Costello, Dylan, and “not getting it”

Here’s a few thoughts on last night’s concert at the EMU Convocation center of Bob Dylan and his band with Elvis Costello as the opening act:

Big thanks to friends Jim and Rachel who hosted a little before show party at their place. Lots of fun. And from their house, we were able to walk to the show down this path through the woods that goes from EMU’s main campus to the president’s house, the Convo, and the football stadium.

We left a bit later than we probably should and not only completely missed Amos Lee (who we were planning on missing anyway), but also the first couple Elvis Costello songs, which was unfortunate. I think I sat down during “Veronica.”

I am very much an Elvis Costello fan and I must admit at the outset that he’s the main reason why I wanted to go to this show in the first place. And he did not disappoint even a little bit. Awesome awesome show, and the fact that he was able to hold a pretty big crowd (I don’t know, 4,000-6,000?) pretty much in the palm of his hand with nothing more than a great voice and a pretty aggressive acoustic guitar was damn impressive. I could have listened to another hour of Elvis easily.

As for Dylan… well, I guess the best part is I can now say to people that I have seen Bob Dylan perform live. But I am not someone who “gets it.”

On the advice of my friend and fellow concert goer Andre, I bought Dylan’s latest CD (a couple years old now) “Modern Times,” and I enjoy it thoroughly, probably better than any other Dylan music I’m familiar with (which is not to say I’m that familiar with Dylan, to be honest). And it was a pretty good move because Bob and band did play a lot of songs from this one.

But while I like (not love or worship, just like) Dylan’s music, I thought his performance was pretty bad. I thought his opening with “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” was good (this is the “everybody must get stoned” song), and he had some moments where he seemed to fade into tune and to actually sing. But for the most part, I didn’t have a freakin’ clue what words he was singing, and his weird phrasing and mumbling and gravely and obviously shot voice were just painful. After a while, it just seemed like Dylan doing a sort of bad parody of Dylan.

Now, like I said, I might just not “get it.” I know Andre thought it was fantastic, and judging from some of the other reviews I’ve seen here, I know he is not alone. But I also think that Bob Dylan has the kind of fans that he could literally go out there, squat down, and poop on the stage and someone would write a review that said this was just “brilliant”– the night Dylan went scatological.

Incidentally, here’s my favorite review from this Dylan fan site, quoted here in its entirety:

Comments by Victoria L.

it was all about the white hat.
the great white hat.
the hat was so perfect, so exquisitely positioned.
so well defined, so crisp.
i could not ignore it, i couldn’t look away from it.
it was traditional, elegant,
unexpected, in the wrong place.
it came from some other time.
it somehow pleased me as soon as i saw it.
i recognized it immediately.
it spoke volumes.
it was deliberate. it couldn’t hide.
it didn’t match. it wasn’t subtle. it almost didn’t make sense.
it was wonderful. what did it mean?
it took me around the world and back.
it brought me to all kinds of places in my mind.
it had all kinds of history i knew i didn’t understand.
how far back does he go?
it had this beautiful well on the top. someone somewhere placed it there.
it had some kind of delicate confidence to it. it never moved. it really
belonged there somehow. it was some kind of symbol of something. i had to
keep watching it.

i hope i can see it again soon.

Dylan wore the same hat last night.

But hey, like I said, I might just not get it. Annette and I have a very good friend (also named Annette!) who nearly worships Tom Waits, and it’s not difficult to find references to his genius. I saw Waits on The Daily Show a couple years ago and John Stewart was so excited and into it he nearly wet his pants. Me? I think he sounds like a drunk.

Anyway, I’ll bask in the positive of Elvis Costello. Maybe I’ll take another listen to “My Aim is True” this afternoon.

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