Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

The Times They are a Changin: Two Bob Dylan Shows 12 years apart

Bob Dylan is the most prolific songwriter in American music history. The Country, Folk, and Rock and Roll genres have all felt his influence. Over the course of 35 studio albums, several live recordings, and countless compilations, Bob Dylan’s genre jumping and reinventing has been well documented. With such a huge catalog and a career spanning 50 plus years, I feel a little foolish trying to explain who Bob Dylan is to you.

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Touring in 2001 in support of Love and Theft

I discovered Bob Dylan much the same way as most people in my generation did; through someone he had influenced. I heard a couple of Dylan tracks, thought he sounded a little like Tom Petty and bought the greatest hits CD. I enjoyed his more popular songs and began to dig a little deeper, picking up Highway 61 revisited and Blood on the Tracks. In 2001, when Bob Dylan and his band brought their show to Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, I was in the front row… Of the third tier.

For many, the first time you hear Bob Dylan live–whether on a recording or in person–can be a tad confusing. In a world where live means “greatest hits, faster” Dylan takes some getting used to. His live renditions seldom have the same phrasing, tempo or meter seen in the studio recordings. Dylan plays fast and loose with every aspect of a song to the degree that it could find you uncertain of which song he is singing. I knew this going into seeing him live, but had no idea how little of his variation is captured on record.

While  running between feelings of being ripped off and questioning whether the performer had some type of stroke, I suddenly just fell into his performance. I experienced a moment where Dylan’s delivery and my understanding of the music met head on. It was beautiful. Last week I saw Bob Dylan live for the second time and found a few interesting differences in the performances.

At age 71 Bob Dylan is now using an opening act again: Opening for a legend is a great way to earn a listener-ship and gain an album purchasing fan base. This is very true of Bob Dylan openers. Ryan Adams, Amos Lee and many others have filled this role in recent years and gone on to have their own successes. However in 2001 Dylan had no opener. In 2013 the opener was a group called Dawes whom I highly recommend.

The hits were harder to find: With a such a vast body of work, Bob Dylan could play a show every night for the next year and never sing a song twice. The 2013 performance really hit the deep album cuts and steered clear of most of the hits. His reading of “All Along the Watchtower” was among the best I have ever heard. Pure folk and hard blues edged rock fusion was achieved.

The man is on the move: In 2001 Dylan walked to center stage and stayed put for the entire show. Even during the encore he walked to the same spot. Dylan was never in one place twice during the 2013 show. He moved all around the stage and even sang from behind the band during one number.

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Touring in 2013 in support of Tempest

The marathon is over: I was spoiled by the 2001 show. The band played for well over 2hrs then gave a 45min encore. I heard nearly every song I had wanted to and learned a few new ones. 2013 Was 16 songs about one hour thirty minutes and a one song encore.

Is anybody out there: It has long been established that Bob Dylan does not like to talk to the crowd between songs. Still, in 2001, he at least took a moment during “Rainy Day Women” to introduce his band. Not so in 2013. No crowd interaction, no introductions.

Bob Dylan’s approach to live performance has been compared to that of a jazz musician in its pure variation and avoidance of repetition. On what is now jokingly called “The End of Life Tour,” he is still playing over 200 dates every year. It makes sense that in some ways the man is bound to slow and settle down. Still in others he is speeding up and delivering every night. I count myself fortunate to have witnessed his genius twice separated by 12 years. He has changed a bit, and so have I.

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Dear Heath Ledger…You Are Missed.

January 22nd of this year marked the five year anniversary of the death of Heath Ledger. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long. It feels like it was just yesterday the news was breaking on Ledger’s body being found in the SoHo apartment of Mary-Kate Olsen, dead of an apparent overdose. Autopsies would later discover that it was an accidental overdose from the misuse of multiple prescription drugs. It’s the way many Hollywood stars have gone out, but it was definitely not the way many fans had expected him to die. Heath was one of the actors that were expected to live many years a grow into a respected actor and Hollywood legend, much like Clint Eastwood or Tommy Lee Jones. Instead, he’s become one of the Tinseltown tragedies, much like River Pheonix. Gone too soon, just as his star was on the rise.

Rest in Peace, Heath.

Rest in Peace, Heath.

I’m sure most people’s first experience with Heath Ledger was from his performance in 10 Things I Hate About You, where he played the high school rebel trying to “tame the high school shrew” so another guy could date her sister. From there, he wowed us in The Patriot, Monster’s Ball, and the modern-day/medieval mashup A Knight’s Tale. After that, he starred in a few less than successful but still quite wonderful films; The Four Feathers, The Order, Ned Kelly, and Casanova.

Next, he co-starred in The Brothers Grimm with Matt Damon. The film, directed by Terry Gilliam, is one of my absolute favorites. It’s the not-so-true story of Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm, a couple of con artists posing as witch hunters who find themselves in deep trouble when they must hunt down and kill a real witch for a French general or be killed themselves. It’s a quirky and eccentric film combining elements and characters from all the Grimm Fairy Tales into a story that only Terry Gilliam can tell. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

Following that, he made Lords of Dogtown, where he played Skip Engblom, one of the creators of legendary skateboarding team, the Z-Boys.

His next film, Brokeback Mountain, brought a bit of controversy for his portrayal of Ennis Del Mar, a cowboy turned gay cowboy. The film drew much critical and box office success and earned Heath Ledger, as well as his co-star Jake Gyllenhaal, some much due acclaim (and I’m sure some good natured ribbing).

He followed up the success of Brokeback with a couple indie films, Candy and I’m Not There. In I’m Not There, he portrayed a persona of Bob Dylan during a period in his life. He shared the screen with five other actors to tell six different stories in Dylan’s life.

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The Clown Prince of Crime.

And then there was The Dark Knight. One of the greatest comic movies ever made, if not the greatest, and it was in part because of Ledger’s performance as The Joker. No other actor has captured the character quite like Ledger did. He lost himself in the character to the point where you didn’t even recognize him. You didn’t see Ledger, you saw The Joker. This was the greatest performance of what would be a very short career that should have been a jumping-off point for a long and fruitful career. And it was Ledger’s loss of himself in the character that may have lead to his untimely demise, but that’s neither here nor there.

This role would usher Ledger into the pantheon of legendary actors and make it very difficult for any other actor to ever portray The Joker ever again. It also made it very difficult for Christopher Nolan to continue The Joker story line in his Dark Knight Trilogy which saddened many die-hard Batman fans, including myself.

His final performance was in another Terry Gilliam film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, where he portrayed a conman on the run for embezzling money through a charity. He hides out with a small troupe of traveling performers whose leader just happens to be immortal. The film, also one of my favorites, was more surreal and trippy than The Brothers Grimm and just as successful; I mean it’s more of a cult classic than a box office success. But even without the commercial success, it and The Dark Knight were excellent performances for Ledger to end his career. His performance as The Joker did win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor posthumously.

He was a star that burned out too soon. An incredible actor, father, and all-around wonderful personality that was taken from the world all too soon, leaving a void that will never be filled by another actor. In a sea of talentless hacks, it seems to be the talented ones that seem to be the first that sink when they should be soaring high above the waves, like a proud seagull or something. I’m not all that good with sentimental analogies.

Heath Ledger…You will always be missed.

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