What if … Bob Dylan toured less often and played fewer than his usual output of about 100 gigs a year?
For that matter, how abut if Bob played a totally different kind of show than he has favored throughout the so-called Never Ending Tour, since 1988 — namely, a largely hard-rocking concert?
I wonder if the result would be more rewarding for the audience — not to mention, the performer himself — if the ever-experimental Dylan came forth with a lighter show, featuring a more acoustic-oriented sound. No more crunching versions of All Along the Watchtower. No more tiresome, repetitious performances of Highway 61. Please.
A new and different kind of concert would free up Dylan, too. Imagine the wide range of his songs that he might choose from, if he happened to be liberated from playing Ballad of a Thin Man night after night. Yes, it is a fabulous song and it always will be special. But Dylan doesn’t have to play it every night.
When I saw Dylan play at the Hollywood Bowl last Oct. 26, I wrote that I had enjoyed the gig. I much more enjoyed the venue than Dylan’s performance, truth be told, though. I had heard too many of the songs many times before, and it seemed to me that he was mailing in his performance of those nuggets. He seemed bored, and I sure felt that way as well.
The highlight of the show occurred when he performed You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere. Yes, he had played it before (I first saw him do it in 2002 at Madison Square Garden). Still, the song seemed fresh enough to him that he could find the mystery and excitement in doing an unexpected tune from his back pages. In my book, “Forget About Today,” Robbie Robertson of The Band told me he suspected that Dylan liked to tour so much because he loved the “thrill of discovery” in doing these concerts.
I bow to Robertson in his conclusions about Dylan. And I bet you that Dylan would continue to be turned on by performing songs that challenged him. How cool would it be to hear Dylan do When the Ship Comes in or Sweetheartlike You or Time Passes Slowly or I Pity the Poor Immigrant or … well, you get the picture.
I know, I know. Dylan doesn’t give a hoot what you or I think about his work. Dylan will — and damn well shold — do whatever he pleases. He has earned that right, God knows.
And as a fan, I have the right, too, to put n my two cents.
JONFRIEDMAN.NET QUESTION OF THE DAY: What songs would you like to hear Dylan play in concert?
Feel free to post a comment. I don’t care if you disagree with me. That’s fine. But as always, be civil or be gone.