Friday, July 07, 2006

Bob Dylan

Tangled Up In Bob
Valencia, Spain

Thousands of people are crowded into this outdoor venue to worship at the altar of Dylan. To my left is a 13-year-old boy with his two older brothers, which warms my heart immensely. In front of me are two handsome businessmen in their mid 50s. At 2 o'clock is a pack of 30-somethings who stare reverently at the stage. And to my right is a group of young guys who are so wrapped up in the fact that they are here that they frequently forget to watch the show.

Dylan addresses the crowd not at all. In fact, he does not speak until the very end when he says thank you and introduces the band. However, the crowd cares not one whit. Dylan could have coughed and wheezed to musical accompaniment for the entire show and the audience would have cheered just as enthusiastically. But it's the crowd's attempt at singing along that gets everyone all discombobulated.

As you know, Dylan is a word guy. It's amazing the songs even ended up with melodies, but of course that is what people latch on to, particularly when a large percentage of them don't speak English. So we have these weird moments where Bob is making up a brand new melody for a song but the crowd is trying to sing along with the original tune. "Tambourine Man" features not one single interval from the original recording; Bob opts instead for frequent repetitions of his favorite interval, the octave.

As the show progresses, people start figuring out that if you go ahead and mostly sing the octave and switch out the words, you can learn these new melodies pretty quickly. A guy next to me got the formula down and now will forever remember "Rolling Stone" as having exactly three notes. The people at the front are having none of that, belting out the original melody loud enough to drown out Bob.

Bob gets drowned out a fair amount. His voice is completely trashed, but of course that will not be silenced. While his keyboard is probably super loud in his monitors, we can barely hear it. The band works around this nicely: they focus on him intently, pick up the theme that Bob is plonking out, then repeat that theme quickly before Bob realizes his instrument is not turned on. Bob has retained his harmonica chops, though, and the crowd freaks out whenever he does a noodling solo.

After a while the crowd gets more quiet, probably because it takes us all fully until the chorus to recognize what song we're hearing. This requires concentration. The set list is tweaked and polished until it sheens, however, and right at the end they kick it up with "Highway 61" which thankfully everyone knows. The closing numbers erase the confusion we experience for the previous hour, and we glide out into the warm night believing we just saw one hell of a show.

Fanalyst Rating

Fashion: **
Scene: ****
Band/Audience Rapport: *
Audience Focus: ****

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