FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Dylan in Bend

by DAVID VEST

After two straight nights in Idaho, Bob Dylan and his band rolled into Bend, Oregon on July 23 to find near-100-degree heat, a major fire raging to the southeast within sight of the stage, and an audience that had been waiting for hours in a crowded, shadeless open air venue, sitting on the ground under a naked sun that wouldn’t set until moments before Dylan finished his show.

You expect people to endure conditions like these at Texas racetracks, Megapalooza package tours and papal appearances, maybe, but not at a Dylan show.

Perhaps not since Bob Hope played Pendleton, and had every bug in Eastern Oregon fly into his mouth when they killed the arena lights and put the spot on him as he sang “Thanks for the Memories,” had an artist faced a steeper uphill battle.

The show had a 6:30 start. To get a decent spot for your sand chair or blanket you had to have been in line well before 5:00 p.m. By way of consolation you got to hear the band, sans Dylan, running through “Lonesome Day Blues” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” during the sound check.

As soon as the gate swung open the usual gaggle of camp followers sprinted for the choice spots near the stage, accompanied in my mind by the melting strains of Dylan’s song, “Have you seen Dignity?”

As though to suggest that the infernally hot event was being promoted by demons from the lower levels of Hell, anyone who brought so much as a half-empty bottle of water in purse or backpack had to surrender it to security at the turnstile (otherwise, the terrorists would win, I guess).

What was Dylan even doing in Bend? one might wonder. For one thing, the town has been growing rapidly and can now support acts that wouldn’t have stopped there for gas in years past. Also, it’s one of a group of dates he picked up to replace a European tour cancelled after the U.S. invaded Iraq. Other venues included the Park and Ride Lot in Ketchum, Idaho, I kid you not. That Zimmy would be carrying his music to some unlikely venues was obvious. That he would be singing to people in danger of spontaneous combustion was not perhaps as predictable.

As water-hauling firefighter planes disappeared into the pillar of smoke to the southeast, a flock of Canadian geese rose out of the Deschutes River and flew directly across the front rows, just as Dylan took his place at the far end of the stage behind a keyboard and launched into “Maggie’s Farm,” the same song he had opened his most recent Oregon concert with, last fall in Eugene. He spent most of the number trying to get the sound crew to give him what he wanted in his monitors.

Exhausted as they were by the heat and the waiting, the crowd had received an unadvertised opening act good-naturedly enough, then rose to its feet at the sight of Dylan and remained standing for the entire performance.

Dylan played piano and harmonica. He never picked up a guitar. His Oscar for “Things Have Changed” sat an on amplifier behind him. (Yes, he song that one.) From time to time he left the keyboard and wandered across the stage to “lead the band” during guitar solos. At times, being Dylan, he looked more like a man trying to remember where he had parked his car.

This was not to be one of Dylan’s greatest shows, but it was a great effort by a real trouper. He managed to put some energy back into a crowd that had had it broiled out of them long before his arrival. He appeared to call a lot of audibles; often his band changed instruments only to change them back again after a quick word from Bob to Tony Garnier, his bass player.

Highlights of the set list included “Drifter’s Escape,” “Desolation Row,” “Positively 4th Street” and “Watching the River Flow,” in rapid sequence. The show also featured the kind of grand, shambling catastrophe only Dylan can give you, with a version of “Bye and Bye” in which both Dylan and the band appeared to get lost, and on different highways. About five minutes into the thing Dylan started mumbling the opening lines again.

“Summer Days,” a sure-fire rockabilly hellraiser, closed the set, just as another enormous flock of geese, this time outlined against a stunning sunset, made a grand flyover. The energy, and crowd response, generated by the band during this song was almost incredible, given the situation. After a prolonged ovation came the usual encores (“Like a Rolling Stone” and “All Along the Watchtower”). It may have been the longest I have ever seen a performer make an audience wait before coming back out.

It was one of those nights when Dylan the poet had to give way to Dylan the arena performer, a night of broad gestures and flat-out wide open rolling and rocking. There were no ballads, no obscure covers, no bluegrass gospel songs. He barely got away with doing “Desolation Row.” That’s one of the two or three greatest songs of the twentieth century, and people around me talked and laughed all through it.

On the other hand, they went through hell to see Bob Dylan, he sang it anyway, whether they knew what it was or not, and they were still there at the end, hoping for yet another encore even after the star’s bus had rolled out from behind the stage and headed for another joint.

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, just released a scorching new CD, Way Down Here.

He can be reached at: davidvest@springmail.com

Visit his website at http://www.rebelangel.com

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull, 500 Years of Trauma
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Gordon Smith
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
stclair
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered, Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail