Bob Dylan was an icon of a generation, his songs spoke to the political turmoil of the 1960s, the war in Vietnam, racism, and the civil rights movement. He falls into the category of musicians you have to see, even if its only to say that you have seen them in concert. I’d heard that Bob Dylan hadn’t played a great show last time he was in Seattle, but I bought the ticket for Bumbershoot anyway, because well…it was Bob Dylan, and who wouldn’t like to be able to see they’d seen Bob Dylan in concert? Besides, it was a festival, even if Dylan was awful, at least there would be other bands, and I wouldn’t feel like I’d been ripped off..
The mainstage had sold out in advance, although people trickled in slowly during The Decemberists, and during Neko Case, the majority of people didn’t show up until Dylan was about to play.
He opened with “Everybody Must Get Stoned”, although it wasn’t recognizable until halfway through the song. Although Bob Dylan has never had a strong voice, and his songs have often seemed more like spoken word set to music than actual songs, his performance at Bumbershoot was worse than I expected. His voice was gruff and gravelly, like a smokers’ voice, and was nearly impossible to understand – the only way my mother could identify‘Just Like A Woman’ was by the one guitar riff in the chorus.
He was supposed to play for an hour and a half, but we (my mom and I) didn’t stay until the end, we couldn’t. He’d already destroyed two of his better known songs, and after 45 minutes, I turned to my mom and said “If he attempts to play Mr tambourine man, I’m never going to be able to listen to that song again. He’s going to ruin it.”
Maybe It’s unfair of me to expect an elderly man to perform at the same level as he did 30 years ago – but if he can’t perform anymore, then why is he still touring?
Although the songs were nearly unrecognizeable, and the show was so bad, there was a steady stream of people leaving even though the set was barely halfway through, I'm not sorry I went. After all, now I can say I've seen Bob Dylan in concert, and even if he isn't good anymore, his music was the voice of a generation.