One and half million steps to Dylan

I’d walked one and a half million steps to Vigo, in the Spanish region of Galicia, along the Camino de Santiago, some 800 kilometres from Roncevalles near the French border to Santiago de Compostela. The route was an old Christian pilgrimage, but I wasn’t walking for any religious reason. I didn’t have a reason. But I knew Bob Dylan was touring Spain and would be playing on the 27th June in Vigo on the coast, just north of the border with Portugal.

I got the feeling not much happened in Vigo. People knew Dylan was in town. The guy in the tourist office told us how to get tickets, had a black and white photo of him in the 60’s behind the counter. We made our way out near the airport, got tickets and checked into a hotel. A bar across the road had a sign up – Bob Dylan Bar. We had a drink, walked to the small auditorium holding about 5,000 people.

Dylan comes out right on time, in a black suit, green shirt and white broad brimmed hat, on keyboards, right side of the stage, facing across the drums to bass and lead guitar, rhythm and mandolin to the side and behind him, opening with Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat, pumping out rock and roll blues, slipping into a super melodic Lay Lady Lay, his voice strong, a new phrasing as ever, before he jumps into a powerful Sad and Lonesome Day Blues, rocking the hall, not super loud but solid, thick, like a heavy thud moving through us.

Girl from the North Country has Tony Garnier using a bow on his double bass, an addictive descending bass line, to me Dylan’s signature, churning out a better version than the original 40 years back down the road, and you have to wonder, who else can do that?

The harmonica sharp and clear as his voice, blowing sweet melodies as he skips into Levee’s Gonna Break then a Stuck Inside of Mobile, “smoked my eyeball” repeated twice in case we think he’s fluffed the line. Then he takes us on a Charles Aznavour-like ride with Moonlight Below, and on into banjo-backed but still rocking hard, It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeeding.

We slide on into more territory with Spirit on the Water, his voice holding firm, the best I’ve heard it in years. After Things Have Changed, Dylan’s smiling at the crowd, posing for photos, Handy Dandy coming off and he lets it show how pleased he is before banging out Highway 61, acknowledging the crowd with every song then. He takes us Beyond the Horizon and into a jazzy Summer Days before the lights go dim and he paints us a medieval masterpiece, Ain’t Talkin’, in the mystic garden where the gardener is gone, where I know he’s talking to me, but aware I´m not the only one in the crowd feeling that.

The band walks off briefly, then storms back into Thunder on the Mountain before Like a Rolling Stone, Bob letting the crowd sing an entire chorus on their own, while he beams out at them.

The usual vibe of the audience on the edge of a sphere where Dylan and his band reside, where the wild cat growls, a convex viscosity as the band look to each other and we get to watch, a circus audience wondering what the slinking hyena thinks, flies buzzing around his eyes; is lifted, Bob peeking out, piercing a hole in the sphere, smiling as if to tell us he’s watching, that we’re all in it together.

Something’s happening and he wants us to know what it is, maybe the chameleon changing again, and he bows with the band, holds his hand out, pale as a ghost holding a blossom on a stem.  And then he’s gone.

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~ by Drifting, Rambling on September 25, 2008.

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