Bob Dylan at Budweiser Gardens, July 6th 2017
Let me start by saying I’ve always loved Bob Dylan. His music has served as a moral compass and his lyrics are pure genius. He’s politically charged and a fierce warrior for social justice. I even love the funny way he sings and phrases his melodies. Unfortunately, I did not love his performance at Bud Gardens. Despite being warned that seeing Bob Dylan just wasn’t the same anymore, I went in hopeful and happy. I left disappointed.
The evening struck with a bit of a sour taste when Bob’s security came over to a group of four fans (seriously, just four) and demanded they not ask for any photos, signatures or anything. He wasn’t doing it. I can respect that, but it seems like it took more effort to make that abundantly clear to hopeful fans than anything else. Going into the venue, it was made clear no photos were allowed, no looking at your phone or you’d be kicked out. Call me old fashioned but unless you’re going to post professional photos online (shout out to Jack White), then when you’re paying top dollar for a ticket, being kicked out for snapping one photo is severe. This is coming from somebody that really doesn’t look at their phone during shows. On the same note, crew was not allowed to hand out picks, set lists or anything else to fans.
Onto the performance, Bob Dylan walked on stage to a standing ovation and without saying a word began his set with Things Have Changed behind the piano. That’s fine, lots of artists sing a few songs before introducing themselves. Bob didn’t acknowledge the audience all evening though. Not to say hello, not to say thanks for coming out or to say whose songs he was covering. The performance was cold, sterile and felt a bit vain.
On the brighter side of the road, Dylan’s voice is still fairly strong. Different than it used to be, his gravelly tones make him sound grittier and edgier, but I liked the sound all the same. Unfortunately, he’s begun changing the rhythms of his songs, syncopating them in funny places and placing emphasis where emphasis ought not be. It made even his most famous songs in the set: Don’t think Twice (It’s Alright), Blowin’ in the Wind and Tangled Up in Blue almost unrecognizable. Mix that in with some back catalogue and lesser known songs and most audience members seemed put out that there wasn’t much to sing along with (even when they wanted to).
Overall, I’m glad I scratched Dylan off the bucket list. I will always be a big fan. However, I’ll think twice before heading to a live performance and tarnishing the music for myself again. I truly hope he finds a way back to connecting with his fans and feeling the music.
Peace, love & history.