In recent years I'd heard that he was better, that he was singing clearly.
I had my doubts, but I thought I'd give it a try - Friday night in
Hollywood. Although the music was really good, I found Dylan's singing
useless. I could not make out the lyrics nearly at all, even on the songs
that I knew the lyrics for. I was surprised reading the setlist today that
there were songs I knew, that I couldn't even tell I knew at the time. I
don't know what is Dylan's concept of what he thinks he's doing, but
whatever it is, it's not for me. I said to my friend, if you didn't know
who Dylan was and heard this band, you'd say, "They need a new singer." I
know Dylan has said that his lyrics are not as important as the music, but
for many of us, the lyrics are key. I thought the band was a bit loud for
my taste, and the vocal probably not loud enough in the mix, but it's mostly
that Bob is making no effort to sing the songs audibly and the way he
recorded them. Although I thought the band was really good, I thought the
arrangements needed to be varied a bit. The instrumentation seemed too much
the same on every song. Anyway, that's the last live Dylan show for me. I
really don't understand it. I know a lot of folks in the audience seemed
thrilled, but frankly, I don't get it.
Contrast with Merle Haggard, whom I'd never heard before. He was not too
loud. I could follow all the lyrics. Just no complaints at all. Same
thing with opener Amos Lee. I've never heard of him, but I could hear his
lyrics and I thought he was a pretty good songwriter.
I respect your opinion, Craig. I don't think it's a question of age, or
voice, or ability to move. Dylan's been doing this since at least '84. I
see musical acts all the time. Recently I saw Fogerty. He was good. I've
seen Jefferson Starship and Hot Tuna several times. I saw Jesse Colin Young
and Country Joe in the last couple years. Jesse's voice and Joe's voice are
not even close to what they were, but no one does what Dylan does with the
lyrics and the vocals. I think it's something he does intentionally, but I
don't know why.
Thanks for your post.
I saw him when he toured with Petty, sometime in the 80's, and was
in him (I liked Petty). I found the lyrics nearly incomprehensible, as you
I continued to listen to his albums, but had no further interest in live
I like Dylan better, the older I get. Reading stuff in this newsgroup,
which I recently
joined, has rekindled my interest in seeing a live show, wondering if things
I wonder if other posters (and I gather they mostly love his live stuff)
on Derek's judgment as to the comprehensibility of the lyrics. Do you agree
Derek on this point, even if you disagree as to the value of the
"Derek Homsberg" <dhom...@wbc.com> wrote in message
"Come all you people throughout the land,
And don't criticize what you cannot hear..."
He is 100% on the mark. Having said that, I'm glad I've gotten to see
him perform in recent years. And having said that, I've no desire to see
him again unless he's playing awfully close to my home.
A fair criticism, I think. I was a huge fan of his in the '60s, but a
series of bad albums drove me away, and I paid little attention to him
until I heard "Love and Theft." That album is so good that Dylan's
ruined voice is ok, and even enhances some of the tunes.
Live is another story, however; it's not that his voice is physically
shattered, it's that he persists in using mannerisms and phrasing that
obscure and mangle the lyrics. Dylan cannot seem to help himself, or
perhaps he can no longer really hear himself. He persists in annoying
habits: he rushes lines and crams them into the beginning or end of
verses, he begins lines with a whine, and he ends lines with a rising
note--the infamous "sing-song" voice. These vocal tics fill almost all
the bootlegs of his concerts that I hear. It's enough to discourage me
from attending his concerts, even though I regard him as one of the
greatest artists of our age.
> I know a lot of folks in the audience seemed thrilled, but frankly, I
> don't get it.
Stuck Inside of Mobile
I' ve listened to a boatload of boots from 2000 on and appreciated
them. I went to a show last November, and thought his voice is
definitely in worse shape. I would have handled that fine (what do you
expect from someone whose been on tour for so long). but I actually
thought that the band arrangements were kind of boring. I don't know
if this has anything to do with him being behind the keyboard,
changing band members, or whatever, but I didn't think the
arrangements were as creative. In the 90s I felt they were performing
so many of the songs in so many different tempos, styles, etc. Last
year, I felt they were stale and predictable. In my opinion, the live
shows have always been about more than just his voice, and the
concerts suffer when the band's "performance" drops a little bit
(creatively, not technically).
I still would see Bob anywhere, and he's still the best ever, but I'm
hoping he and his band get some mojo back.
At the three Oakland shows, I also felt at times that the music was
outshining Dylan's singing, but I seldom had a hard time understanding him.
He actually struck me as more clear than usual.
> By 1994 he was sounding real good again, by 1996 he was amazing...
and there he stayed through 2002, in my
> estimation. I took plenty of casual fans or just curious folk, and
> they were amazed. But since 2003, I think, I've felt I need to warn
> the casual fan who hasn't heard him since say Blood On the Tracks.
My experience has been similar, though the dates would be slightly
different. Starting with Spokane in 2001, I saw 8 or so shows that,
overall, didn't thrill me (Spokane being one exception). Then in 2002, I
only attended 2 (in Berkeley), because I simply didn't like them much.
However, based on the Oakland shows, I would once again urge people to see
Dylan -- whatever bumps existed, they all had thrilling moments.
Finally, I'm not sure why Bob's shows weren't clicking with me for awhile,
but I don't think it had much to do with his age (or mine). Probably more
to do with stale arrangements that were frequently boring even the people
up on stage (though, of course, I don't know this to be true).
Have you listened to "Love & Theft"? The man's more on top of *his*
game than ever before, but, as he sings:
"Things have changed."
As for arrangements and such you might have a point but I don't
have any trouble understanding him. I can't say I'm crazy about
every song he does but there are still many which hit with me.
"My Back Pages" at Bogarts, "Positively Fourth Street" at RiverBend
really stood out for me.
To follow up on Zuke's comment, I'm listening even as I type to It's
Alright, Ma from Seattle 3-07-05. It's a very new arrangement with a
strong, compelling beat. But every word is crystal clear and very
plainly enunciated. So you may well not like the arrangements. But
then Bob's always been about rearranging his songs. A year or two ago
I watched some Paul Simon special on PBS. A lot of his songs sounded
exactly the same as they did in the sixties when he and Art Garfunkel
recorded them. But that's never been what you get with Dylan.
> To follow up on Zuke's comment, I'm listening even as I type to It's
> Alright, Ma from Seattle 3-07-05. It's a very new arrangement with a
> strong, compelling beat. But every word is crystal clear and very
> plainly enunciated.
Are you guys listening to soundboard recordings? Maybe there's a difference
between what you're getting on these recordings and what one can actually
hear at a show. Anyway, there seems to be a lot of people on both sides of
this question. Not that there's anything wrong with that.. ;-)
I agree with every single word here. I saw him Saturday night, and thought
the band was incredible, but found the vocals to be labored, especially in
the more uptempo songs. I think that what people refer to as his
'reinventions' are merely attempts to disguise the decline of his singing
The simple fact that he is Bob Dylan is absolutely a good enough reason to
go see him in concert. But the simple fact that he is Bob Dylan doesn't not
place him above valid, objective criticism.
Well, I already have seen a lot of interesting replies to this, but
what struck me instantly was what Dylan wrote in Chronicles Volume 1
about the need to escape the expectations of the fans from his beginning
and to build a new following among concert-goers.
Myself, I first was a Dylan fan when Music from Big Pink took me to
John Wesley Harding. My first concert also was the 1974 tour, which I
long cherished as the greatest show I ever had seen.
After that I found the journey into adulthood led me away from
following Dylan so closely. When I saw him in '78. in '81, and then,
big leap, in '98 and '99, I was not familiar with where he was or what
he was doing, although I did enjoy all of the shows.
My own reawakening, curiously enough, came with the commercial release
of the Live 1966 recording. It blew me away. It got me interested in
finding more of these bootleg recordings, and into following Bob Dylan
the contemporary performer.
I love what I learned.
Of course his voice is deteriorating. But he still is out there, still
reinventing his music, still rocking away, at smaller and smaller
venues, in intimate settings, playing great music.
Useless? The man continues to be a treasure.
> I've read over and over again from posters and reviewers that when you
> buy a Bob Dylan concert ticket you take your chances. That's about
> right. I'm not sure how well his stage monitors are set up or how the
> particular auditorium affects things
I'm sure there are variations in sound from venue to venue, and within
each venue. Depending on where they're standing/sitting two people might
have entirely different opinions of the same show.
> There's a lot to calibrate when you know the kinds of
> expectations the audience has coming into a show. I give him credit
> for the times he's able to break through.
Definitely. The number of dates he plays it has to be that he's not always
on top form at every show. Nobody could be, and yet he doesn't take the
easy road of so many and just phone in a standard set. Maybe he doesn't
always pull it off to everyone's satisfaction but that's the odds.
No, we aren't. They are near non-existent for most tours, certainly
for recent concerts. The sound of audience recordings varies a lot, as
does performance, and much depends on the hall and where the
sitter/taper is in it. But at least 90% of the concerts I've heard in
the past 15 years (including the past 3 years) have shown Bob's
singing, whatever its problems, to be eminently decipherable lyric-wise.
Having seen Mr. Dylan 14 times now (since 88'), most recently at the
three-night run in oakland, I'd have to agree that it's a lot of work
deciphering lyrics live. I can only speak for myself, but I keep going
back because of his habit of changing set lists from night to night-he
only repeated 4-5 songs per night in the three nights in oakland,
meaning we heard something like 30 different songs in the three nights.
I've seen just over 300 concerts by all sorts of groups since 1979, and
he seems to be one of the very few who varies things so much. I do
completely understand your frustration with the radically changed
arrangements, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I'm sure
we'd agree that he has to have some way of keeping the whole thing
alive for himself. The things I've noticed over the years with BD are
these: Mood-if he's in a bad mood, you'll know it, and the show tends
to get shakier as it progresses-especially when he gives up trying
vocally...you folks who've been to more than 4 or 5 shows know what I
mean. Covers-when he does one he stays very respectful and sings very
carefully, "A-11" recently, and "Roving Blade" at reno in 2000, and
"Don't Pass Me Over, Oh My Saviour" and "I am the man, Thomas" at San
Luis Obispo in 2000 are good examples. He has the ability to raise his
game vocally, but is his usual mercurial self about when he chooses to
do so. I understand the frustration... maybe on his farewell tour he'll
do actual recorded arrangements-which WOULD be a new thing for him to
try after all these years.
Obviously, Bob is not typical for a singer, and you should think of his
voice as an instrument which adds layers and phrasing over the music,
like a painter on a canvas. What if Clapton played all the guitar solos
exactly like the record every night?? b-o-r-i-n-g. What if Bob
lip-synched the song like so many pop "artists" do today? unthinkable!
for the most part, I think Bob caters to his most loyal fans who have
heard the records thousands of times and have already attempted to
"decipher" the lyrics.
> recorded them. Although I thought the band was really good, I
> arrangements needed to be varied a bit. The instrumentation seemed
> the same on every song. Anyway, that's the last live Dylan show for
> really don't understand it. I know a lot of folks in the audience
> thrilled, but frankly, I don't get it.
> Contrast with Merle Haggard, whom I'd never heard before. He was not
> loud. I could follow all the lyrics. Just no complaints at all.
> thing with opener Amos Lee. I've never heard of him, but I could
> lyrics and I thought he was a pretty good songwriter.
My husband and I enjoyed every moment of this year's show in Seattle,
but came with people who left VERY ANGRY, at the vocal style, lack of
smiles and hellos, and in particular, BD not playing the guitar. None
of which affected my enjoyment.
Let me make it clear that I'm not talking about being in top form or any
other kind of form. I believe his voice is pretty much shot. Some nights
will be better than others, true, but all these vocal maneuvers are just
evidence that he can't simply sing the song anymore.
Interesting comment in light of what a friend told me today. She said that
Picasso became so disgusted with people paying so much for his work and
their idolization of him, that he went through a phase of deliberately
painting what he considered to be crap as a way of saying, "You people will
I've heard that Dylan admits in his book to doing something like this in his
concerts in the 80s.
No that's not quite it. Actually not even close. From your various
comments I think that if you're in fact actually interested in the artistry
of Bob Dylan, and not just faking it, or looking for simplistic drivel, you
need to read Chronicles for yourself and start listening to a whole lot of
live tapes. Cause so far you sound like kind of a semidetatched clueless
"fan" rather than an old one. There was a 9 year old boy at the last
concert I went to that had more understanding of how live perfomance music
works than you've demonstrated here so far. If you don't, as you say, "get
it," the problem is certainly not with Bob.
Maybe, but as many of the comments in this thread indicated, I'm not alone
in my view.
Well, Bob has said he's not singing for the die-hard fans (the ones in
the front rows, but the ones in back. But this is the reason the fans
go back for multiple nights. When I went to see Paul McCartney, for
example, he put on a very enjoyable show. But not only was it
extremely expensive, I knew that the next show would be virtually
identical in setlist and vocal inflection to the one I'd seen. This
certainly is not what you get with Bob. I recently saw his two
Portland shows. They were both excellent, with very different
setlists. You can listen to some of the mp3s that are circulating at
the pool and hear the differences between two performances of the same
song on different nights during the same tour.
If you have trouble deciphering the lyrics why not buy the smashing new
widely-available book called 'LYRICS'. That way you can sit at home with
your memories and a rug over your knees and you'll understand every word.
Dylan's voice is a ruin. So is the Coliseum in Rome. I don't hear anyone
criticising that. In fact they stand in awe and gape at it's beauty.
"Jesse Jones" <jessec...@earthlink.net> wrote in message