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Everything Was Beautiful

November 12, 2009

As he and his band take the stage, the audience is asked to please welcome Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan. It’s an interesting request. Of course, he’s the same guy who continues to make records for Columbia, but we’re there to witness him working in his capacity as a performing artist.

On stage, unlike in a studio, the songs aren’t refined through take after tedious take, and they can’t be replayed; instead, they’re presented in real time, a series of ephemeral notes, rhythms, and words. While the chord progressions can be repeated from verse to verse or from night to night, the essence of the songs exists in the moments in which they are recreated before us.

On November 11, 2009, Bob Dylan and his band created things they have never made before. The same songs will never be performed identically to the sounds that graced the Patriot Center at George Mason University tonight. While Dylan is hailed for his songwriting, the fluidity he brings to his performances is no less a product of his genius. I have seen about 20 Dylan concerts, and this one may have been the best. New arrangements rejuvenated songs from 1997, 2001 and 2006. Songs 40 years older than those were inspired and vital.

And not enough good can be said about the artists who helped Dylan deliver the music. Charlie Sexton’s lead guitar was thoughtful, George Recile added polyrhythmic texture to familiar beats, Donnie Herron played at least 4 different instruments as needed, Stu Kimball’s rhythm guitar filled out the songs in a million different ways, and Tony Garnier held it all together on bass as he has for 20 years.

High points came during the uptempo Man in the Long Black Coat, the crisp instrumental breaks of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the eerie Forgetful Heart, and the intense Ballad of a Thin Man. It’s hard to imagine that more words need be spent describing the work of a man who changed everything. Just listen while you still can. The music is a gift.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. JoJo permalink
    November 12, 2009 2:04 am

    uncle robert didn’t die of drugs.

    also, nicely done.

  2. David permalink
    November 12, 2009 9:50 am

    It was my first Dylan show and I was really blown away. Only things that could have made the experience better is if my feet weren’t wet from Sperry breaking its promise that its topsiders are waterproof and the idiot Yankees fan in the parking lot who begged me to tell him to “fuck his mother” when he got in my face about wearing a Phillies hat. Bob was top-notch though and I hope to see him again. Listened to the first few songs from “Modern Times” on my way to work this morning.

  3. Barry permalink*
    November 12, 2009 1:34 pm

    My favorite part of DJ’s exchange with the Yankees fan wasn’t when he said, “fuck your mother,” but when he waited for a moment, looked over his shoulder and said, “I’ll stomp on your fucking face.”

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