live it was beautiful). He now sounds much more like Tom Waits so far as voice goes, but his manner and enunciation is still so HIM. Some verses he sang as if he were mocking or asking a question-- in that great Dylan way. It's like an actor choosing the emphasis to put on a particular line that changes the meaning or the joke entirely-- he's good at that. Anyway, it was more of a rock show than anything, and his band was really good. They really slayed Highway 61, and on encore they did a mean version of Rolling Stone (and Jolene? meh) and All Along The Watchtower, which, according to what I've read, played like he always wanted it to sound- electric. It was like hearing Hendrix's version with Dylan singing. Wild.
However, the absolute best best best best part was Ballad of a Thin Man, which ended the first set (before the encore). They stopped moving around the stage, came to the front, the lights dimmed and became cabaret-style (that is to say, most of the place turned dark and the above lights turned off, and then they lit them from the very front of the stage in a kind of amber color. reminded me of a speakeasy or something). He was standing in the middle and just did a KILLER version of it, with his guy on the guitar wailing away and sounding incredible, and him on the harmonica- again, killing it DEAD. Vicious. About halfway through it I realized that the front lighting was casting a massive shadow- his only, nicely done- against the curtain behind him. Man. Eerie as hell. So fitting. I would like to rewind and just experience that again.
The people were strangely nice, too. Unexpected. At one point I abandoned my initial place because jerks encroached, so I moved further to the left of the stage. Eventually more and more people pushed in, but I remained because I could see okay (though there were some freakishly tall people way up front-- jerks. Anyway, I was standing, and there was a gap between me and this super tall guy, but he wasn't IN front of me, just in front and to the side so he wasn't blocking my view, but I didn't want to move up too close to him and piss him off. Plus he looked very self-involved and snobby, and I don't know about these Dylan people. But then, right before Dylan came out, he turned and smiled at me and his whole expression changed. "Do you want to stand in front of me?" He asked. Nicest Dylanite ever. Later, a guy with a hat was somewhat in front of me, and between sets he turned back to see my POV and asked if I could see. So yeah. Despite the blatant little potheads (inside? really, potheads?? clearly nothing stops you [wow, i AM frances mcdormand]) it was incredible. Just great. I drove home in the fog listening to Desolation Row and just thinking.
Such a conflicting feeling, feeling that satisfied and that yearning at the same time.
I'll figure it out someday. Or not.