I admit: I am entirely without reason or sense when it comes to Bob Dylan. But there’s still nothing like seeing him playby Edward Docx / November 16, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
As ever, the big question is: what are we all doing here? But I’m distracted from this because the room has started thrumming with that most peculiar of energies—tangible but invisible, personal but shared: human expectation. I’m with my excellent friend Will Smith, the British comedian and actor. We’re at the very front of the balcony. Below, there are hands raised in anticipation, voices calling out and people pressing forward. We are some five thousand in number. But it would be hard to say which of us are the more excited: those who can have no inkling of the bizarre beauty of what they are about to see and hear; or those, like myself, who know what’s coming.
I’m not exactly sure how many times I have done this… I lost count in 2004 and it was past 70 then. I admit: I am entirely without reason or sense when it comes to Bob Dylan. I remember the first time, of course. I was still at school. I went to three out of six freezing February nights at the Hammersmith Odeon. I remember the numbness in my toes as I stood queuing (for hours) to be admitted first and so get as close as possible to the stage. And I remember being caught out by how just how fast the other lunatics ran the second those doors opened.
That was 1990 and in the intervening 21 years, whenever funds and geography have conspired to make it possible, I’ve been back for more. I’ve given up trying to be at the front—such wisdom these days, such dignity—but nonetheless it is to the very same Hammersmith venue that I’ll be returning later this week with Will. He’s not a very sensible person either.
Of course, we’re only middle-ranking extremists. Even back then, I was already 25 years behind the rest of the crowd—many of them here tonight, (60, 70, 80 years old), grizzled veterans of the 1960s. Paradoxically, I now look at the new recruits—in their teens or twenties—with the same mixture of fondness, ruefulness, and condescension that I myself once received. Fellas, I think, I love the frizzy hair and the ponchos and everything but were you there when he played “I and I” and Winston Watson on the drums kicked his ass?