Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Never Ending Tour: time to end it? Encore #1

Thanks to Matthew Zuckerman:

Any Dylan fan/appreciator/fanatic has, over the years, had to put up with a steady stream of skepticism -- can't sing, can't play, can write a little -- and either we develop a thick skin or grow to enjoy the blood-letting.

I find it more disconcerting, however, to hear long-time Dylan fans
disparaging his recent songs, recordings or performances when I myself am more deeply in awe of them than ever.

This is true of such notable Dylan commentators as Clinton Heylin and Michael Gray as well as James (and also my MP Don Foster, a long-time fan who insists his recent performances are beyond the pale and has "given up" on seeing the man on stage).

I have two theories as to why this happens.

Theory 1:

Like a wild mustang, Bob will, given time, throw any rider who attempts to ride him. Some, he threw at Newport, some at Woodstock, some at Bible school, many during the bleak 1980s, many more with his occasional mercenary ventures, and a steady trickle at various stages along the Never-Ending Tour. This probably has something to do with Dylan's ability to "seem" to express our own thoughts and feelings more clearly and deeply than we knew them to exist. He may resent it, but this inevitably means we all feel we have a whole lot of ourselves invested in his work.

When he ceases to speak for us -- or, worse, when he appears to strike out in a radically different direction -- we are unable to see what he's doing since we are so incensed at what he ISN'T doing. Those of us not thrown are wrong to attribute it to anything more than that we haven't been thrown YET.

For me -- for what it's worth -- 2005 saw him give some of the finest performances of his career, and if the three years since have been a little less revelatory, then they have still been constantly absorbing.

Theory 2:

I have tin ears.

Guess which theory I hold to.

James Appleyard wrote:

> ³I¹ve been a Dylan gig-goer for decades, but I booked a 2009 show recently with a heavy heart. I¹m not sure I¹ll even use the ticket.
> ³Why? Simple: déjà vu! Bob¹s shows now seem formulaic to me; they show > insufficient invention; and I no longer respond to his voice or musicianship.
> ³Dylan¹s a great artist. Well, no the greatest, by a long way. But I think > I¹d rather focus on the recordings from now on.
> Am I alone in this, or do other Dylan Daily readers feel the same?²