I saw Bob Dylan at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium tonight. I've never heard Dylan live before. He's more mythical to me than real, seen mostly in black and white photos, documentaries, and movies, played by a variety of actors.
I'm a lifelong developing Dylan fan. My first real exposure to Dylan came in high school as one of my friends was a huge Dylan fan and would play Dylan in the tape deck of his car all the time. Recently I found a good deal on Amazon for a used copy of the Bob Dylan SACD box set, and I've been working my way through it, one disc at a time. His sound transports me back in time and across America like a musical road trip in a convertible with its top down, with the wind tousling my hair.
I will remember tonight, but not for the venue. The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium is fugly, and the acoustics of the cement-floored space are awful and muddy. The speakers were balanced to lean to the left, and it sounded like Dylan was singing from a space floating about 20 feet over the left third of the stage when he was in fact standing about two thirds of the way to the right of the stage most of the evening.
It's a credit to Dylan's songwriting that despite the terrible acoustics (which made his already incomprehensible lyrics sound like the language used in Apocalypto), my toes were tapping the whole time. Given the state of my Achilles, that's no small feat. I nearly fell over from exhaustion a few times--for some reason, tearing your Achilles reduces your endurance for standing--but managed to stay upright to the bitter end, through the second song of his encore.
As a fan of speech, I admire Dylan for his sui generis command of the rhythms of English language. He really is the poet laureate of American music.