Bob Dylan concert a colossal disappointment

When I was 20 years old, I spent the summer working at my parents’ fishing camp at Tranquille Lake. I cleaned cabins, filled pot holes, and helped my dad build a road through the bush to nearby Saul Lake.

One of our guests that year was a 15-year-old girl from the U.S. who stayed for a couple of weeks with her parents. She had a guitar, which she didn’t play all that well, but she did a reasonable rendition of Bob Dylan’s Times They Are A-Changin’.

Dylan was at his greatest back then. His music and lyrics were all about change. Listening to that music, you believed it. There was a feeling of excitement and uncertainty that came over you when you heard him, and when I think back to those times and those songs, I can almost recreate it.

I wish he’d taken us back, just a little, in his concert Saturday night at the Interior Savings Centre. Every aging artist likes to try new things, to prove he’s still got the creative spirit that took him to the top. But would it have killed him to give us a few of the oldies that did get him there? I mean, at least, in a recognizable way?

Instead, he and his band rocked away for two hours as if they were all by themselves, jamming in a garage. There was no connection with the audience, none. There was virtually no acknowledgement we existed; he and the band stood like chess pieces throughout.

Every song was a duplicate of the last. Dylan is famous as a poet, but I couldn’t make out a single word, not a syllable, for 120 minutes. The arena acoustics were crummy, but the instrumentals were so ear-damagingly loud it didn’t matter.

I’ve talked to a few people who enjoyed it. Somebody claimed to have recognized Just Like A Woman in there somewhere, but I’m skeptical. Supposedly, there were a few other familiar songs, too. I sure didn’t hear them — maybe it was the Kleenex stuffed in my ears. Not until the encore did I vaguely recognize Like A Rollin’ Stone.

I suppose it was great stuff for some people, but I’m betting a lot will agree with Daily News entertainment reporter Mike Youds’ assessment in today’s newspaper: “Acoustics were lousy, the stage was dimly lit, and most of his singing was unintelligible. . . .”

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3 Comments on Bob Dylan concert a colossal disappointment

  1. Bob NEVER talks to the audience except to introduce the band. The only time I have ever heard him talk to the crowd was when I saw him on election night – Nov 4 – in Minneapolis (I’ve seen him 5 times). Even then it sounded rehearsed. He said something about Pearl Harbor and darkness and change is coming. Anyways, I could understand him just fine but, then again, I’m from Minnesota and no one can understand what I’m saying either (that might just be me though because I had to take speech therapy in hs). Usually, half the set is his classics and half is newer songs. He always plays Like A Rolling Stone and All Along The Watchtower for the encore. If you are going to attend one of his concerts, I suggest listening to Love and Theft, Modern Times or Together Through Life. It will get you familiar with his songs and used to his voice. The first time I listened to one of his newer CDs I was shocked by how different his voice is but now I actually like his newer voice. I think his concerts are great and am hoping he adds a couple Midwest dates this fall so I can see him again. I saw him on July 1 in Milwaukee but it was so good that I want to see him again.

    By the way, here is the set list from the concert you were at:
    (set lists are found at
    1. Watching The River Flow
    2. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
    3. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
    4. Ballad Of Hollis Brown
    5. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
    6. Just Like A Woman
    7. Rollin’ And Tumblin’
    8. Workingman’s Blues #2
    9. Summer Days
    10. Simple Twist Of Fate
    11. Honest With Me
    12. When The Deal Goes Down
    13. Highway 61 Revisited
    14. Ain’t Talkin’
    15. Thunder On The Mountain

    16. Like A Rolling Stone
    17. All Along The Watchtower

    There were 9 “classics” out of 17 songs. I’m sorry you were disappointed but you should give him another chance. Even Bob has a bad day once in a while.

  2. James Peters // October 28, 2008 at 4:16 PM // Reply

    Hi Mel,

    I was at the concert and agree with most of your and Mike’s assessments:

    “Acoustics were lousy, the stage was dimly lit, and most of his singing was unintelligible. . . .”

    But I still wouldn’t say the show was a disappointment. Why? Because to be disappointed, you have to go in with certain expectations. Knowing a bit about Dylan and the many artistic deviations his career has taken, I wasn’t expecting the same acoustic guitar and harmonica troubadour of the 60’s. Also, from what I have read, Dylan has never been the most charismatic when it comes to audience interaction.

    For me, it wasn’t so much about wanting to be blown away by Dylan as a performer, but to be in the same room as Dylan the artist. While the show was not good, it was neither a surprise nor a disappointment.

  3. I couldn’t agree more, Mel. I grew up listening to Dylan around the house, a hand-me-down from my parent’s musical taste. I was incredibly disappointed. My friend and I struggled to not get up and leave at many points throughout the night.

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