Dylan Rolls Through Tallahassee

So this afternoon my wife calls me at work. At first I’m worried, because she rarely calls me at work. She gets right to the point:

“Do you want to go see Bob Dylan tonight?”

Now, we have other plans–family plans that we have every Monday night–but the way she asks, I know there’s only one answer, and it’s the one we both want:

“YEAH!”

We walk into the Civic Center to hear Dylan’s aging voice scratching out one of his more recent tunes, but the night turns out to be a mix from his whole songbook. It doesn’t seem to matter much what he’s singing: his delivery tells listeners he’s as sure of who he is and what he wants now as when he set out to make Woody Guthrie his guru.

When he’s not behind the keyboard, Dylan creeps up to the mic like some old man around a campfire getting ready to frighten the bejesus out of some unsuspecting grandchildren. His voice ghastly and only rarely with any pitch at all, he spins his tales as a master storyteller. He smiles with the awareness that his audiences know all the tunes, but his poetry does not suffer a lack of urgency for it.  In his encore performance of “Like a Rolling Stone,” as Dylan asks his old question again–“How does it feel?”–we wonder if we should have kept the part of those frightened grandchildren the whole time. The tune has as much haunting resonance now as it always has.

It comes as no surprise that a man who’s been on the road as long as Bob Dylan has this kind of creative command over both audience and band. A tiny nod cues enormous tempo changes, his subtle squint a complete change in lyrical mood. At seventy, the textual and visual poetics of his performance still satisfy with all kinds of relevance for a generation still in the midst of discovering him.

On top of all that, my spouse still has the ability to surprise me with a totally unexpected gift: a soulful dinner with friends, a fantastic show, and all on a Monday night! What a gem.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Dylan Rolls Through Tallahassee

  1. Steve Smith

    The 60s provided numerous musical adventures. No artist from that time had a more profound effect on the direction of popular music than Bob Dylan. You knew the first time you heard him that he was unique in both his writing and his performance. We should be pleased that he continues to perform. As the years pass by I judge music from the past in a different perspective. Dylan was relevant then and he’s still relevant now. Society is quick to abandon the old for the new. Treasures from the past still need to be preserved and studied.

  2. Well, you know I agree on several levels Steve. I’m tutoring a student who’s taking a colleague’s pop class, and it appears I’m not the only one to spend a disproportionately large amount of time on the 60s in that course. Guess it’s true that “if you’re really hip, the passing years will show…”

  3. Sarah

    When I saw him with van and Joni he rocked my world!!!

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