I woke up the morning of November, 10, 2016, like any normal day. I expected to do my normal nine to five grind and peruse the latest music news that I always do in the morning. That’s when I got an email I’d be seeing Bob Dylan, front row and center, at the Township Auditorium, in Columbia, SC. A two hour drive each way? I wouldn’t have hesitated at four hours each way.
I had seen Bob Dylan once before. It was at Baltimore Arena in 1999, when I had just graduated college. I didn’t know a lot about Dylan at that time but I recall being shocked his voice live did not resemble anything from the CDs I had listened to so many times. Not. Even. Close. How is that possible? It was a rough two hours. The beers poured so heavily at that point I did not even notice that a spinly Phil Lesh came out for the encore.
Fast forward to last Thursday night, and I’m now front row and center for Bob Dylan. Everyone around me had already seen him a minimum of three times already this year and was raving about his voice. The Frank Sinatra covers were forcing him to carry notes in a genuine way and it was paying off. I was hesitant, but I didn’t care. I always soak in legends…especially when you’re close enough to see the etching on the guitar picks.
The show was still thirty minutes out, so I begin chatting up all the super fans around me. I wish this 20 minute sponge session could have gone another three hours. There was an elderly woman with a walker who had seen Dylan 130 times. Another woman behind me had seen him 80 times. The woman directly to my left was wearing a leopard skin pill box hat, a reference to his classic song with the lyrics, “You know it balances on your head, Just like a mattress balances, On a bottle of wine, Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat.” To my right was a father son combo. The son, Dylan, was ecstatic. “I can’t wait to meet Bob Dylan.” I wasn’t sure to respond if he knows how concerts work, but the fact Bob was his name sake and his energy was that of me hearing Guns n Roses were getting back together, I was not going to risk any stupid response to squash his energy.
Bob Dylan’s stage resembled a 1950s Hollywood set. Center stage, ala the Grand Ole Opry circle, was four microphones two of which were the vintage Elvis Presley type. Racks of guitars too many to count. A piano. A cello. Magic was going to happen.
In the last twenty years of Bob Dylan tours, I’m pretty sure most had the semi-circle curtain with the vintage spotlights hanging down. The veteran groupies were happy to educate me on the set. Behind Bob’s piano was a table where his Oscar stood. He brings it with him everywhere he goes and it’s always on stage. I can’t fault Bob. If it was me, I’d find a way to make it my necklace.
The show was everything I had hoped it’d be. Bob’s voice was so incredible. While he did not play guitar, his command over the mic, piano, and harmonica were just awe. Bob, of course, is known for his lyrics and being a spokesman of the problematic times. I thought for sure with Trump having just won the election and legend, Leonard Cohen, passing…some words would be spoken. But this night was business as usual. Bob never once spoke to the crowd or even made eye contact. The setlist and quality of music, however, was undeniable.
Things Have Changed
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
Highway 61 Revisited
Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
Full Moon and Empty Arms (Frank Sinatra cover)
Pay in Blood
Melancholy Mood (Frank Sinatra cover)
Early Roman Kings
Tangled Up in Blue
Lonesome Day Blues
I Could Have Told You (Frank Sinatra cover)
High Water (For Charley Patton)
Spirit on the Water
All or Nothing at All (Frank Sinatra cover)
Long and Wasted Years
Autumn Leaves (Yves Montand cover)
Blowin’ in the Wind
Stay With Me (Frank Sinatra cover)