Bob Dylan doesn’t have to work a crowd with humor or charisma; he doesn’t have to show off his chops; hell, he doesn’t even have to really sing his vocals. He just has to be there. For many of his most devoted followers, his presence alone is enough to warrant the attendance of his concert. Because when Bob Dylan takes the stage, he willfully or not drags with him a history, celebrity and mystery of an entirely unique order. This is the man who for so many became a leader and icon of an entire generation, a force for musical change and an enigma to be endlessly pondered.
As I, along with the sell-out crowd of many thousands, watched him walk out onto the stage last Thursday evening, I realized that I was more excited about seeing him that I was about hearing him. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t wait to hear him play, but what was even more exciting was the thought of seeing him play.
Maybe it was just that wine that I had just guzzled down in the parking lot talking, but I just couldn’t seem to stop saying to myself and others things like “Wow, that’s Bob Dylan right there,” or “I’m watching motherfucking Bob Dylan play motherfucking ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ right in front of me, and it’s awesome.” For me it was a rare occasion of letting myself totally succumb to his celebrity and within it find a surprisingly real sense of satisfaction in my experiencing his presence. It was like the sort of pilgrimage tourists make toward an icon of great cultural value, like the “Mona Lisa,” simply for the sake of seeing the actual thing, experiencing the aura of the original. Because reproductions are not enough. Now, thinking about it days later, it’s strange that I have a much clearer memory of seeing him than I do of hearing him. The sound was second to the sight. So, last week I saw Bob Dylan. First, I saw him with my own eyes, and it was great. Then I heard him with my own ears, and that was cool as well.