lundi 15 octobre 2012

Not about Myth Romney this time: how about Bob Dylan?

We got free tickets to the Bob Dylan concert at Key Arena last Saturday night. If I had a bucket list, which I most certainly do not, I would be able to cross one more item off. Everyone knows that Dylan's voice has.... umm, changed over the course of his long career. You can read the polemic surrounding this fact on the internets, so I will spare you. Yes, his voice has changed. Yes, it was distinctive but not great to start with. And yes, it is still distinctive but has gone from not great to truly awful. How awful? Most of the time it takes awhile to figure out what song he's singing, even if you know his music well. He has rearranged the songs, in part to work around the severe limitations of his current voice. All singers do this more or less. To cite but one case among many, we saw Joan Baez a couple of years ago at a Zootunes concert, and it was clear that her voice had aged. But it had aged well and her workarounds were as lovely as whatever she was working around. Bob Dylan is in another category altogether. His voice is a wreck, and not a fine one. Every once in awhile, he hits a note at the same time he hits a word, but most of the time he sounds like a baby who has cried its lungs out but continues to cry. An angry crying baby. There was one moment that may have made the evening worthwhile, however. It was the moment when a light shone on the dark stage and all that was visible was Dylan's light-colored hat. Then Dylan's face. And I thought to myself, behold the man: one of the most well-known names on the planet. There he is, standing before me. I also appreciated his playlist, though most of the songs were not immediately recognizable. They were only recognizable when a word and note combined with clarity. "Oh," Walt would say with a laugh, "that's Tangled up in Blue". Or "Wow, that's All Along the Watchtower". "Highway 61!" Etc. Mark Knopfler opened for Dylan. It is hard to imagine Knopfler opening for many people - Dylan is one of few who has that kind of stature. I mean, Knopfler is pretty mythical himself. I had seen him once before, in Paris. It was 1986. I was actually attending an Eric Clapton concert, and Knopfler's appearance onstage came as a total surprise for everyone. When we emerged from the Zénith after the show, exhilarated, snow was falling. It took hours to get out of the parking lot and then endure a slow crawl back to Paris. But what a night! Knopfler continues to amaze. He is certainly one of the best if not the best guitarist alive. His voice is distinctive but not great. Unlike Dylan, however, his has not changed much. It is still distinctive but not great. He seems to be just a guy who wants to surround himself with the best musicians and jam. That's what he did on Saturday. I am sure half the crowd was there to see him, including the increasingly insistent loudmouth who wanted him to do "MTV". Knopfler ignored him, though he ended with a relative oldie, So Far Away From You.