Bob Dylan and his band performed to a packed Santa Barbara Bowl Monday night with Mark Knopfler opening for them.
Yes, that’s right — I said Bob Dylan. As in the Bob Dylan. Despite the fact that my ticket for a seat in the front section put a nice dent in my summer job savings, I can wholeheartedly say that it was worth it. My fellow audience members, largely consisting of the over-60 age group, and I could hardly contain our excitement to see the man who has shaped history with his music.
However, several of the audience members I spoke with had come more to see Mark Knopfler than Dylan, which surprised me, as I shamefully admit that before the concert I could not have named any of his songs if put on the spot. Nevertheless, I left the Santa Barbara Bowl Monday night a new Knopfler groupie.
I don’t claim to be a musical expert, but Knopfler and his band (whom he called his “happy wanderers”) are legendary and their performance Monday night was amazing. The band members displayed a tremendous amount of talent with instruments including but not limited to flute, keyboard, violin, guitar, pipes, bass and drums. The sound, along with Knopfler’s voice, which possesses a rich and beautiful husky quality, transported listeners to another world. This was no Justin Bieber or some digitally manufactured boy band. Listening to Knopfler and his band was a wake-up call to what quality music sounds like (not necessarily what you might find on VH1’s Top 20 playlist).
An audience member who had seen Knopfler and his band several years before told me that the set Knopfler played Monday night was a little less upbeat than his usual, but I was surprised to hear that; most of his songs made me need to physically resist the urge to get up and dance along. Knopfler’s set ranged from up-tempo songs like “So Far Away” to hauntingly beautiful songs which made good use of the pipes and violin. The stress and worries of the past week melted away as I basked in the warmth of the songs in his set. As Knopfler and his band finished the set, they were met with a well-deserved standing ovation from old and new fans in the crowd, myself included.
Now, for those who have never been to the Santa Barbara Bowl, it is a beautiful outside venue up on a hill, surrounded by trees and overlooking the city, and when Bob Dylan sauntered onto the stage, the light rain which had been falling sporadically throughout the night did nothing to dampen spirits. With his styling hat and quirky dance moves, Dylan dove right into the set playing keyboard.
Seeing Bob Dylan perform live was completely surreal. Many of the audience members I spoke with have idolized Dylan since they were kids, and while some in the crowd had been to many Dylan concerts in their lives, for others this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Dylan did not disappoint.
With his mad skills on the harmonica and very unique voice (though, admittedly, I had to strain to understand what exactly was being said), Dylan played a range of songs, from newer singles to classics such as “Like a Rolling Stone” and “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” Although Dylan didn’t say much in between songs, seamlessly transitioning from one song to the next, he was certainly entertaining with his sassy emphasis on certain lyrics and his endearing swaying to the music. He finished the night with one of my personal favorites, “Blowin’ in the Wind” from one of his first albums, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963).
Dylan’s music has been evolving and changing over the past 50 years, yet he still sells out venues and enraptures onlookers. His “Never Ending” tour, which started in 1988, is a testament to how great he is as a songwriter and a performer. There’s no denying that his voice, always unique, has changed since he was a twenty year old man, but his greatness lies in his ability to still affect people profoundly with his songs.
I once heard someone say that you can’t like Dylan a little. You either don’t like him at all or you love him. I don’t necessarily agree with that. I don’t think it matters how old you are or where you’re from — I believe anyone can find a way to connect with Dylan’s songs on some level or at least learn to appreciate them. So, if you haven’t given his music a try, I highly recommend doing so and if you get a chance, see the legend perform for yourself. You won’t regret it.