Wednesday, October 25

Column: I Hate to Say This, Bob, but Shape Up

Despite his age, arthritis, and a lifetime of smoking, Bob Dylan continues to play sold-out shows in huge arenas. At this point in his career, though, many – including myself – attend simply to be able to say that they have “seen Bob Dylan.” Despite what I had heard about his voice and age, I spent $50 to sit in the nosebleed section of nosebleed sections, the top row in the upper balcony at The Forum in Inglewood. I wasn’t expecting to be blown away.

His back faced me and there was no big screen for reference. Dylan played keys for the entirety of his short hour-and-a-half set. Nevertheless, I can say I’ve seen Bob Dylan.

It’s a terrible disappointment that my expectations, based on what I had been told, were true. His music doesn’t matter much to the crowd. Instead, it’s simply his presence that people pay hundreds of dollars to see. Bob Dylan at the mic, loud music, flashing lights.

But could he be putting on better live shows? Can he still sing like he used to, or is he changing the melodies and structures of his songs to fit for his dying voice? Is he able to entrance the audience like he did forty years ago? If so, why wouldn’t he give us all he’s got? He’s widely known to be moody, especially on stage. Why not just take some Prozac and get on with the show? Tens of thousands of people paid for this.

The light show had a greater effect on the audience than the songs. Dramatic light displays made the Forum erupt in cheers even during the most unenthused and unrecognizable versions of his classic “Like a Rolling Stone.” We’re being tricked by a lightshow in place of a Godlike figure, a figure who for some reason never does what the public wants him to do. Maybe he is God, playing with our emotions.

Most of you reading this have either already experienced my disappointment or have already heard, through other means, what Bob Dylan’s concerts are like in the 2000’s. These days, people describe his voice not even with words, but with a knowing glance, a disappointed face and a roll of the eyes that says, “If only he’d sing the songs like he used to.”

And I understand if his voice is going – smoking and age generally start to fuck an individual over around his age. However, if he were to sing his songs like he used to and screwed up, it would be far more brave and entertaining than what he’s doing now. He’s melted his sound – one that forty years ago was characterized by several distinct separate influences – into a generic rock band lacking any soul.

From my view, he still looked like Dylan from ’65, held himself the same way, walked and moved his arms like young Dylan. And that was the high point, to see him in person, with my own eyes. But the music – the reason for all the hype, the reason one should pay for a concert – was lacking.

Passion was hard to find on Friday night.

- Austin Bauer -

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At 10:47 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

While you make many valid points, I found Dylan's performance in Bakersfield last winter refreshing. He's never been an artist who intends to please anyone. Maybe he does change his songs because he can't physically sing them the same way, but it makes me feel so good to know that he still finds his old, overplayed songs to be so much fun to play and keeps them so fresh. Sorry you were in the nosebleeds, friend.



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