When I was 20 years old, I spent the summer working at my parents’ fishing camp at Tranquille Lake. I cleaned cabins, filled pot holes, and helped my dad build a road through the bush to nearby Saul Lake.
One of our guests that year was a 15-year-old girl from the U.S. who stayed for a couple of weeks with her parents. She had a guitar, which she didn’t play all that well, but she did a reasonable rendition of Bob Dylan’s Times They Are A-Changin’.
Dylan was at his greatest back then. His music and lyrics were all about change. Listening to that music, you believed it. There was a feeling of excitement and uncertainty that came over you when you heard him, and when I think back to those times and those songs, I can almost recreate it.
I wish he’d taken us back, just a little, in his concert Saturday night at the Interior Savings Centre. Every aging artist likes to try new things, to prove he’s still got the creative spirit that took him to the top. But would it have killed him to give us a few of the oldies that did get him there? I mean, at least, in a recognizable way?
Instead, he and his band rocked away for two hours as if they were all by themselves, jamming in a garage. There was no connection with the audience, none. There was virtually no acknowledgement we existed; he and the band stood like chess pieces throughout.
Every song was a duplicate of the last. Dylan is famous as a poet, but I couldn’t make out a single word, not a syllable, for 120 minutes. The arena acoustics were crummy, but the instrumentals were so ear-damagingly loud it didn’t matter.
I’ve talked to a few people who enjoyed it. Somebody claimed to have recognized Just Like A Woman in there somewhere, but I’m skeptical. Supposedly, there were a few other familiar songs, too. I sure didn’t hear them — maybe it was the Kleenex stuffed in my ears. Not until the encore did I vaguely recognize Like A Rollin’ Stone.
I suppose it was great stuff for some people, but I’m betting a lot will agree with Daily News entertainment reporter Mike Youds’ assessment in today’s newspaper: “Acoustics were lousy, the stage was dimly lit, and most of his singing was unintelligible. . . .”