Editor’s note: Bob Dylan did not approve press credentials for his recent shows in Broomfield. What follows is an essay by a paid ticket holder.
You can either be frustrated by a Bob Dylan show and wonder what the hell you paid all that money for, or you can appreciate what he is doing and just go along for the ride.
The songs won’t sound like they did on vinyl 40 years ago. His voice won’t sound anything like it once did. He will bark or talk the lyrics instead of sing. And he won’t engage with the audience virtually at all.
But get past that. Ignore his tortured piano playing, his bizarre rephrasing of iconic songs and the vocals that sound like a can being dragged down a gravel road, and you will be able to see that this is one of our most influential artists at work before your eyes.
He is Picasso or Dali showing you his craft. Fellini shooting film. Or Houdini in a water tank. It’s just not pretty. It’s punk.
If you don’t get it, well, go see his son.
On Monday and Tuesday at Broomfield’s 1stBank Center, the 71-year-old Dylan showed once again he remains rock ‘n’ roll’s original punk rocker. In front of a large audience that came to hear the icon, he just did what he always does. It would be easy to be annoyed. But at a Dylan concert, you have to work through that.
When Dylan’s Never Ending Tour takes the stage, he is backed by one of the best bands you will ever see. He’s always had that, from the star-studded Rolling Thunder Revue in the 1970s to the Band in the 1960s. This group behind Dylan now features Charlie Sexton on lead guitar, Stu Kimball on guitar, Donnie Herron on pedal, Tony Garnier on bass and George Receli on drums.
No spotlight is affixed on Dylan or anyone on stage. No introduction. No stage banter except when Dylan quickly names the group. He doesn’t set up songs, plead for you to vote or even say, “Hello Denver!” He just walks on stage and starts his mutter-sing-croaking.
On Monday, Dylan’s set was obviously influenced by Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the East Coast, throwing in “The Levee’s Gonna Break, “Shelter From The Storm” “High Water (For Charley Patton)” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”
Tuesday, he belted out “Love Minus Zero,” “Highway 61,” “Rollin and a Tumblin” and the hits — “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Tangled Up in Blue” and “All Along the Watchtower.”
It’s clear from these shows that he doesn’t give a damn about anything, really. He just wants to play music and do his art. He has always been the writer of unbelievable songs with lyrics that will probably forever be studied. Listen to those words. Realize that they came from his brain. Don’t worry about the phrasing, the singing or anything. You are watching art in action from the original punk.
Jeremy Meyer is a metro reporter at The Denver Post and a regular contributor to Reverb.