First, I must say I am a huge Dylan fan, I've listened to all of his albums, I've read his biography, I have a deep respect for what he has done for music and song-writing. He is an unquestionable legend, a true genius of his craft and I would say is only rivaled by The Beatles in sheer influence on other artists today. With that being said, Bob Dylan needs to stop making music and playing concerts, for awhile. That's a pretty bold statement and I'm sure I will get a lot of flack for it but it's the conclusion I came to after seeing him live for the second time this past weekend. He played The Veteran's Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix Arizona. It was at the state fair, and tickets were fairly reasonable so I figured why not. The ticket said doors at seven. So I got there at seven-thirty only to walk in on the concert being halfway over. Apparently he started playing even before seven. I quickly found my seat figuring that he must have just started. Nope. He was actually close to finishing. The concert ended before eight-thirty. No real reason why, there was no curfew, and the fairgrounds didn't close till midnight. Bob must have just been tired. As the house-lights went up an entire arena of people looked at each other with bewilderment. It was only eight-thirty! Barely dark! I still had time to go to another concert somewhere else if I felt like it! That's one thing that annoyed me.
When I saw Steve Miller Band a few years back, I was truly amazed. The guy sounded exactly like he did in the 70's, he poured his soul into a three hour note perfect show. He proved to me that even old acts can put on a stellar show, they just have to try. Dylan did the complete opposite. I've known he's lost his voice for many years, but he straight up garbled his words the other night. Not only that but he completely changes the structure of his songs making them nearly incomprehensible. I don't mind a little variance, but when it takes me a minute and half to realize that he's playing one of my favorite song's "Ballad of a Thin Man", we've got problems.
On top of that he picks a poor selection of songs. He played essentially the same setlist when I saw him in 2005. He's been stuck in this kick-back to his blues era of Highway 61 Revisited. I'm all for hearing some of those types of songs, but Bob, you have a gigantic catalogue of music! Use it! I want some variety, I want to hear stuff from Desire, or New Morning, or even Street Legal! Quit playing the same set of songs all the time, and please stop closing every show with "Like A Rolling Stone" or "All Along The Watchtower." Yes they're tremendous songs, and you have earned a great deal of popularity for them, but at your age, you have some other songs that you should take off the shelf before you bite the dust. A well executed "Masters of War" would have been a powerful finish for a concert, especially given the circumstances of the world today. To me Dylan's faux-blues band that he's been touring with comes off like a half-assed cover band rather than something exciting and genuine like previous bands that he's toured with such as The Band, or The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
His recent albums haven't been very impressive either. Sure Love and Theft had it's moments, but Modern Times and this year's Together Through Life are bland, uninteresting and completely unessential to his career. Critics try to squeeze every thing they can out of them, and make it seem like they're worthwhile so he might grace them with an interview or a cover shoot. His second release of 2009 is a Christmas Album. Christmas Albums are notorious for being stains on Artist's careers, and this one is no exception. With each listen of Christmas at the Heart I get the feeling that Zimmerman here is losing touch with reality.
This all leads me to the conclusion that Bob Dylan needs to stop. I know we only have him in this world for a short time, and people want to be able to tell their kids that they were able to see him live, but he's hurting his career. It's hard imagine that a person with such stature in music history could hurt his career. I love Bob Dylan and his music will forever be influential. However if he keeps releasing bad records and playing un-inspired shows it does not bode well for his image. They say that Bob Dylan has done everything and he has nothing left to prove. That's not true at all. He, like many other old artists still have to prove that he still can do it, even at his old age. And from what I've seen and heard recently, he's not accomplishing that.
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