On November 5th, 2006 I saw Bob Dylan, something I had done many times before, many times since, and something I hope to continue doing, but there were several things about this particular Dylan concert that were unique.
The show took place at the ugly hockey shed on the outskirts of Ottawa, nothing unusual about that (aside from the fact that every other hockey shed in the NHL aside from Phoenix and Ottawa is located in the host city’s downtown core, but as usual, I digress) but for the first and only time in my life, I was seated in the penalty box.
Literally: Not only had I never been seated in the penalty box at a concert before, the fact that I never played hockey growing up (due to a distinct lack of skating prowess) has given me a life free of penalty-time.
It’s not like I was actually in the box though. Of course they take all the glass down for concert setups and they can even take away some of the boards, so it was just a row of side-facing seats on the outer fringe of the floor seating, midway back. It was a pretty good spot though.
This also marked the first time I saw the Foo Fighters – who opened the show – and they were fantastic. Man, it’s hard to believe that a front man as good as Dave Grohl made his name as a drummer, but I guess he had a good teacher.
Though I went on to see the Fooeys again, this show marks the only time (to my knowledge) that I saw Petra Haden perform. Daughter of jazz bassist Charlie Haden, I had been turned on to Petra when I came across her album Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out, which is literally what the album is. Apparently a friend had an idea and gave Petra Haden an eight-track tape with The Who’s seminal recording Sell Out recorded on track one. The idea was for Haden to fill the other seven tracks with her singing all the parts on the album – the guitar, the drums, the bass…everything – before ultimately deleting the original album from the first track.
The result is an a cappella version of the record done in real time. It’s an odd record but it’s interesting. And certainly unique, as much as an accurate cover of an already-existing album can be I suppose. I’m glad I own it but let’s just say it doesn’t get a whole lot of play around the house.
So anyway, Petra was playing fiddle with the Foo Fighters and like I say, it was great.
The final unique aspect to this show was how uninteresting I found Dylan’s set. I’m the guy that’s usually clinging to every slurred syllable whilst all around me first-timers are giving up and walking out of the show in frustration, as is always the case at a Dylan concert. But for some reason at this show he was putting me to sleep.
It was through heavy lids that I watched Dylan blur Tangled Up In Blue almost beyond recognition, and with tired ears that I listened to his rapid-fire Like A Rolling Stone monologue. He closed the show with All Along The Watchtower, a song that tends to get me moving no matter who I hear playing it, but this time it just got me moving towards the door.
It was the last song, after all. Of course I would never, ever leave a Bob Dylan concert early. Shame on the many that do.
In that sentiment, though to me this was a one-off ungreat Dylan show I’m still very happy I attended and as I mentioned earlier as long as he keeps touring I keep buying tickets; that’s our deal, Dylan and me.
And why? Because Bob Dylan is such an historic, legendary, game-changing figure that he is literally* on the same level as icons like Shakespeare, Mozart, and Wordsworth, and as such he should forever be supported, adulated, honoured, and respected. I mean, if you could go back in time and watch Mozart perform, would you skip it because he wasn’t playing like he did in his younger days, or because you saw him the last time he rolled through Salzburg?
If so, shame on you. Dylan-leaver.
*I figuratively used literally a million times in this story.