A few days ago, I went to see the Bob Dylan/Willie Nelson summer tour. They are probably playing a minor league ballpark near you. I've never seen either one of them live, but it seemed important to go see them in person, since their music is the soundtrack for the lives of many Americans. I probably grew up more attuned to Willie's music--certainly his tales of drinking, loving, being on the road, and the whole cowboy milieu were more resonant in the rural south than Dylan's protest/social commentary (of course, I'm generalizing). Dylan's songs are woven so deeply into the musical subconscious, and have been covered so thoroughly, that I'm constantly surprised that something I'm listening to is a "Dylan" song. Then, of course, I feel a start of guilt--or perhaps, embarrassment, that I didn't know that in the first place.
So...I went with realistic expectations, I'll say, of what I would get. I figured Willie for a familiar crowd-pleaser, but Bob, from all accounts, can be a bit idiosyncratic and his crooning is always an adventure. Also, I had read that he has eschewed the guitar for keyboards and harmonica. I had a pretty good spot near the stage, in the center on an absolutely sweltering evening. The Greencards opened energetically and Willie came through with a comfy set of classics. Bob and his band came on and I could actually identify some of the songs--so changed from their "standard" sound that you had to listen to the lyrics very closely: "Just Like a Woman," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "All Along the Watchtower." The band sounded great and Bob seemed to be enjoying himself, though he doesn't engage much with the crowd. Mainly, it made me feel that I had really missed out on something by being too young to have seen Dylan in his heyday--when his songs were timely, direct responses to events; when he was just a young dude with his guitar, doing something special and exciting. It made me wonder who the 20-something is right now, who is kind of filling his role--as he did in the 60s. Maybe that's only something you can see in retrospect?