Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dylan in the Dark #07 (NYC, November 21, 2008)

For prints of this photo and others, contact me for details.

I was trying out a brand new camera this evening, the Nikon D300. I was excited about seeing Bob Dylan again, but also about giving my new camera its trial run. The camera is known for its low-light capabilities, and boy was I going to need them! I don't know if it was dark because the venue has insufficient lighting (it's a church & former grand movie theater) or because El Zimmy wanted it that way -- but it was DARK almost the entire show. To make things worse, from a photographer's point of view, Bob and his band came out dressed in black. OUCH! And unlike Angus Young, the week before, Bob didn't strip down to his boxers (thank god). Of the more than 300 photos I took that evening, I don't think I got even a single shot that I'd consider to be very good... and only a handful of shots that are even usable. And I'm an experienced photographer!

Now, the music and its performance -- that's a whole different matter all together. It was a great show. Bob (who is known to be grumpy) seemed to be in a good mood. He played a well-balanced selection of old hits and fan favorites along with great new classics from his last three albums. The band and their musicianship were spot on. The songs were, of course, without peer. Bob and his band played with great conviction.

If you read the fan reviews at bobdylan.com, however, you'd think that this concert (and every Dylan show) was the second coming of Christ. To be perfectly objective, Bob did not even look at the audience for 40 minutes, he was never animated and he barely cracked a smile the entire time. As a concert performer, Dylan routinely fails to connect with the audience -- not that they'd notice since they adore him anyway, and have for years. Indeed, his audience connected with him, long ago, through his formidable and legendary recorded catalog. If you are a Dylan fan and have seen him before -- then you know exactly what to expect from the man.

One last observation: for many years now, decades actually, Bob Dylan has continually changed the music and arrangement to his songs. He has a right to do this, of course, but I think that his songs and performances suffer from this. You see, his songs were written throughout more than 40 years of living. His music from the 60s is quite distinct from his music of the 70s or 80s. When he re-works his songs he musically scrubs away the distinctiveness born of different eras and instead imbues them with the melodic perspective of an old man in the 2000s. 40+ years of historic musical originality, vitality, and creativeness is distilled into a clean little package of sameness and -- dare I say it -- blandness. On occasion, when an original melody line or hook sneaks through, it is like seeing an old friend.

No matter, my bitching about the lighting and musical scrubbing aside, it was a great concert by the Poet Laureate of Rock Music. It was performed well and with great conviction and all of us who were in the audience are the better for it.

Song List:

1. Gotta Serve Somebody [An appropriate opening song since the venue is also a church!
2. The Times They Are A-Changin' [Also quite appropriate given the recent election]
3. The Levee's Gonna Break
4. Tomorrow Is A Long Time
5. Things Have Changed
6. Desolation Row
7. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
8. Beyond The Horizon
9. Til I Fell In Love With You
10. Make You Feel My Love
11. Honest With Me
12. Spirit On The Water
13. Highway 61 Revisited
14. Ain't Talkin'
15. Thunder On The Mountain


16. Like A Rolling Stone
17. All Along The Watchtower
18. Blowin' In The Wind

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