A Triptych of Bob Dylan Concerts: 2010, 2014, and 2022
Travis Laurence Naught shares his experiences seeing Bob Dylan in concert over the years, and most recently in 2022 as Dylan opened his West Coast swing of his Rough and Rowdy Ways worldwide tour.
The crowd around us in the front row of the Bob Dylan concert went chaotic. John Mellencamp had put on a rousing, if somewhat less than peak performance, as the sun went down that night in Post Falls, Idaho. Full dark set in. A fistfight broke out. People were landing on top of me as the first chords from “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” alongside with Dylan’s gravelly voice hit the audience.
It was 2010. I was still able to lift my own arm onto my remote control, still able to drive my wheelchair without the need for constant assistance, still comfortable with tackling the world solo between the need for having a willing helper to hold the urinal in front so I could find relief. The woman in high heels about seven people deep in the crowd probably wishes I wouldn’t have been so able then, as I fearfully rolled over her foot and ankle while running away from the fight during Dylan’s third song (“Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” according to setlist.fm). I hope I didn’t hurt her too badly.
My buddy and I went into the bathroom and took a couple of deep breaths to decompress. He had just graduated chiropractic college and he ran his hands up and down my crooked spine to make sure there was no new damage. We assayed no further permanent harm to my body, less crippled then than now, and made our way back into a less crowded portion of the field for the remainder of the show.
That was a true rock concert. I don’t remember Dylan’s physical presence well, my memories hazy from the events of the evening, but I do remember the two best songs from the set that night as “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Like a Rolling Stone.” It stands out as the most memorable, frightening moment of my conscious life. A peak experience. My live-music Everest. That does not mean “my most enjoyable,” but certainly “the most dangerous and noteworthy.”
Fast-forward four years. My chiropractor friend still gets amped talking about that night. Another one of my friends talks about also having been in the crowd that night in Post Falls. Nobody has as visceral of memories as I from that night. The announcement of a redemption opportunity came through … Bob Dylan was going to be performing in Seattle. Life busyness meant that the chiropractor could not join me, but my poet friend said, “Let’s go!”
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We set off on a road trip for the ages, blasted Dylan over Snoqualmie Pass, doing our best to sing along (“Hurricane” revealing itself to me on that trip as my favorite in his illustrious catalog, though I’ve still never heard him sing it live), and found ourselves in a hotel outside Seattle so we would not have to drive all the way home after the show.
The theater was small in comparison to the outdoor event we had been at previously. Somewhere north of 2500 people settled into their seats, the poet and I in the back row of the bottom level, and were presented a 19-song set. It was a retrospection of some of his greatest hits played to an audience of respectful listeners. No fistfight broke out. It was powerful good music.
Dylan’s voice was crisper than I had heard in Post Falls. He was dressed in Western attire, standing statuesque on stage, delivering his lyrics unaltered to a backing of excellently produced arrangements. There was something special “Blowin’ in the Wind” at the end of the show. Nothing but positive memories from that night, though they were not as powerful of memories as the ones cemented previously. A solid redemption indeed.
Post-COVID Spokane has been an interesting place to live. Paul McCartney began his North America tour in Spokane. Hamilton and Wicked both graced our stages for three-week runs. And Bob Dylan kicked off his West Coast dates for the Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour on May 28, 2022, here. My poet friend was thrilled to be able to join me again to see this mystical, Nobel prize-winning artist perform for our third time each.
The concert started at 8:00 p.m. We had 6:00 p.m. dinner reservations less than two blocks away. Moving around is more difficult for me these days; the gift of a degenerative muscular disorder. While crossing the street after dinner, my poet friend accidentally bumped into my driving arm. We had to work in quick concert to avoid my careening into traffic. I ran over his foot, bringing back memories of the Post Falls concert. I wonder if the woman whose foot I ran over a dozen years ago was in the crowd.
Everyone in attendance had their cell phones guarded by locked sleeves issued at the door. That’s right, Bob Dylan does not allow cell phone usage at all in the venues where he performs these days. It was a freeing experience. Being in the moment is something of a lost art these days. Focus was the name of the game.
The crowd hung on every word of a very modern music set. A smoky orange curtain in the background with lighting that relied on shadows of the band and the man himself was the only physical set. Everyone was dressed in black on stage. The music was not overpowering. This was an artistic performance, akin to a poetry reading by one of the most famous writers in history.
The crowd hung on every word of a very modern music set. … The music was not overpowering. This was an artistic performance, akin to a poetry reading by one of the most famous writers in history.
His third song in, after an underwhelming opening two, was “I Contain Multitudes.” It brought a third of the crowd to their feet upon completion. Spectacular. The best song I have ever heard him perform live! I wonder where it ranked among the performances witnessed by another member of the audience, whom my poet friend explained to me had seen Dylan over 500 times on stage. To be that dedicated …
Other highlights of the night were “Black Rider,” “I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You,” and “Mother of Muses.” Honorable mentions are also deserved for “Key West (Philosopher Pirate)” as well as “Crossing the Rubicon.” The second song there I took to be a very intense description of murder suicide. Perhaps my interpretation is incorrect, but it left me a little shook. There is very little time at a Dylan concert to reflect, as the pauses between songs are minimal.
Bob Dylan is an aging musician who has continually given to the world, and it felt so good to be in a room filled with individuals willing to receive. He spoke more between songs than I’ve ever heard. One simple statement, repeated multiple times: “Thank you.”
As my poet friend and I drove the 20 minutes back to my house, we passed by Dylan’s bus. We turned the van’s cabin light on and waved, hoping to be seen by the man himself, but I’m sure he was too tuned into the television we could see playing.
He is on the road again. His music about love and life and death will be given to a number of audiences over the next several weeks along the West Coast. He is still living, and we are all witnesses.