What is it about Bob Dylan that makes every detail of his person and performance so intriguing? Is there any one else who can get up on stage, stand behind a rinky-dink keyboard and croak semi-intelligible lyrics for two hours and have the crowd go mad?
Last night, Dylan held a quickly setup show at Oneonta State College. The school paper noted that the campus activity board only shelled out a little over $12K to get Bob, with the promoter, JAM Productions, footing the rest of the tab. Perhaps the haste in setting up the show added to the palpable buzz that permeated the field house crowdwd. Fortuitously, Dylan is on the cover of Rolling Stone this week, adding to the general excitement.
I won't go tune by tune, but hit the highlights instead. Dylan approached center stage for his second song, It Ain't Me Babe. Standing sideways to the audience, facing stage right, Dylan was a would-be crooner, while he played harmonica and pranced around. He was part-Jerry Vale, part-Scatman Crothers. High Water, in its live incarnation, sounds like Shot of Love with new lyrics. For Workingman's Blues #2, as apt a song for this economic collapse as any, the black backdrop was illuminated with celestial white stars. The static curtain constellation was answered by a plethora of moving lights, cellphones in the audience swaying in time. Some atavistic holdouts held lighters. It was a moving moment.
Dylan was less growly than usual. Is this guttural Bob-voice the real vocalizing of an old man, or just another Dylan style? I've wondered often about it. Dylan's voice, which netted him the #7 spot in the top 100 rock singer poll in the aforementioned Rolling Stone issue, has gone through enough conscious change that there's no reason not to think the froggy Bob is not an affectation.
Now that Dylan plays keyboards, often stork like with one leg seriously bent, the sight of him strapping on a guitar is, for most die-hards, a thing of memory. So when he turned around, picked up a guitar and strapped it on, it was a transcendent moment for the screaming throng. He ended the show playing guitar, looking like a mariachi in his gleaming outfit with wide side stripes and a flat topped white hat.
When he introduced the band, he began by addressing the crowd with "Thanks friends." On a night when Bob Dylan was extremely playful and seemingly having fun, it sounded like he just may have meant it.
KATZ KOMMENT UPDATE:
On Tuesday I wrote a post about Joe Lieberman comparing him to Fredo Corleone. I took great pride last night when I heard Jon Stewart do the same on The Daily Show. Beat him to it!
49 minutes ago