“I didn’t pay a hundred and seventy five bucks to see the back of your head!” a woman shouts.
Woe to you, if you’ve been allocated a seat on the far right-hand-side of the stage. With his keyboard placed perpendicular to the audience, presumably so that he can work with his band, Dylan will for at least half the songs have his back to you.
It’s not easy to enjoy “Thunder on the Mountain”, “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Highway 61” and “Desolation Row” this way.
For some numbers though, like “Simple Twist of Fate”, “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Senor”, and “Ballad of a Thin Man”, he does get out his guitar or harmonica, stumps up to the microphone and faces the audience directly.
With a half-century in the music business, Dylan does what he wants.
He says nothing to the adoring crowd, other than introduce his band. He doesn’t wave nor make any overt gestures to his fans. He doesn’t even bow at the end. He simply does the business of playing his music.
What’s the etiquette though at today’s “rock” concerts?
Should we listen to the man sitting five rows from the front who shouts:
“Sit down! Sit down! Sit down at the front you selfish pricks!”
Those with better seats than him stand, dance and block his view. He sits defiantly whilst they’re on their feet for two hours plus.
The security woman, on the second night, stops the audience from congregating in the aisles. This dampens the mood. More sit than stand, compared to the previous night.
What would Dylan prefer? Does he really care?
Anyway, we’re just talking about those who (like me) got good seats. If you’re stuck up on the terraces, you’d just be wondering why there aren’t a couple of large screens to zoom in on this troubadour’s face. Are the concert organiser’s trying to save money?
I wonder if this etiquette issue is due to a mixed crowd?
I felt slightly out-of-place when the Eagles played at this same venue last year. Being a hugely-popular 70s band, most of the audience were in their fifties or older.
The Dylan crowd though spans generations.
On the first night, a girl in her early twenties, danced joyously in the aisle, eyes sparkling, as if she couldn’t believe she was seeing the singer live and up close. He could have easily been her grandfather and, at a stretch, her great grandfather!
There were so many young people there. Many wizened ones too. And all the ages in-between.
The guy sitting beside me said that he first heard Dylan in the early 90s. He had all of his albums and bootlegs too. He must have been in his early thirties. An Italian woman of the same age told me she’d been travelling the globe, going to every Dylan concert for the past 15 years. I found it hard to believe, but the man has this “far out” appeal.
His ardent followers would come out of the concert rapturous, having witnessed something almost mystical. I remember the concert in the mid 80s though in Birmingham, UK, where he came on, played for forty minutes and walked off. That was his “drunken period”, I’ve been told.
Dylan, today, is a professional.
At almost 70, this is a remarkable performance. His broken voice, his re-rendering of his old tunes, his devotion to his words and music, makes him a cult, a renaissance figure of the 20th and 21st centuries. Dylan would sneer at such an accusation.
If you’re not a big Dylan fan, then you might stumble out somewhat bemused.
“I think Paul Kelly was better,” I overheard the receptionist at the hotel I stayed in say.
Paul Kelly, the supporting act, did repeat the same joke on both nights though.
Which would you prefer a worn-out-joke or not even a bow?