November 1st, 2024

Blogging Bob Dylan

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  • I went to the concert alone, at Beth’s urging. She didn’t feel well enough to enjoy it, but she didn’t feel poorly enough to want me to stay home and care for her. People around me saw that I was jotting notes and they asked if they’d be “reading it in the morning.” In other words, was I reviewing the concert for one of the dailies? No, I said. I’ll just be dumping this to a blog.

    I wonder what “this” is, that I’m dumping.. The never ending Dylan tour is fully blogged and reviewed by amateurs like me who focus on the hats. Between Brian’s observation and my own admission last night that I was merely blogging, I’m feeling subdued.

    The set list is out there. We all loved the show. Sometimes Bob mumbles the words we all know. The smoke that surrounds us and the storm front of sound are equally contrived to do the big bad wolf number if you need a rhyme with all that rhythm. The decibels relieve you of your reason. Garnier has a double bass with a pick-up and amplification that is almost cruel. Playing “When the deal goes down” someone warped the song so far out of tune that only the pedal steel following it and normalizing it made it anything but bad. Soon the harmonies were some kind of distorted but distorted in harmony, the band drifting together to that place they’d rather not be, following the monster bass’s out-of-tune direction like leaves blown and tumbling in the street sucked along following the passage of a city bus, they were drawn by the power of that monster bass. There was much smiling and eye-contact and body language on stage as they pulled new chords out of their minds to shore up the erosion at the bottom that had left everyone a half tone flat.

    I have all kinds of arch observations like that, things that seem true to me but absent mind reading abilities are meaningless from my side of the proscenium.

    We’re a week away from a critical election. John Kerry is out there trying to mess it up for the working class. He’s got to be a provocateur for the oligarchy. Nobody is that inept. Peace candidates struggle to gain traction against the good old boys. GW (Global Warmer) Bush wags the dog with a missile strike against a madrassa on the Pakistan border. The Pakistan oligarchs are cool for now but the people are pissed.

    I want to say smart stuff about the industrial music, the big band blues chords and the driving rhythms, the relentless attack, execution, finale to every number. But I think I’ll just buy the CD. There’s too much going on in the world to retreat to the blogger’s internal music appreciation wanking ceremony. But there is one story…

    Foo fighter fans found seats behind me — a woman and several men all in their early thirties. Before the Foo set and again during the intermission, I chatted with the woman while the men fetched beer. She said she was there for the Foo but would stay for the Dylan because her parents had urged her. They used phrases like “living legend.” Dutiful daughter, she hung in there, even once calling mom on the cell and filtering those 20 kiloherz of complexity at a bazillion decibels down the narrow pipe of the cell phone connection. “Didja hear that mom?”

    She was from Bessemer, a little town on the upper peninsula of Michigan. Her dad has never left, but she got out after high school and moved to Chicago. A few years ago she went to LA with her mom, and they visited Rodeo Drive. Mom wanted a Harry Winston tennis bracelet. The door man would not let them in to shop. Tourists. Middle class at best. Not “our kind of people.” After sharing this sorrow she talked about Michigan Avenue’s miracle mile, a real concentration of luxury goods and the thin rich people dressed stylishly in black who shop there and are not at all discomfited by sharing the sidewalks and the stores with the middle class. We agreed that the LA thing just sucked. But I felt so sorry for mom. She was willing to put down big bucks for a bracelet and the vile retailer wouldn’t let her in the door.

    What kind of people have we become?

    November 1st, 2024

    John Brown by Bob Dylan

    (played last night at the Kohl Center in a manner that made me think…)

    John Brown went off to war to fight on a foreign shore.
    His mama sure was proud of him!
    He stood straight and tall in his uniform and all.
    His mama’s face broke out all in a grin.

    “Oh son, you look so fine, I’m glad you’re a son of mine,
    You make me proud to know you hold a gun.
    Do what the captain says, lots of medals you will get,
    And we’ll put them on the wall when you come home.”

    As that old train pulled out, John’s ma began to shout,
    Tellin’ ev’ryone in the neighborhood:
    “That’s my son that’s about to go, he’s a soldier now, you know.”
    She made well sure her neighbors understood.

    She got a letter once in a while and her face broke into a smile
    As she showed them to the people from next door.
    And she bragged about her son with his uniform and gun,
    And these things you called a good old-fashioned war.

    Oh! Good old-fashioned war!

    Then the letters ceased to come, for a long time they did not come.
    They ceased to come for about ten months or more.
    Then a letter finally came saying, “Go down and meet the train.
    Your son’s a-coming home from the war.”

    She smiled and went right down, she looked everywhere around
    But she could not see her soldier son in sight.
    But as all the people passed, she saw her son at last,
    When she did she could hardly believe her eyes.

    Oh his face was all shot up and his hand was all blown off
    And he wore a metal brace around his waist.
    He whispered kind of slow, in a voice she did not know,
    While she couldn’t even recognize his face!

    Oh! Lord! Not even recognize his face.

    “Oh tell me, my darling son, pray tell me what they done.
    How is it you come to be this way?”
    He tried his best to talk but his mouth could hardly move
    And the mother had to turn her face away.

    “Don’t you remember, Ma, when I went off to war
    You thought it was the best thing I could do?
    I was on the battleground, you were home . . . acting proud.
    You wasn’t there standing in my shoes.”

    “Oh, and I thought when I was there, God, what am I doing here?
    I’m a-tryin’ to kill somebody or die tryin’.
    But the thing that scared me most was when my enemy came close
    And I saw that his face looked just like mine.”

    Oh! Lord! Just like mine!

    “And I couldn’t help but think, through the thunder rolling and stink,
    That I was just a puppet in a play.
    And through the roar and smoke, this string is finally broke,
    And a cannon ball blew my eyes away.”

    As he turned away to walk, his Ma was still in shock
    At seein’ the metal brace that helped him stand.
    But as he turned to go, he called his mother close
    And he dropped his medals down into her hand.

    Copyright © 1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music

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