Sunday, May 18, 2008
Bob Dylan: Happy Birthday, Paul Williams
I can't come to your 60th birthday party today, so last night, in your honor, I went to a Bob Dylan concert in Lewiston, Maine. It was not like any Dylan concert I've ever been to, but you're not like any friend I've ever had. It was in a 2000 seat venue, a hockey rink, f'crissake, but the D was in incredible form, sporting a black hat with a feather in it, and wearing a glitzy diamond ring. No opening act: lights out, there's Dylan in the spotlight and that ineffable thrill permeates the room.
He started out with Watchin'the River Flow and then launched into the most tender Lay Lady Lay I've ever heard. His voice is gravelly and resonant and he even smiles from time to time. Do you know why he's abandoned guitar playing on stage the last few years? He plays a small electric keyboard stage right with the mike set up so he has to lean forward a little.
I recalled that Dylan concert in L.A we went to in the nineties, the one where you met Cindy Lee. You both came back to my place in Venice after and you've hardly been apart since.
Bob Dylan is fit and in fine form. It was a sublimely paced set with songs from recent albums, and chestnuts like Hattie Carrol and It's All Right Ma. There were several moments of that special flush you feel when the sound of history and genius reverberate in the air, in your body and in time. I thought of how many of those moments I've inhabited, some of them with you.
When he sang Shelter From the Storm, I thought of you and Cindy again, how she shelters you from your quiet storm. As this new landscape envelops your world I like to think that you're finding special wisdom and wonder on your unique journey. You who taught me how to cope. You who made me relish my own outlandish mindfulness. You who sheltered many of my own storms.
It was a small, unassuming gig, kind of a sneak raid, a warmup for the upcoming tour. It was so recently announced that it didn't even sell out. I wouldn't even have heard of it but for my friend "Doc" duFour who has that all-Dylan radio show on WERU that I told you about. It's local, but it streams online and I used to listen to it in Beijing; it was one of the calls I followed home. He still calls me Ellen from Beijing when he plays a track for me (and adds "now of Belfast")
What roads do you follow now, my cherished friend?
Happy 60th birthday, Paul. We are part of the same soul. I love you dearly.
Mainer, New Yawka, Beijinger, Californian, points between. News, views and ballyhoos that piqued my interest and caused me to sigh, cry, chuckle, groan or throw something.
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