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Thursday, November 02, 2006

I Saw Bob Dylan In Black And White...

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...there ain't no color in my memories.*

A young Hootie, backed by a handful of Blowfish, once posed the question "Ain't Bobby so cool?" The sentiment rang true, even if it seemed like giving the teacher an apple while the crib notes were still fresh in his hand. The half dozen or so lines he lifted from "Idiot Wind" landed him in court faster than Ray Parker Jr. could ask who you were gonna call.

Said cool factor was the focus of a concert day (11/2) article in the Detroit Free Press. It went something like this:

Cast aside that hot cider and fleece blanket, drive to the Palace, park next to Jerseyesque marshlands, freeze your fandangos off, pray that some psycho who thinks he's Moses in the bullrushes doesn't leap out and demand the cash your parking attendant hasn't already stolen, and shoehorn your ass into your seat, Buster, because Dylan still has it.

Was he cool? I think so, but in my mind, after four Maggie Ritas with triple sec and triple tequila, Kelsey Grammer could morph into Brando. Far be it from me to analyze someone who's had wackos analyzing him since I was leaving teething biscuit trails on the linoleum. But it must be a drag, playing night after night for people expecting an epiphany with a side of nachos.

I began the evening ambling around the Palace perimeter, listening to the acoustic Foo Fighters from afar, and frankly they were a bore. Shame, because their acoustic version of "Everlong" from the Howard Stern show is priceless.

It seemed like several guys were hugging their women not with love, joy, or excitement, but with a kind of voyeuristic glee reminiscent of the corrupt hospital worker in "The Elephant Man." It was as if we were all lined up to see a circus freak worthy of a guaranteed sexual jackpot.

When the house lights went down, I learned that Bob Dylan was, in fact, not an animal. He's just a guy with an astonishingly tight band who sounds as if Owen Bradley just rearranged all of his classic songs and made them fun to perform again. It was a bit of a surprise to see him at the keyboard all night, but there was hardly a shortage of guitarists on stage.

There were generous doses of Blonde on Blonde, Modern Times, and some obvious choices for encores, but the wannabe arranger/guitarist in me was wishing for "Sweetheart Like You" to be dropped into the mix. It would have been a natural candidate for the Texas twang phase he's in at the moment.

On this night, no one's intelligence was insulted; there were no sledgehammer subtle video clips of Cambodia and Iraq synchronized to punchlines, no political banter (no banter at all, for that matter), no faux consciousness raising, no appeals to go and pick up a Greenpeace brochure on the way out in order to keep the parking lot cleanup crew employed. Absent these props, it was left to the musicians to create dramatic tension, and they succceeded. Radio killed the video star. U2 would do well to take notes.

I went to this show with Dylan's mortality in mind (he's 65), and left thinking about my own. Third acts are possible. The pursuit of true love is a treadmill, and therefore worthwile cardiovascular exercise. My heroes have always been cowboys. I need to find and drive Highway 61 in its entirety someday. I need to reevaluate Alicia Keys.

There are a handful of American greats still kicking, and it's best to see them before the great gig in the sky.


* Apologies to Pete Townshend for half lifting a line from "After The Fire."