British Writer Would Like Bob Dylan to Stop Playing Live, Thank You Very Much

07/06/2010 9:02 AM |

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It isn’t often you see music journalists taking shots at Mr. Bob Dylan—he’s been something of an influential figure in rock and roll, of course, and for that reason, he tends to get the red carpet treatment whenever he does anything. His latest string of albums have been praised far and wide by critics of all ages, probably, I’d argue, a bit more than they deserve.

If there’s one facet of his career that will occasionally come under attack, though, it’s his live shows. His voice has obviously changed a lot over the years, and the song arrangements have been altered so much that it’s sometimes difficult to recognize even his best known songs. It can be a real bummer, and British writer Andrew Almond said as much after seeing Dylan play at the Hop Farm Festival in Kent this past weekend.

There will no doubt be a backlash from those were disagree with my assertions but I genuinely believe that if Dylan’s performance on Saturday is viewed objectively, disregarding his iconic status, then the abysmal lack of quality is impossible to ignore. In short the message is this; if you are considering seeing Dylan live, think twice, it’s not all right.

An “abysmal lack of quality” is perhaps a bit of an overstatement, given that Dylan is still singing the same brilliant lyrics he wrote 30, 40, 50 years ago, and I have a hard time with the idea of telling some 20-year-old kid who just discovered Dylan that he/she shouldn’t go see him live, but yeah, it’s a tricky situation for sure. In other news, I listened to side-A of Blood on the Tracks yesterday morning, and it is very good.

19 Comment

  • You and Mr. Gigwise. Wow. Didn’t your parents/teachers/friends teach you anything–about ART, LIFE, TRUTH. I heard about Dylan before my theater teacher brought back the first album. When it was played to a roomful of poets they all put their hands over their ears. I will NEVER forget what Dylan sounded like the FIRST TIME! Everyone HATED how he sounded. He has had to fight people like you & Gigwise his ENTIRE life. I know–I was there before-during-and to this day. EVERY record. EVERY conceert. EVERY U-TUBE. EVERY SINGLE TIME I HAVE SEEN HIM–HE HAS CHANGED. HE HAS SHOCKED. HE HAS SHOOK THE FOUNDATIONS. HE HAS ANNOYED. HE HAS ANGERED. The man is our Shakespeare, and he knows “they will stone ya”…for his entire life. That should tell you SOMETHING!! Maybe, Mr. Jones YOU just don’t get it! He is a Poet-and Poets serve a SERIOUS purpose. They are the canary in societies “coal mines”. They SEE evil, pain, injustice, danger, and good news coming over the furthest distant hill…they are our early warning siren–and sometimes it is necessary to sound like a siren. Other times it is necessary to sound like an entire army in battle. Other times it is necessary to sound like an old man gathering up the children to save them from a big wave about to crash. AND it is necessary to sound like father, lover, husband, doctor, sailor, and Indian Chief. Dylan-more than any other artist I know-has pushed his writing, his performing, his body, and his voice, his musical skill into areas of expression others wouldn’t even think existed. IT TAKES IMAGINATION to keep up with him. Get used to it. That roomful of young poets sure did. But we had IMAGINATION!

  • God Bless Bob Dylan!I’d spend my last dollar to go see him anytime, anywhere. :-)

  • i hate to use this term because evry person has quoted it for every thing that occurs in the recent year or two of our history on the planet but, the times are a changing and he who cannot accept change are destined to die in their own vomit. i know i’ve changed since the 1st time i heard him in greenwich village 47 years ago. i later heard him at many of his concerts, and agree with you that he’s not what he was in 1975 and neither am i . how would you like it if you had to sing ” like a rolling stone” 150+/- times a year since 1965? i’ve heard him change lyricsof tangled up in blue and simple twist of fate, but hey he owns those songs a can do what he wants with them. if you’re too timid to take a chance on which dylan is going to show up at your concert, don’t buy a ticket. or if you have a press pass wander back to the press table and have a sandwich.

  • Above British ‘writer’ is another perfect example of how anybody seems to be able to get a gig in music journalism these days. How many times have we all read that Dylan’s voice has “changed” and his arrangements are now totally different? Do these people get paid to write this s**t? I mean, did this British ‘writer’ just copy and paste all the other cliches from his fellow amateur music ‘writers’ into his little critique? As stated, Dylan’s songs and voice have changed since the beginning, as he said, “You have to be in a constant state of momentum.” And, anyone who actually knows and plays music will tell you, by the way, that his arrangements being totally different is nonsense. Most of the songs are actually still performed in the exact same arrangements they were recorded in, the only difference being the key or tempo.

    I have no problem with someone criticising a performance, as long as it’s their own thoughts and not just a cobbled together rehash of something we’ve all read a thousand times.

  • Hear hear!…..Anybody who has never seen him live should most definitely grab that chance if they have it to see the most amazing and influential artist alive on this planet today. As he himself sang it: You may not see him tomorrow….I for one regret not having seen Johnny Cash in concert and that chance is definitely gone to name another amazing and influential artist. Leonard is still around doing concerts, but paying 360 euros a ticket last year in Monaco to see him live was above my budget, but I sure want to see him too before it’s forever too late. I saw Bob in concert about 40 times, the last time was this June the 22nd and I was a little disappointed and I was too far front the stage in a bad angle and the sound was way too loud at times, but I would not have wanted to miss What Good Am I for the world and one or two other amazing new interpretations of old songs. So I paid 132 euros for one amazing song which made me cry, even though I must have heard it at least 500 times before, but never in concert and never did the lyrics to that song cut me this deep as when the old man delivered it to me alive in concert in Nice, France this year. And I don’t usually like John Brown, but this time that song moved me a lot. It’s like the Bible with all its verses or like another sermon about a well-known passage, you never know when you will be moved by what, because there are spirits at work, because Bob’s lyrics touches souls, not just eardrums. Some people get it, most people won’t, if it’s sound and visual effects you’re after, don’t go to see him, if you have a soul yearning for inspiration and desiring righteousness and self-reflection just one of Bob’s songs delivered in a one-off unique way can change people forever. I don’t know of any other artist with that immense power in the way he (or she) uses words. He’s in his seventieth year on earth and even in front of the Black US President in his new White House, he could easily rest on all his merits and say something about his March with Dr. Martin Luther King jr. presuming to have already achieved something (or even enough one could argue easily) with a black president in office, but he simply doesn’t, he tells him and all of us, that his and our jobs are not finished yet, not by far, but he tells us instead that “The Times They Are A-Changin'”, and he leads the way in my humble opinion by having the humility by being brave enough to first pose any questions to himself and his influence on humanity and his righteousness (or lack thereoff) by singing and asking himself all those questions in “What Good Am I”. This moves me and I am convinced that if everybody posed himself those very same questions and would be willing to draw some life-changing conclusions by honestly answering them for themselves only and not on behalf of anybody else, this world would be a perfect place to live. It’s that simple! And that’s why every Bobconcert, no matter his voice, his style, his changes in music, his sometimes not so well-perceived creativity or the sound-level, is definitely worth it. It’s history in the making every time he steps on stage and one day, after he will leave us, I think a lot more people will start to understand the legacy he leaves behind. Before critizising him, first ask yourself this one important question: What Good Am I? What will be my legacy? Speaking for myself I don’t think it’s anywhere near Bob’s and I don’t have any illusions it will ever be comparable. So, I’ll just hold my breath and think long and hard before I speak and start critizising the voice of many generations who stills draws sold-out concert halls 100-times a year on all continents at almost 70. It’s so easy to critisize and it’s so difficult to write or perform just one song so masterful as a simply almost forgotten song like “What Good Am I?” And he wrote at least 700 songs like that….anybody with any success in the same business that he is in (like Mick, Keith, John, Paul, Ringo, George, Bono, Neil, Bruce, to name just a few, is totally in awe of Bob and they all say they learnt more from him then from anybody else….but people who we’ve never ever even heard of tell us that it’s better for him to stop performing his art…??!!?? What proof of lack of insight, what utter foolishness! Salut, HANSinFRANCE.

  • HANSinFRANCE, you said it all for me! Thanks, I was almost in tears reading your comments. ‘What Good Am I?’ is just a wonderful song and always gives me pause for thought and self-examination.

  • I don’t think I’m an unintelligent person and try to appreciate all types of music and to me no other artist or group provides as much insight ,relevance or sheer enjoyment either on disc or live as Mr Bob I respect the rights of thre journalists to have a point of view but I don’t really think they have any idea of what an artist is .Bob breakes down barriers , does whatever he feels like and provides total inspiration in a world of falseness , media beat ups , advertising hype , and the opportunity many no talent types now take to have a career in the music business . He doesn’t preach or whinge , he doesn’t pander to the press , he’s out there giving his millions of fans what they crave without pomposity or airs and graces . As the man himself said ‘ beauty walks a razor’s edge ‘ and he’s been walking that razor’s edge for 50 years .To think that at 70 years of age someone of his stature ( is there anyone in rock music HISTORY who can match his CV ) is a thing that should be embraced and treasured ….he is unique and amazingly still as relevant as ever ….when he’s gone there will be a massive gulf that can’t be filled ….who else can do what he does ?

  • As a life long Dylan fan, who has seen him many times over the years, I must admit (as many fans do) that his concerts since he started playing primarily piano (circa 2003) have not been nearly as good as the shows before 2002. There are many reasons for this. His studio recordings since 2003 are still excellent, but Dylan does not seem to put heart and soul into many of his performances in recent years. Maybe he has shoulder/arm/hand troubles that prevent him from playing his musically unique guitar for an entire show. I think his shows would be far more interesting if he dropped most of his band and went to a simpler presentation, with a real piano if he wishes to play the keyboards. And take off the hat, Bob. Your hair is one of your trademarks!

  • Dylan is a genius… his words both written and sung would put most poets/songwriters and yes journalists (including the one who wrote this pathetic article) to shame…

    He doesn’t care what you think…. Neither do I

  • Andrew Almond
    Who is he

  • If Mr. Almond doesn’t enjoy the art of concert Mr. Dylan offers, then Mr. Almond should stay home.
    In my opinion, any artist can choose to share her/his art with the public. It is the public’s choice to enjoy the art or to make another choice.
    Having experienced Dylan live on numerous occassions since 1974, I thoroughly enjoy his concerts as he interprets his art as he sees fit.

  • Just read this preposterous review. I am too tired to comment so will simply say..what a twat!

  • The very fact that the arrangments are different than the recorded versions are the very reason that you do go see Dylan. In fact, I have never heard Dylan do a live version of any song exactly the same way twice ever, and I’ve seen him all over the world. Go see him every chance you get, just as you should have seen Armstrong, or Johnny Cash, or Ray Charles if you had the chance, because you never know when you won’t have a chance to see them alive, and then they you’ll wish you did.

  • Who is Andrew Almond anyway, & has he ever enlightened or entertained even a fraction of the thousands of people who were obviously loving Bob’s show there ?…..tell him to check out the YouTube of Like a Rolling Stone to remind himself of what he missed when he was eating burgers or something !

  • Ain’t no joy in Almond

  • With Dylan, either you get it or you don’t. This numbnuckle obviously doesn’t get it. Mr. Almond, if you want a note for note performance of what was done in studio, listen to the record! Or better yet, go to a Journey concert – that’s about your speed.

  • Im 56 years old. Live just outside Belfast Northern Ireland. Just a bit of my background before I comment. I have been seriously into music since first hearing Robert Johnson at the age of 12. I was a producer of a local radio rock program for about 15 years. Over these years my music collection of cassettes, records, CDs, and downloads has numbered around 12,000, covering all genres including orchestral works.
    Dylan IS a genius. What paper does this Mr Almond write for again? His boss should have a quiet word in his ear, then boot him out!
    If Picasso had to paint the same pictures over again, and I believe he did paint some more than once, would they all look exactly the same!
    Awesome is a most over used word and should only be used to describe the power of earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and Metallica and Dylan concerts.
    Mr Almond. What singer songwriter currently in his twentys do you think will still be making crucial music in 40 years time.
    By the way, you are probably loving all the attention, no one knew who you were until you put such rubbish in print.
    The two best gigs I have been to this last 12 months were Metillica in Belfast and Dylan in Dublin.

  • No artist is unimpeachable. And Dylan stinks in concert almost as a rule these days. The writer’s point was well-made: Everyone on here is saying he’s great because of all the great things he did back when he was young and, undeniably, great. That’s fine, but what if his present-day performances were taken out of the context of it being Bob Freaking Dylan? Admit it: If you knew nothing of the legend and you’d never heard his great records (for what it’s worth I count his last few among his best), and you turned up at a live show to hear him mush-mouth his way through, say, “Tangled Up in Blue,” you’d wonder why nobody stopped the poor guy from going onstage. It’s embarrassing.

    That said, he travels with a very, very good band. They’re worth seeing. And Bob’s good moments can make an entire show worthwhile.

  • I went to see Bob Dylan yesterday and the sound was so horribly loud and kept getting louder as the show progressed that I could not hear the music and it became just a explosion of NOISE! I don’t think that is any confirmation of his genius!
    Obviously he is a genius, and I would very much like to hear his music, but based on the live gig I went to, I would say to anybody who asked, “don’t bother to see him live” Play the CD where you will have control of the volume!
    No one is saying his songs aren’t brilliant, and we need poets to speak about the truth as they see it, but I take exception to being made deaf…