Birthday Break for Dylan

Bob Dylan takes a month’s break from his Never Ending Tour after his Auckland concert on April 30 – a show that proved – to quote NZ Herald reviewer Russell Baillie – a typically “cantankerous” night of rock n roll.

Indifferent as some of his past performances have been, this was definitely “one of the good nights,” with rock’s laureate in great “take it or leave it” form.
Inevitably there were the folks who moaned on about the sound, about their inability to hear the words, or that – heaven help us – it was Too Loud. (Yeah – embarrassing – What do they expect?)

But they were in the minority – for the most part the culturally undemonstrative Kiwis gave him a standing ovation.

Wracked Magician

Now rock’s poet laureate takes May off – he celebrates his 70th birthday on May 24 – before heading back on the road in Ireland in June.

But it did set me thinking about why – given
• Dylan’s wracked voice, (one reviewer called it frightening and there are moments when that’s true)
• the sound system which seems designed to disguise the same
• The lack of video screens so the bard is just a blur under a hat on the right of the stage

– why he is still utterly mesmerising. The man is simply a magician.

The answer was provided in a great piece by Mick Brown in the Telegraph, headed “The way he sang made everything a message.”

And that’s it;

As Mick Brown says, it’s as if he is in touch with some place or feeling beyond the mundane – an artist with “power and dominion over the spirits” in Dylan’s own words.

Says Brown: He’s the most bootlegged artist in popular music, he is also the most avidly discussed, the most rigorously scrutinised, the most fervently admired. Everybody has their own version of Bob Dylan, and everybody thinks they know him better than anybody else.

Knowing the Unknowable

His essence though, is to be unknowable.

“All the great performers had something in their eyes,” Dylan writes in his memoir, Chronicles Volume One; “It was that ‘I know something you don’t know’. And I wanted to be that kind of performer.”

“There’s never really been any glory in it for me,” he told Brown once. “Being seen in the places and having everybody put their arm around you, I never cared about any of that. I don’t care what people think. For me, all it is is doing it. That’s all that really matters.”

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