My girlfriend said it best after the second Dylan show the night of Game 7, “This will never happen again.” And it won’t.
I went to work on Monday morning and had a full crazy day. I knew with the Dylan shows at the shimmering palace that is the Paramount Theater in Oakland and the World Series, I would be distracted at work. I went to work on Tuesday thinking about the Dylan shows and the World Series. At noon, I told my boss I was taking the rest of the week off. I told him I’d be worthless with MadBob and MadBum on the brain. He of course is well-aware of my Giants obsession (which he shares) and my Dylan obsession (which he finds mindboggling unsharable) and he wished me well.
I was immediately at once so excited that I couldn’t breathe and so relaxed that I felt I’d float away. So I did what any guy would do. I got my oil changed. I then collected my two older boys and a boy’s girlfriend and we set off. We found a great place to park and a cool place that served oysters and whiskeys and other stuff. I immediately lightened the mood by telling them I was paying for everything and they could get what they wanted. So dinner was crazy good and fun even though the Giants got blown out by the Royals. We were surprisingly unconcerned and confident of a win the next night. We walked a short block to the Paramount past Bob’s bus. We got to our seats in the 20th or so row and at 7:59 a gong sounded twice. The lights came down and Bob was singing exactly at 8 hence the “don’t be late” admonishment on the poster for the show. I was a little concerned because this is NOT a ’60s rocker greatest hits show to harvest dollars. ONE song from the ’60s, one from the ’70s, one from the ’90s and the rest from the last decade including 6 from his latest album. This was not for the faint of heart. My two boys had seen Bob a few years ago and loved it but this would be Bob the contemporary artist and I didn’t know if they could do Bob without anything on the Greatest Hits album. And Stephanie knew almost nothing of Bob.
But this “oldie-less”show means that he’s singing songs written for his current voice and not the ones from records that are now 50 years old. The band was locked in and Dylan was at the piano half the time and out front in front of a mike the other half. There is no guitar anymore and plenty of harmonica but he holds it in his hand rather than a wire rack around the neck. The SET setlist meant that the band was well-rehearsed and Bob could just focus on the performance.
Sometimes he looked every bit his 73 years and sometimes he was so spry that all I could think about was how much he must love what he’s doing. Vocally, he was good but I was amazed at how much work he put into the piano. The instrument was mixed way out front and there was no place to hide. Even though he’s probably the 6th best musician on the stage (because his bandmates are so good), it’s clearly his band and they are riveted to his every move.
Highlights included Love Sick, Tangled Up in Blue (with many new lyrics), Early Roman Kings and Spirit On the Water.
The last song of the main set is the dramatic “Long and Wasted Years” which was a curious choice. It’s not exactly anticlimactic but a long slow song about a decaying marriage isn’t what most people would do to spark a thunderous ovation.
He came out for a one song encore, Stay With Me, a song made famous by Frank Sinatra in the ’40s. You have to love Bob’s weirdness but on the other hand, until a few shows ago, the encore had been Blowin’ in the Wind and All Along the Watchtower. The inclusion of two older iconic songs would have made the night for a large segment of the audience. Having checked setlists on the remarkable www.expectingrain.com, I was prepared but many weren’t.
As he does now, after the last note, he stood with the band at the front edge of the stage and stared out at the audience as they clapped. The slightest hint of a nod but no bows, kisses or finger pistols. The word “stoic” comes to mind. The lights went down, he exited and the lights came back up. Done.
I thought it was great. To my surprise, the kids thought so too. They were practically gushing and did so all the way home. This was a relief on several levels since the boys would be coming with me on Thursday as well. A very happy and memorable night.
I really wished he Giants had won the series in 5 or six games but no dice so Lori and I headed out way early to Oakland. We found some hipster paradise that was so hipster that it was a parody of hipsters. We drank obscure beers served by rail-thin tattooed persons of ambiguous sexuality. When the Hutch next door opened at 4, we headed there and found prime seats at the bar. I told the bartender that we would be there for the game and while we couldn’t drink for four solid hours, I would tip as though we did. He indicated that this was a plan that he could support.
The plan broke down when we did actually drink for four solid hours. Me less since I was the driver. The game was amazing. There was a brief scare at the end that looked like extra innings could occur. Lori made it clear that she preferred to wait until the end of the game to go to the concert which meant we’d miss the beginning. This was my 230thish Dylan show and I’d never been late to one before but this was special and she can be very persuasive so we waited.
We were in the balcony which meant a million stairs but we made it. Lori loved the show and I was excited by her comments. She “got it” and knew she was watching greatness and (this is key) was more inclined to roll with it than to roll her eyes at it. That made an already wonderful night indescribable. I told her that Dylan show staging is usually very sparse, more akin to a high school talent show. This tour, there were a few nice touches like old timey Hollywood style lights above and a few backdrops that appeared from time to time. Every time one of the backdrops would change, she’d whisper, “Production values!” Like I said, she got it.
This night it was me and my three boys. Connor and Kyle had come on Tuesday but this would be 16s first Dylan show and I didn’t know how he’d take it. We had superb seats in the 5th row. The show was the best of the three. Bob was more into it it seemed. More hand gestures and vocal nuances as well as vocal clarity.
Musically and personally, three perfect nights. As I said, I’ve seen Bob many times. Every time, I think “this could be the last show.” I said that in 1998 and meant it. This time I’m not saying that. He changes, he morphs, he’s weird and seems like he almost wants to displease the audience sometimes. But at the same time, to see a tiny 73 year old man completely own the night like that is amazing. And to see him do it three nights in a row is unthinkable. And to think that this was one city on one tour and he does this night after night and year after year tells me that I have no right to assume or even guess when the last time will be.
(photo by my son, Kyle)