Bob Dylan in Amsterdam

Bob Dylan, 2007This was the fourth time I’ve seen Bob Dylan live, and in some ways the best. Not as rock­in as when he was on the road with Tom Pet­ty, not as his­toric as when I saw him with Joan Baez on Peace Sun­day in 1982 (they man­gled and stran­gled With God on Our Side and Blow­in’ in the Wind, but it was Dylan and Baez togeth­er again­st the War Machine, and I hung on every note), thank­ful­ly not as wood­en as when Eddie Brick­ell and the New Bohemi­ans opened for him in Rome in 1991 (and did the bet­ter show), when he seemed to be tak­ing evil joy in con­fus­ing his band.

Tonight he was hav­ing fun. Marth though he must have real­ly liked his boots, as he kept doing this twist thing that got them mov­ing, like a lit­tle kid try­ing out a new pair of shoes. Dur­ing High Water he played with a hand ges­ture that was goofy, and put a sly look on his face (though stead­fast­ly nev­er aimed at the audi­ence). This was not surly Bob. Alan, a friend who had nev­er been to a Bob con­cert before, said at first that his Bob­ness sound­ed like a male Mar­i­an­ne Faith­ful. “For the first hour I was real­ly won­der­ing why I was here” he said, “then in the last hour I knew.”

The last num­ber before the encore was “Like a Rolling Stone,” and it sent me wool gath­er­ing. I remem­ber hear­ing it on a Gen­er­al Elec­tric “Solid State” AM tran­sis­tor radio that I would lis­ten to at night, care­ful­ly thumb­ing the dial to pull in sta­tions from as far away as Chicago that were skip­ping off the atmos­phere unpre­dictably and wash­ing in and out on tides of sta­t­ic over my house in Upstate New York. I was 7 years old. What on Earth made me rec­og­nize “Like a Rolling Stone” as some­thing that was worth pay­ing atten­tion to? What made me mur­mur lit­tle 7 year old prayers that I didn’t lose the sig­nal before it end­ed, and that the DJ would say who wrote this thing? I had no ref­er­ence points. My par­ents owned may­be half a dozen records: Glenn Camp­bell, Herb Alpert and the Tijua­na Brass, Music Man. Every­thing I heard on the radio was strange and new, so I had no con­text with which to know just how strange and new this song, which Columbia Records lit­er­al­ly threw away, was in its time. But some­thing in me did know, beyond any doubt, that this 6 min­ute extrav­a­gan­za with its bite and its anger and its panoply of char­ac­ters and visu­al ref­er­ences and its mad­cap acci­den­tal­ly des­tined Al Koop­er Ham­mond Organ riff was GOOD. Prob­a­bly no sin­gle musi­cal expe­ri­ence when I was a kid more shaped my taste than that.

Thanks, Bob, for a life­time of moments, like beads strung out across decades, in which you made me pause and assess with new appre­ci­a­tion just how much the human spir­it can be moved and amazed by shared expe­ri­ences craft­ed into lan­guage and music, intel­lect and emo­tion.
Voice of a gen­er­a­tion? It’s gone far, far beyond that now.

Set List:

Set List:

1. Cat’s In The Well (Bob on elec­tric gui­tar)

(Thanks to Bob Links for hav­ing the set list post­ed before I got home from the Hall!)

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5 thoughts on “Bob Dylan in Amsterdam”

  1. Hi John, “wool gath­er­ing” is an Amer­i­can­ism (I think) for qui­et rec­ol­lec­tion and reflec­tion and thought. I’m guess­ing it comes from the act of pick­ing up bits of wool left over from spin­ning and putting them back into the process, but now you’ve raised the ques­tion, I’m going to look it up!

  2. The Poet of PBS
    Was just in it for him­self
    He took tunes from the Folk
    Made mon­ey and then sold out.

    Forty years of artis­tic fail­ure fol­lowed his cre­ative, moral youth
    Forty years of defen­sive­ness, forty years of obscur­ing truth
    And when his tour is over and they write his epi­taph
    They’ll say: “The rebel poet became The Poet of PBS.

  3. Ha ha! Or may­be they’re boots of Span­ish leather. Or he has to do some­thing when he Ain’t Walk­in. Or he’s eager for his bootheels to be wan­der­in as he’s think­in and a won­der­in all the way down the road. 

    Or I tru­ly need to find a bet­ter use for that bit of my brain space marked “Lyric stor­age.”

  4. May­be Bob’s just rem­i­nescin­in bout putting out a smoke while he moves his foot like that. Who knows may­be it’s a sim­ple twist of fate?

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