Dy­lan at 75: Not knock­ing on heaven’s door just yet

Kuwait Times - - WEEKENDER -

In the fifth row of a packed con­cert venue in Las Ve­gas, a plump His­panic cou­ple slum­bers peace­fully as Bob Dy­lan bangs out a tune from his 35th stu­dio al­bum. The poet lau­re­ate of rock ‘n’ roll has been go­ing only for 70-odd min­utes but­like many Dy­lan fans-they’re not get­ting any younger and it’s prob­a­bly past their bed­time.

Since he en­tered the na­tional con­scious­ness in the early 1960s, Dy­lan has been the gal­va­niz­ing “voice of a gen­er­a­tion,” an au­then­tic Amer­i­can voice rec­og­nized even by de­trac­tors for the beauty of his lyrics. As if proof were needed that his words vault his song­writ­ing into the rar­i­fied heights of po­etry, he was awarded the No­bel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture on Thurs­day.

Dy­lan is the first song­writer to win the award, sweep­ing aside fa­vorites in­clud­ing Bri­tain’s Sal­man Rushdie, Syr­ian poet Ado­nis and Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Mark­ing the oc­ca­sion with a sell-out gig in the glitzy Cos­mo­spoli­tan ho­tel in Ve­gas, Dy­lan at­tracted more than 3,000 devo­tees from across the world, if not the age spec­trum. There are men in ten-gal­lon hats, spurs and droopy Wild West mous­taches, pre­sum­ably cel­e­brat­ing Dy­lan’s lit­tle-known Vil­lage Peo­ple pe­riod. ‘We love you, Bob!’

A wiz­ened old rocker strolls through the bar in a ban­dana and mo­tor­cy­cle jacket, clutch­ing what looks like a pina co­lada. But mostly this is the kind of crowd you would ex­pect to see at a con­cert in a Ve­gas ho­tel-smartly ca­sual in deck shoes, sling­backs and cardi­gans, well-heeled and well-be­haved.

There are some un­der-40s but per­haps not enough to sug­gest that Dy­lan is go­ing to be trou­bling MTV’s playlist any time soon, No­bel or no No­bel. “We love you, Bob,” one fan with a ZZ Top beard shouts out as Dy­lan sits at his pi­ano for a lively open­ing ren­di­tion of the old fa­vorite “Ev­ery­body Must Get Stoned.”

“Le­gend!” cries an­other as the rocker glides into “High­way 61, Re­vis­ited” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” the front rows ris­ing to their feet, giv­ing the gig the am­bi­ence of a One Di­rec­tion show rather than a cel­e­bra­tion of 12 bar blues. But Dy­lan doesn’t re­ally go in for nos­tal­gia, and many of the num­bers he plays-from “High Wa­ter (For Charley Pat­ton)” to the lugubri­ous “Soon Af­ter Mid­night”-are from al­bums re­leased since the turn of the cen­tury.

So elo­quent on the page, Dy­lan is also a man of few words-no words, in fact, when the mu­sic stops-and there isn’t so much as a “Hello, Las Ve­gas” to open pro­ceed­ings. And so his fans are left to imag­ine what the newly crowned No­bel lau­re­ate thought of his el­e­va­tion among such vaunted com­pany as Rud­yard Ki­pling, T.S. Eliot and Ernest Hem­ing­way. ‘Lyrics from the heart’ In a set heavy with blues, fans are treated to Dy­lan on the drums, har­mon­ica and pi­ano-but not gui­tar-dur­ing ac­claimed but per­haps lesser known songs such as “Sim­ple Twist of Fate,” “Love Sick” and “Make You Feel My Love.”

The is no “Mr Tam­bourine Man,” “Like a Rolling Stone” or “Sub­ter­ranean Homesick Blues” and the crowd has to wait un­til the en­core for per­haps Dy­lan’s most fa­mous and po­etic song of all, 1963’s “Blowin’ In The Wind.” “I en­joyed the show. It was kind of short, but I think he’s de­serv­ing of a prize” says Ray Staniewicz, a 65-year-old who snuck out be­fore the en­core.

“He’s done a lot for the peace move­ment since the 1960s, ‘70s and on till to­day. The lit­er­a­ture, I’m not real fa­mil­iar with, to tell you the truth.” Gail Wolffe, 70, who has come from Van­cou­ver with her hus­band of 50 years, 74-year-old Nor­bert, and their York­shire ter­rier Suzy Q, had never been to a gig be­fore.

“He liked Dy­lan in the 1960s,” she says, re­fer­ring pre­sum­ably to Nor­bert rather than Suzy Q, who it turned out was just three. “I re­ally liked the new songs. I was amazed be­cause I go for the nos­tal­gia, but what he has brought out now is re­ally good,” she adds. “He’s a poet. He speaks of what’s hap­pen­ing in the world and he al­ways has. His lyrics are from his heart.” —

CULVER CITY, CAL­I­FOR­NIA: This file photo taken on June 11, 2009 shows US singer Bob Dy­lan per­form­ing dur­ing the 37th AFI Life Achieve­ment Award: A Trib­ute to Michael Dou­glas at Sony Pic­tures. — AFP

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