Bob Dylan at the Hollywood Bowl: Fans express outrage (as usual)
This post has been updated. See note below for details.
There’s one thing Bob Dylan fans will never agree on: whether his concerts over the last decade are terrible, excellent or just plain weird.
This was certainly the case with Friday night’s performance at the Hollywood Bowl, which alternately thrilled, confused and frustrated fans -- at least according to the feedback my review spawned. Both in the comment section and in emails, a lot of people were pretty disappointed with the show they witnessed at the storied Bowl.
What follows are a few excerpted arguments from readers about Dylan’s Bowl gig.
Mitch Perliss sent an impassioned letter against the concert: “This was the first time that I saw more people playing with their cellphones, talking or even making out than listening to the music, even in our seats. This was the first time I saw many, many people from high above leaving early and shaking their heads as they left. We took the shuttle to the show and during the bus ride back, 90% of the people spoke of their disappointment of the performance; everyone commented on the lack of being able to see Dylan perform ... If I wanted to just ‘hear’ Dylan, I would have streamed a concert version, watched a couple songs on YouTube or listened to my vinyl versions of his songs. I went to experience Dylan, to see him and enjoy him.”
In a comment attached to the story, Musiclover4 wrote: “Bob Dylan should know when it’s time to call it quits! His voice was so bad it was embarrassing! I have seen so many of the iconic performers of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s in concert, including Paul McCartney, Don Henley, Paul Simon, Huey Lewis, Joe Cocker, The Beach Boys, Elton John and Neil Diamond. All gave performances that were memorable and captivating. Most important, all could still sing!! The Bob Dylan portion of the concert at the Hollywood Bowl this past Friday night was a total waste!”
A commenter named Bookman found “Blowin’ in the Wind” problematic: “I’m glad the reviewer was able to identify the last song as ‘Blowin’ in the Wind.’ I had no idea. I thought it was a new song that I had never heard before. I can understand an artist changing the way they perform a few songs here and there. But to do that with every song is really cheating the audience. He may as well have performed his new album in its entirety. What difference would it have made. Either way we would have gotten a set full of unrecognizable songs.”
Reader Barbara Dancy enjoyed the concert, but was baffled by the presentation: “Since I was one of those closer to the cheap seats, I appreciated you mentioning the video screens and wondered if you inquired about or received any kind of response from the Bowl regarding the choice to display the worthless single-shot wide-screen view and no close-ups. When I saw that during the Knopfler band, I thought for sure it would be corrected for the Dylan show. I’ve been to the Bowl many times and have never seen them do this before....what’s up!?!?”
(Here’s some of what I wrote back to her: Since this was a lease event rather than an official Hollywood Bowl-produced concert, it would have been up to promoter Bill Silva Presents or Bob Dylan’s management to commit to a camera crew. My guess is that, as with all aspects of Dylan’s performance, Dylan himself made a decision that he didn’t want this live experience filtered through big video screens. I know I’m in the minority, but I actually kind of liked being forced to listen to the music rather than being distracted by multi-camera edits. But then again, I’ve seen Dylan a dozen or so times.)
[Updated, 3:25 p.m. Oct. 29: In response to the above query about the lack of big-screen video coverage at Bob Dylan’s show, a spokeswoman for the Hollywood Bowl said that all decisions regarding use of the overhead video screens were dictated by the artist.]
More pressing is a matter that Jeff Drees addressed in an email: “Did you forget about the opening act? Dylan was terrible and even the hard-core fans were walking out. We were home my 10! [Mark] Knopfler, on the other hand, was his brilliant self. You did your readers a disservice.”
Point well-taken. Knopfler’s set was indeed excellent, and I should have written more on that in the review. Commenter Kaker1, in fact, also enjoyed his performance:
“Far more enjoyable was Mark Knopfler. He actually acknowledged the audience and sang to/for them. His band was great, his guitar work was magical and his songs actually sounded different from each other. I didn’t know any of the songs he sang, and I didn’t care. The music was beautiful and his voice passionate. Dylan can be an introvert at home, and even onstage, but he must recognize people pay lots of money to SEE him. If he doesn’t give a damn about his audience, he can go to the studio with his band and make great music, or is he in it just for the money? I have seen him several times, but this is the first time I felt ripped off. “
Pat Farber also didn’t pull any punches about Dylan’s set: “Stop pandering to the artists. His voice was unintelligible. We were in the garden boxes and none of us could understand one word he said. I understand why and give him credit for trying. But, while his band are good musicians, every melody sounded the same. You sure you were there and not home listening to his recordings?”
I was there, and as I wrote in my review, I thought it was an excellent Dylan show.
Thanks for the feedback. Feel free to add more below.
Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit
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