Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bob Dylan - November 11, 2002

Quite possibly the most disappointing concert I’ve ever attended was Bob Dylan Madison Square Garden. In my 20s, I really got into Bob Dylan. His early folk music spoke to me the way it would to any young adult trying to understand their purpose in life. Bob was the soundtrack for my early twenties and someone that I enjoyed a lot. I played Bringing It All Back Home and Blood On The Tracks ad nauseam for months.

When the opportunity arrived to finally see Dylan live, I was excited. There was no way that I was going to miss out! Bob is a living legend! You had to see him at least once in your lifetime. Unfortunately, almost everyone I knew did not share this sentiment. I asked friends, family, colleagues, and people that I hardly knew. None of them were interested. It was looking bleak until a co-worker of mine and I started talking one day. She was interested in seeing Bob Dylan! Excellent. We were in and going to Madison Square Garden to see one of the masters at work.

The night of the concert was a great one. We took the train into New York City, which I always love to visit. I especially love going to Madison Square Garden. We got off the train, walked up the stairs, and there it was in all her glory – MSG, where that night we would see Bob Dylan for the first time ever. I was as giddy as a schoolboy with a crush.

I speculated on which songs he would play. Blowing In The Wind? Tombstone Blues? Like A Rolling Stone, that one had to be played, didn’t it? He was on tour in support of a new album, Love And Theft, so there would be songs from that performed, but I had no idea which ones, because that was an album I did not own.

My colleague and I settled into our seats and both of us were excited. She was a veteran of several Dead tours, but had never seen Bob Dylan either. She didn’t know much of his music, but had borrowed my Essentials disc and enjoyed that, so she was looking forward to seeing this concert as well.

I don’t remember if there was an opening act or not, but I don’t think there was. The house lights went down, Cathy (my co-worker) and I smiled, and Bob and his backing band took the stage to the roar of the crowd. Welcome to MSG! There is nothing like it!

Dylan opened with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the one song that I knew from the current album. It was decent, but nothing like the classics that I wanted to hear. I knew we’d have to get through some new stuff first, so I was open minded as to what they would sound like. Unfortunately, Tweedle Dee would be the last song I recognized until the end of the night.

By reviewing the setlist, it looks like it was a decent concert, and if the setlist was all I had to go on, I’d say this must have been a damn good show. Shelter From The Storm, Just Like A Woman, a cover of The Rolling Stones Classic Brown Sugar…it all looks so good. Until Bob got up and played them.

Every song that he played, he murdered. Rearrangements of song pieces, new (or perhaps forgotten) lyrics, and mumbled vocals just killed these classics. I didn’t recognize Tombstone Blues (one of my favorites) until the song was almost over. He totally rearranged the music, slowed it down, and made it an entirely different tune. Artists do that sometimes with one song here and there. Not Bob. He did it with every song.

Brown Sugar I sort of recognized and was still hopeful for the rest of the night. It’s Alright Ma, Just Like A Woman, Shelter From The Storm, I couldn’t understand any of them. Worse than that, I didn’t even know they were played until I read the setlist the next day.

This concert was horrendous! I’ve never been so disappointed in all of my life and swore I would never entertain the thought of seeing Bob Dylan live again. At one point, it was so bad, I got up and went to buy a pretzel, use the men’s room, and get a beer. I actually stayed in the hallway for a good fifteen minutes, not caring that I was missing the concert. Me! A concert whore! I didn’t care. Bob was TERRIBLE!

Cathy wasn’t too thrilled with the show either and although the encore was incredible (Summer Days into Heaven’s Door with Watchtower to close) and recognizable, it couldn’t save what had been an awful night. I was so mortified by what Bob had done. All respect for him as a live performer was lost forever.

Since that night, I’ve had the opportunity to see Dylan again. Once while he was on tour with Tom Petty and more recently with John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson. Both times I had to say no. Though the other performers were an enticing draw, the bad taste of Dylan at the Garden still lingered and there was no way I could justify giving him any more of my money for a live performance.

It’s a shame to be so let down at a concert that you almost don’t like the performer anymore. It was a long while before I started listening to Dylan again. I’ll enjoy him now, and sometimes I can get on a kick and listen to him for a few days, but there is no way I’d ever see him in concert again. Not even if you paid me to attend. Yeah, it was that bad.

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
Yea Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread
Tombstone Blues
End Of The Innocence
Things Have Changed
Brown Sugar
Masters Of War
It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding
Just Like A Woman
Drifter’s Escape
Shelter From The Storm
Old Man
Honest With Me
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
High Water
Bye And Bye
Summer Days
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
All Along The Watchtower

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