Bob Dylan / Elvis Costello
[music | The Coup (favorite mutiny) Pete Seeger (Talkin' Atom) [ie "good protest music"] ]
I'm sort of angry with myself. I really wish I'd seen Elvis Costello the last time he came around solo, but I'm sure that wouldn't have prevented me from seeing this show, it probably would have only made me want to go more.
However, someone didn't pay attention to my Pact Between Artists and Audience for this show: The audience, by and large, does not care about the last 20 years of either of your careers, so know that. I established that in advance, someone got the memo, someone didn't.
I felt like I was watching the result of Leonard Cohen smoking an entire pack of Tom Waits being backed up by Bruce Willis. Maybe someone with artistic integrity (I have none, first you need the "artist" part) can explain to me what I'm missing in this show. (Please note, Natalie's opinion is entirely different from mine, she loved it.)
I'm going to get the good out of the way first. Elvis Costello was great. I felt like he could have benefited from having a band around him, at least for songs like Radio, Radio, but hey, one guy with a guitar, he sounded awesome. He really got the crowd engaged with him for such a big empty space (hockey arena) with, shall we say, a "less than capacity" turnout. He really had good arrangements of his big songs and chatted up a little between songs, good rapport let's say.
Now then. Bob Dylan, who admittedly was not the primary driving force behind me getting these tickets. I've recently (in the last couple years anyway) adopted a policy of "This guy's a legend, we need to go see him because he might die soon", for example, B.B. King, who happened to also kick amazing amounts of ass. Despite being 83, diabetic and having a hard time climbing the 30 steps to the venue.
Bob Dylan is none of these things. He's a spritely 66 years old, has no serious health problems that Wikipedia or I are aware of, and weighs significantly less than 300 lbs. However he utterly failed to get the audience on his side, even after everyone was completely warmed up and ready to love music after Costello. Bonus: Due to it just being one guy, artist changes happened in a SNAP tonight. The crowd was pumped and ready.
Ready for...91 minutes of this song (Plus 2 song encore of course):
I urge you, watch the whole thing, it gets better.
Every Bob Dylan song re-arranged with White Boy "happy blues" country twang. This worked for no songs outside of Lay Lady Lay.
For comparison, I wanted:
JOHNNY'S IN THE BASEMENT MIXIN UP THE....what? Huh? Who's Johnny? Why am I so angry...Here's a Bruce Willis song.
All along the what-now? Where?
The Times They Are a-Jesus I can't even make up anything.
I think it might be that I'm more just a fan of protest songs than I am of Bob Dylan. I admit I don't care about like, 90% of the guy's history. Further, I really do understand the artistic need to mix things up and not play the same song the same way for 40 years. You have to re-invent your music to keep things interesting for, at least, the artist. I just think the majority of his re-inventing sucked. Like a Rolling Stone just doesn't work as a two step pedal steel slide guitar song, or at least, not in the arrangement it had tonight.
Every song was basically exactly the same, with, presumably, different lyrics (exception, Lay Lady Lay worked really well. It actually reminded me of the Ministry version more than the original, that's not bad, it's just that he re-did it well). This is why the first thing that popped into my mind was Bruce Willis and his brand of "Happy Rich White Boy Blues", which is not to be confused with authentic "I/Someone killed my family and I just drank bourbon out of their skulls until I fell asleep Blues".
I will provide tablature of each part:
swing-snare-swing-kick-swing-snare-cymb.cymb... x 16 then cymb.cymb. tom. tom. snare. kick fill - resume previous 16.
Bass - ba dum dum dum badum dum dum x 32 then BIMBIMBIMBIMBIMBIMBIBIMBIMBIMBIM with appropriate facial twitching (recurse infinitely % 0).
Guitar - skitcha skitcha skitcha WANG WANG, you get the idea, re-watch the Bruce Willis video.
Fill with lots of slide steel.
*whole band* LOUD loud quiet quiet *ssshhhh* (get ready for big finish) Drums: CRASH CRASH CRASH CRASH *KICK*KICK*KICK*KICK* CRASH CRASH snare snare tom-tom-tom kick
And the crowd goes wild. Every. Song.
Except, often, the crowd didn't. That was what I found most strange/sad. The crowd would stand for a given song, expecting greatness, find the same song as the last, slowly sit down, and then clap politely at the end. I think we wanted a certain brand of protest songs, and we got Rodeo RobZ's Country Fried Blues and Jazz Saloon. Blowin' in the Wind was a travesty in this style.
Nothing really generated any genuine reaction from much of anyone. I saw 6 people "dancing" such as it was, and two of them got their asses handed to them for it by security. This calls for a sidebar:
Dumbass-neo-hippy-drunk-bastard-never-heard-of-Costello-motherfucker is annoying us all night with his drunken chattering through the whole show (note, as an alchy, I have no specific problem with him being "drunk", he's just Greg Kite and I'm Robert Parish). He gets up and wanders to the middle of the floor where people are standing around, some of them dancing. He is dancing, sloppily, drunkenly, but not bothering anyone, not slamming into people. Others are doing the same, they're in their 50's and rocking out like their at Woodstock 15 or something, but still, no one's really bothering anyone.
Security pulls the kid out (3 security guys), and march him to his seat. The guy is pissed and mouthing off loudly "WOULD BOB DYLAN WANT THIS? I DON'T THINK SO!", etc. Security then lets him back to the milling-about area after about 15 minutes, seemingly provided that he stand there like a zombie, just like the rest of us. Staring blankly, clapping politely.
They never did drag the 50-odd year old woman off, why? She was having fun, not hurting anyone, and most importantly, probably quite wealthy, and with the means to REALLY cause a stink if some moron guard stopped her from dancing.
As much as I wanted to jam a pen in that kids neck, drag his body outside and light it on fire, he made very valid points in his ramblings about just having fun, not bothering anyone, etc.
Anyway, that's about it. I see that Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell seem to still be pretty active if I want folk music to get pepper-sprayed by, and I'm even more bummed out that I didn't check to see if Pete Seeger was alive until a couple of weeks ago. He still seems to be "true to the vision" of beatnick era "cut/paste with a purpose" motivational music to cause people to think. I just wish he wasn't 88 years old.
I think I definitely have to agree with Pete Seeger from 40 years ago "I was standing by the mixing desk, and if I had an axe, I would have used it" (in ref. to Bob Dylan's electric music).
If anyone is looking for competent organ accompaniment, please contact Robert Zimmerman, PO box 555, White Plains, NY