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I Go to a Bob Dylan Concert

Last month, I tried unsuccessfully to convince my family that we should buy tickets to a family-oriented symphony performance at the Mann Music Center. While one daughter agreed it sounded interesting, everyone else informed me that they would prefer to be left out of that venture. So, I scrapped the idea.  But, while visiting the Mann’s website, I noticed that Bob Dylan was playing in August.  My husband and I both thought that sounded interesting, so I bought the tickets. Here’s how it went.

  1. I’m not really a Bob Dylan Fan: Nevertheless, I find him fascinating. And I like a lot of his songs, many of which I grew up listening to.  I remember dissecting “Like a Rolling Stone,” in a high school English class, for example. And off hand I can think of at least two-dozen songs of his that I enjoy because the lyrics are interesting and somewhat mysterious and  the music is captivating. So you get the idea. I don’t really know that much about Bob Dylan. I went to the concert and discovered I was kind of like a person who goes to an art museum and realizes maybe there’s lot more to art than looking at pictures (I’ve done that too). In other words, it would have helped if I’d known a little bit more.
  2. Traffic: Getting to the Mann at 7:30 was hard enough on a Wednesday, but we made it harder by printing out directions for westward bound traffic when we were heading east. That meant that in addition to fighting stop and go traffic on the Schuylkill, we also wound up driving through an interesting part of West Philadelphia. I don’t think it mattered much, since traffic from all angles was pretty intense heading into the venue. We got there at close to 8:00 and saw part of the opening act.
  3. Leon Russell was the Opening Act: Which was kind of funny since he also played with Elton John at the last concert I went to.  I know even less about Russell than I know about Dylan, but what’s kind of unique about him is that he has long white hair and a long white beard and, since the last time I saw him, I periodically find myself saying “Hey, that guy looks like Leon Russell.”
  4. The concert setlist: Okay, here’s a link to the setlist. If you click on this link you can listen to any of the songs played at the concert.
  5. About Dylan’s voice: For argument’s sake, let’s say you click on “Don’t Think Twice it’s Alright.” That’s one of several songs he played that I’ve always liked.  I’m not sure when the version on the playlist was recorded, but Dylan first played it in 1962. His voice on the recording is clear and clean and crisp. Now he’s 70, and his voice is quite different. At the concert, I could barely understand anything but the chorus. I enjoyed this song anyway, because it was kind of cool to be there, listening to a musical icon sing one of his iconic songs. However, when he played songs I was unfamiliar with I felt frustrated. The music and the band were good, but all the words were lost.
  6. About the songs: Dylan has famously reinvented many of his songs. My husband commented that when he played the song “Mississippi,” it was barely recognizable. That was true of many of the other songs, as well. I felt like I knew them but I didn’t know them. Which is maybe kind of how I’ve always felt about Bob Dylan, so I was okay with that.
  7. He played for 90 minutes: Dylan’s been a major figure in American music for 50 years, so I expected a lengthy playlist. In fact, he didn’t take the stage until about 8:30, and he exited at 10:00. During that time he played guitar and keyboard, but he never spoke to the audience except to introduce his band (which, by the way, was great). So, you know that air of mystery that always surrounds Dylan? That was what I felt this concert had captured the most.
  8. About the audience: Before we arrived at the concert, I wondered if the audience would be an older crowd. In fact, there was a good mix of ages, from families with children to quite a few people who looked like they were contemporaries of Dylan. I found it kind of interesting that even 60 and 70 year olds were required to wear an ID bracelet in order to buy beer!
  9. Bob Dylan at 70: Even if his voice wasn’t what it used to be, and even though we were sitting pretty far away, he still exhibited a lot of energy and musical talent that made me glad I had attended. At the end of the night I felt like I’d done something interesting and different, and definitely worth doing.
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