I knew I paid too much. Last night’s Bob Dylan concert at Interlochen was not value for money. For sixty bucks a seat it would be nice at least to know that the guy on stage was in fact Dylan, and not Mr. Burns, dressed up like the wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon. I started to know it was Dylan from the little head shakes and nervous tics, and then began to suspect it was The Man Himself when he sang. I’m pretty sure it was him. My eyes let me down, but my ears didn’t fail me.
And yet… you’ve gotta know there’s something wrong when you’re two minutes into “Tangled up in Blue” before you say to yourself, “So that’s what that song is!” Dylan’s voice has lost whatever range it used to have and now he relies on a sort of deconstructionalist chanting of his lyrics. His phrasing, always inventive and edgy, is now complete crap. He pays no attention to the meaning of what he’s saying. He doesn’t care. Why should he? He’s still making his money. Think of a crabby, mumbling Larry King reciting “Shall I compare….thee….to asummer’sday thou… art more love….lyandmoretemperate….” etc. and you begin to get the idea.
The band was ok, but nothing special. They were at times forced into embarrassing “renditions” of old favorites, like the schlock upbeat tempo imposed on “Blowin’ in the Wind”, which Dylan used as a means to send us away after a ridiculously drawn out curtain call. At that point we were ready to leave, thankful that he hadn’t had a chance to do damage to “Like a Rolling Stone.” The whole set screamed “I’m outta here!”
As we shuffled out of the arena, I could still hear plenty of dopey people going on about how “cool” and “awesome” it had been – the man, the music, the legend, etc. We got to the top of the ramp, where an official in a baseball hat suddenly raised his hands and said “Stop here, everybody… please wait.” Dylan’s busses were leaving, not 5 minutes after finishing their set, because The Man needed to get out of town, pronto. No schmooozing. Everybody clapped at the darkened windows as they went by, spewing diesel fumes in our faces. Cell phones came out and people took snaps. Cool. I’m sucking up the diesel fumes to Dylan’s bus, dude! Awesome!
Here’s the thing: when you invest that much emotional energy in an event you’ve got to sort of convince yourself that you had a good time. And, hey, maybe they did. But personally, I think they were just dredging up fond memories of the good old days associated with Dylan’s music, not memories of whatever it was they just witnessed. Bob, it’s time to stop the endless tour.