While Everyman races toward achievements and breaks his back to keep up with the Joneses, the great troubadour of our time imparts divined wisdom in a quote that goes beyond simply being against the grain: “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.” A dictum that encapsulates the breadth of the Bob Dylan show, that kind of straight-talking has kept fans and critics alike at the edge of their seats for decades. Is it any wonder, then, that at a time when fundamental truths, which to live by couldn’t be harder a-comin’, what lies inside the sheath of our yearning is more Bob Dylan?
It was an eye-opener having had the opportunity to follow what seemed to be another Never Ending Tour in the United States. Certainly there’s an artist for every fan, but what one finds in a Bob Dylan enthusiast is perhaps as extraordinary as The Man’s trajectory. And that, I’m afraid, can be as easily characterized as Bob Dylan himself. Just when you think you’ve got him pegged and call it a comeback, Modern Times belts out themes, such as “Ain’t Talkin’”, resurrecting
once again a “heart burnin’ / still yearnin’ / carrying a dead man’s shield.”
Bob Dylan managed to set his own terms with his breakout album back in ’62. While his eccentric style has evolved to raspier intonations and his voice tends to flounder, and while he chooses not talk to the audience, Baby Boomers fill a ball field in New Britain, CT with strollers in tote, warding off a slow and steady rain to reminisce the good ‘ol days, notwithstanding. Aficionados take their seat at the NYC Center, the last of the Modern Times tour, and drink him like a post-dinner aperitif.
Everyman seeks the hero within himself and sometimes that hero gets his shot through a song-and-dance man’s subjectivity. Fast forward two years later, and one Jack Frost materializes with another hard-hitter, Together Through Life, debuting at number one in Britain and the US, only to trot back in months later with the biggest head-scratcher yet, sentimentally yours, Christmas in the Heart.
If you didn’t catch on to the Dylan invasion, then you most definitely would’ve at the Hollywood Palladium in October, 2009, I’m sure. There, silver-haired hippies, drunk with entitlement, may have given you the business for not giving them the proper red-carpet treatment, and may or may not have hissed at you for being an amateur. You’d be gladder, still, begging someone to pinch you, lest it was a mirage before you onstage: Mr. Bobby D. doing a shoulder poppin’, hip gyratin’ languid dance for “Twiddle Dee & Tweedle Dum”. In a Sahara industry thirsty for authenticity, a sphinx-like image stands apart.
Now in his 60’s, while we’d expect him to sit back on his merits, Bob Dylan is peaking and lauded as an icon of youthful rebellion and poetic sensitivity by President Obama. You know you’ve made it when you are a no-show to receive praise from the leader of the Free World.
While stalwarts vie for who’s the real Bob Dylan fan, 20-something hipsters and teenyboppers going ballistic to lyrics meant for another era have a more prescient say. They portend in Dylanesque wit, they were his fans before he was Bob Dylan.