In a column for Saturday's paper about the Bob Dylan concert at Parkview Field, I wrote this:
I was struck by the comment another concert ticket-holder made to The News-Sentinel’s James Grant in Thursday’s paper: “I’m not the biggest fan of Bob Dylan. I bought two tickets this week. I think this is great. I want to come out and support live music in your venue. You hooked me with the TinCaps; if you book a live guy (act) down there, I’m coming.”
Now, going to see somebody you’re “not the biggest fan of” just to help a venue succeed seems to me to get the whole concept of entertainment backward. Entertainers exist to please fans. It is not the job of fans to make the entertainers’ efforts successful.
But I know what the guy is saying. I, too, hope Dylan is the first of many musical acts at our Parkview Field and that it can truly become a multipurpose facility drawing a lot more people downtown than just baseball fans.
After attending the concert, I'd have to say the chances are good that the baseball field and the area developing around it will become that famous "walking space" with plenty of attractions the planners have always dreamed about for downtown. My concert evening was pretty close to perfect -- great weather, wonderful laid-back atmosphere, beautiful venue with a downtown-skyline backdrop, awesome mixed crowd of old hippies and new Dylan fans, just the right mix of old and new songs from one of my all-time favorites. I've been downtown through a lot of its changes, starting in high school when it was still the center of retail, and this was unlike anything I'd experienced there. And as we were leaving the parking garage, we could hear the free concert from the library's last Rock the Plaza show of the season. I don't know which of the three scheduled bands was playing, but it sounded like an Eagles song done reggae style. Cool. It seems like downtown is finally starting to come together.
As for the concert itself, I agree with Grant's assessment:
As one would expect of a musician of his caliber, Dylan's band was superb. All of them were great players and bestowed his songs with more of a laid back, bluesy feel than many of the original recordings.
While his voice is not what it used to be, Dylan still has the capability to interpret a song with passion and zeal.
I'd add that the set was very bluesy, even more so than his last concert here six years ago, and there weren't than many soft edges. I think Dylan has finally given in to the limits set by his froggy, gravelly voice. He doesn't really sing anymore, he growls. But that's OK, he growls great songs. Grant said the highlight for him was:
. . . when Dylan performed the songs "Things Have Changed," an Oscar-winning Best Original Song from the 2000 film 'Wonder Boys,' and my personal favorite, "Tangled Up in Blue," from his "Blood on the Tracks" album, which he changed from the original guitar-based version to a laid back, piano-based adaptation with country overtones.
For me, I guess it was the performance of "Ballad of a Thin Man." That's not my favorite of the 17 songs Dylan performed Friday night -- there are several contenders for that. But his performance of Thin Man was a reinterpretation that really punched up an already devastating putdown. Where he sounds snidely sarcastic on the original, Friday night he came across as dowright vicious when he growled, "Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, DO YOU, Mr. Jones?"
Oh, here's a cool thing I did on Saturday that I recommend, if not for this concert, then for another one you might be attending. Using the set list for the concert that was posted on bobdylan.com by Saturday morning, I went to iTunes and ordered the singles from the original albums they appeared on and assembled a playlist duplicating the order of songs as they were played Friday night. Two of the songs -- "Rollin' and Tumblin' " and "The Levee's Gonna Break" -- were from an album no longer available, so I had to substitute versions by other artists. But except for that little glitch, I can recreate the concert for myself anytime I wish. Granted, it won't carry the immediacy and ambience of Friday night, but it will have the breadth of Dylan's music over 50 years and serve as a catalyst taking me back not just to one lovely evening but to lots of moments in my growing-up years.