He Contains Multitudes: Bob Dylan in Concert

Corban Mills

Staff Writer 

On Friday, April 1st I went to see Bob Dylan in concert at the Steven Tanger Center for Performing Arts in Greensboro, NC. I have been a long-time Dylan fan, and going to see him for the second time in my life was something I never would have believed would happen. Dylan is now 80 years old at the time of this article, and seeing him twice is a miracle in my opinion. For someone to have been in the business for 60 years and still have the ability to release a new album during a pandemic as well as start a four-year worldwide tour at his age is something only a few strong-willed, dedicated artists can even consider. But why is this man still relevant? And what did he do in the first place?

Most will be able to recognize Dylan from his career in the 1960s, releasing classic songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” and “Just like a Woman.” When Dylan brought an electric guitar on stage at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, little did he know, or anyone else for that matter, that this would be a defining moment in his career and in the history of music.By “going electric” as people say, Dylan fused together the traditions of classical songwriting from folk music with the very new and hip musical style of rock n’ roll. Dylan was influenced by The Beatles, his contemporaries, to go from him playing a guitar solo on stage to playing with a rock band. The Beatles were influenced by Dylan to make their lyrics more based on literature, poetry, and altogether more artistic. 

One song, in particular, shows the grandiosity of Dylan’s lyrical mastery. In the song “Mr. Tambourine Man,” he tells the story of someone who goes on a journey with the title character. This journey we believe is one of something beyond: some think it is a drug trip, and some think it is simply a poetic description of what music feels like. The song shows how Dylan’s writing has become more poetic and based on classic literature, as well as the beat poets of the age of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. The song also became a top 10 hit for the band called The Byrds, who helped start the genre of folk-rock, which Dylan also helped pioneer. 

In his 1966 album “Blonde on Blonde, Dylan wrote a song called “Visions of Johanna.” This song is visionary like “Mr. Tambourine Man,” but takes the listener to a whole other level. Instead of telling a magical story, Dylan describes a world where a young man is trying to live his own life, but every time he attempts to, he is clouded by those who surround him and constantly returns to these visions of Johanna. These visions he has of this girl could be a life he once knew and wants back, but either way, the song presents many different images and philosophical questions that allow one to listen to the tune over and over, and maybe never come to a solid conclusion of what it is about. 

In Dylan’s career, he has released 39 studio albums, including one that came out in 2020. This album, titled “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” holds not only the title of the album but also his current tour. His setlist for the concert was mainly all from this album, although there were a few oldies. In going to a Dylan performance, one must understand that Dylan does not stick to one way in which the song should be played. He moves with the music, and in feeling what he feels in the moment, he is able to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for anyone who goes to see him live. For example, one of the older songs he performed from ‘Blonde on Blonde” titled “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” was played at a slower pace, and Dylan’s singing voice has changed since 1966 so he adapted to it and made the song a lot less upbeat and much more melancholy. There was even a moment in the middle of the song where everything slowed down and he sang his heart out as if preaching to someone about relationships. 

Nowadays, the younger generation does not really know who he is, unlike the younger generation of the 1960s who worshiped him. I tell you now that Bob Dylan’s music has been relevant and is still relevant. Not everyone has to listen to him, however, one must understand that his work should not be looked over and seen as something of the past. When the insurrection took place at the White House in the first days of 2021, I had listened to Dylan’s song “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” and the song literally says “come senators congressmen please heed the call/don’t stand in the doorway don’t block up the hall/for he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled/the battle outside ragin’/will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls.” These images brought up here in the song are pretty much exactly what took place that day on January 6th, 2021 at the White House. Also, just this year in 2022 a Ukrainian musician named Oleksandra Zaritska fled from Ukraine after Russia instigated war, and at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas she played Dylan’s song “Masters of War,” which is a song about how those that instigate war and use nuclear weapons will die alone and according to the lyrics not even Jesus will forgive them. Thus, the power and emphasis of the song. 

In short, seeing Dylan in concert was a magical experience, as I was able to see and feel the great artistic genius of one of the most influential musical artists of all time. His music from years past still lives on and still hits just as strongly as it did then. His music now is just as good, and if you ever get a chance I strongly urge you to listen to “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” or better yet, listen to my personal favorite album of his “Blood on the Tracks.” 

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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