"an elegant tapestry of quotations, musings, aphorisms, and autobiographical reflections" (James Atlas)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Senor! The man and the legend

'Going to a rock concert' ist such a baby boomer thing to do! There we were, with a few thousand others of our generation, making our way to see a legend of rock music, Bob Dylan. I say rock music, but one could never really classify his music in any definite way. Blues, country, rock, ballads, his style would not be pinned down. Of course he's in my musical memory from way back in the 60s and 70s, with songs such as "Lay Lady Lay", "Hurricane", and "Blowing in the wind" popping into my head at random.
The warm-up act was Paul Kelly, with a young chap on guitar. Surprisingly, Paul sounded more like the quintessential Bob Dylan than the man himself! I hadn't seen Paul in concert, and enjoyed his powerful voice and the guitars. Paul entertained us for an hour, and then the excitement level went up noticeably, when Dylan's band came on stage.
When Dylan entered, the arena went wild, and I had a powerful flashback to the rock concerts of my youth; the whistles, screams, and atmosphere were electric, and I felt goosebumps! Dylan and the band launched into their program without further ado; three electric guitars, a drummer and a chap on keyboards, plus the main man singing, playing the keyboard, guitar, and harmonica. At 70, he's got enough energy to keep going with no more than a brief 5-minute break.
The band was spectacular; they played with a precision that was awe-inspiring, and the Rod Laver Arena sound system did them full justice. It was a visceral experience, the bass rattling my bones, and the guitars waaAAIIiiling, all the while with Dylan's raspy voice belting out the lyrics. The second song was the old 'Senor' (Tales of Yankee Power), and for me the highlight of the evening. Dylan's voice was just searing, a fierce new take on the old ballad. He sang a few new songs I hadn't heard before, and some old ones, some of which I had trouble recognising at first. I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed with his voice and new arrangements of some old songs. Much of the time, he used a raspy, gravelly, staccato voice, which became artificial and repetitive. Occasionally, his 'real' voice broke through for a while, and the old Dylan was there again. He's used a kind of 'speaking song' (a bit like Leonhard Cohen) from way back, but he does have a wonderful voice when he chooses to use it, only too rarely.
There were some great tunes, including a couple of blues, country, and even swing numbers, and he had us all rockin' along happily, until it all came to a sudden stop, after 2 hours of play.
As always, Dylan will have the critics in a tizz. For me, the music was brilliant, the man still a legend, and say what you may, GenY, the Lady Gaga's, Pinks and Katys won't still be inspiring a generation when they're 70!