Dylan Turns the Lights Up

Last Saturday I experienced my first Bob Dylan concert. Even now, trying to write about it, makes me feel…not exactly star-struck, but a little inept. It was probably one of the most poetic experiences of my life — in a surprisingly organic kind of way. But it’s taken me a week to reach this conclusion. My first impression was that a Dylan concert is a lot like a Bob Dylan autobiography. The lights go up, the lights go down. You only see what he wants you to see –at least that’s what you think — in the beginning.

In the beginning of the concert, before the lights went up, Bob was introduced by an unnamed recorded male voice whizzing through these words: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the poet laureate of rock ‘n’ roll. The voice of the promise of the ’60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock. Who donned makeup in the ’70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse. Who emerged to find Jesus. Who was written off as a has-been by the end ’80s, and who suddenly shifted gears releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late ’90s. Ladies and gentlemen – Columbia recording artist, Bob Dylan!” Then the lights went up, and for the next 90 minutes we only saw him when he was playing and singing a mere 14 of the over 400 songs the icon has released over the past 47 years. The only words he spoke were to introduce his band, and that didn’t come until after the first song of the three-song encore.

But that is the genius of the Poet Laureate of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He forces us to focus on the songs, the poetry. Bob Dylan accomplishes in a very literal sense what C.S. Lewis wrote about poets, “The poet is not a man who asks me to look at him; he is a man who says ‘look at that’ and points.”

You cannot look at a man in the dark, and in the concert, Bob turned on the lights (literally and figuratively) with every song. That is how he points us to the full, brilliant pictures of life — his and ours. Seeing Bob Dylan in concert didn’t show me anything new about this legend. You don’t have to “see to believe” Bob Dylan. You just have to listen.

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20 thoughts on “Dylan Turns the Lights Up

  1. Dylan has always had the lights on all the time. I mean he's vissible 100 concerts a year. There must be a 100 books on him. Is there anything we don t know about the guy.I don t think so. Those people that want to know more are obscene. They want to know the colour of his underpants. Who cares. Dylan has writen some good songs and has stollen a bunch of good songs. Thats all

  2. if it's so damn easy to steal some songs and make it big like that ole bob dylan, why don't you do it too and then we'll want to know the color of your underpants; i will never quite get why people are pissed at bob.

  3. Bri – you must read Chronicles! You absolutely will not regret it. You got lucky…the Phoenix show was considered Bob's best in years, due in large part to Charlie Sexton's return to the band. And you got to see and hear Workingman's Blues, his most emotional recent song.Welcome to the club.

  4. Thank you for that review> The quote from C.S. Lewis beautifully captures the essence of Bob's work. I have read alot of C.S. Lewis' writings but have never come across that.

  5. Great to hear from so many Dylan fans, and I appreciate the corrections (AnnaSophia and "Anonymous.") Not sure I'm worthy of "the club," but I'm obviously in good company. Thanks for the welcome.

  6. Al Santos says: "Ladies & Gentlemen: Please welcome the Poet Laureate of Rock N Roll, the voice of the promise of the 60s counter culture, the guy who forced folk into bed with Rock, who donned make-up in the 70s and disappeared with a haze of substance abuse, who then emerged to find JESUS. Who was written off as a has-been by the end of the 80s …then suddenly shifted gears, releasing some of the strongest music of his career, beginning in the late 90s. Ladies & Gentleman, Columbia Recording Artist: Bob Dylan"

  7. I'm still trying to figure out whether or not I went to a Bob Dylan concert when I was a teenager. All I can recall is going to a concert with friends, sitting on the ground with people all around me, overwhelmed by that first youthful feeling of wow, man … I'm at a concert; it's big and it's a little claustrophobic as well.

  8. Would your friends remember, Rowe? That would be great if you did see him "back in the day." But I know what you mean about being overwhelmed by those youthful feelings – pretty powerful stuff when they overshadow even (maybe) Dylan!

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