Monday, July 18, 2005

Bob Dylan revisited

Bob Dylan was in town last night. It's been 40 years since the singer went electric and had many of his folk-music fans howling at this betrayal of purity. (Martin Scorsese has just released his 3-1/2 hour documentary, No Direction Home, covering Dylan in the key years from 1961 to 1966; it's scheduled to be shown on PBS September 26 and 27.) The outrage seems quaint now, given Dylan's illustrious place in the rock-music pantheon, but last night I couldn't help thinking that perhaps those folkies had a point. Dylan's songs were there, but transformed into rather generic rock, his lyrics and his old sardonic attitude submerged in a sea of electronic sound. And time has taken its toll on his voice, although perhaps the sound system didn't help. I think he was chanting in Sanskrit, with the occasional English word thrown in for the heck of it. Occasionally it worked for me, as with "Highway 61 Revisited". All in all, though, if it's the real Bob Dylan you want, play a CD at home. Perhaps I'm being unduly negative; the crowd at the Memorial Centre cheered wildly after every number. The band made us clap and cheer for a good four or five minutes at the end before coming back to do an encore consisting of "Don't Think Twice" and "All Along the Watchtower". The latter turned out to be Dylan doing Hendrix doing Dylan. Frankly, though, there's nothing, not even Dylan, that can touch the Jimi Hendrix version, which is one of the ultimate highs of rock music. But in any case, thank you, Bob, for everything.

And while I'm speaking of popular music, here's a new voice worth checking out. Navigate your way to the video of "Us".

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