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Published: 2002/10/12
by Martin Acaster

Bob Dylan and His Band, MacArthur Court, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR- 10/5

“After disappearing into a drug-induced haze in the 1970’s, he returned in the late 1990’s to release some of the most powerful music of his careerladies and gentleman, Columbia recording artist, Mr. Bob Dylan!”

Something about the rather inauspicious introduction (loosely paraphrased above) that was afforded Mr. Dylan as he and his band took to the stage at Mac Court indicated that his performance would involve a significant component of somewhat painful introspection. This introspection would of course involve me rather than him. I would be the one facing the demons of chemical dependency this time around. His show would simply serve as the musical backdrop to my autonomous psychotherapy session.

As I attempted to settle into my seat, bolted just an inch too close to the back of the first row of second balcony seats, my discomfort was heightened by the fact that the house lights were still on. That it took almost thirty seconds to realize the show opener WAS in fact Maggie’s Farm (set to a curious big band rock-a-billy beat), did even less to settle the butterflies that had begun to flutter in my gut. The place was a sweatbox too. Then there was the suitdid he steal that thing from Lawrence Welk or what? Wait, he’s playing a keyboard!? What in the hell is going on here? Things were weird, and for the first time in a long time, I couldn’t blame it on anything I had ingested before the show. Ah sobriety, it really puts things into perspective doesn’t it?

Eventually (definitely after Just Like a Woman, possibly even Tombstone Blues) the house lights went down and I lost the feeling in my knees. In the now darkened duck pond, I was finally alone with my thoughts and the incisive lyrics flowing from the stage. This of course was where it got interesting. The words flowing from the stage at that point you see belonged to Warren Zevon. I was already deep into processing an old girlfriend’s recent reassertion that our love affair had fallen apart as a consequence of my rockstar lifestyle (she gave me my first copy of Blood On The Tracks), when I was gut punched with Accidentally Like A Martyr. We HAD made mad love, and I never did think I would be so lonely, especially after all this Time out of Mind. But here I wasunquestionably alone (my friend Phil notwithstanding)Watching the River (of my tears) Flow. The sadness of loss was two-fold and therefore doubly heavy. Bob infused the hidden gem with the elegiac tone it required. For compounding my personal heartache over this abandoned love, was the knowledge that the terminally ill Mr. Zevon would soon be gone from my universe too. Bob seemed to be saying to everybody in the room “Heyyou all think I am such a great songwriter, this guy is leaving and you may never have paid him any attention, I’m here to show you what you missed out on.”

Not content to allow me to wallow in the muck of despair for too long, Bob grabbed me by the ear and pulled me in another direction entirely. The Zevon cover was stunning, backing that up with a rocking rendition of The Stones’ sticky sweet Brown Sugar was way too much. I reeled with the mania that occupies the opposite end of the bi-polar spectrum. My cold English blood once again ran hot. Where IS this going to stop?

Never ask a question you don’t want the answer to. As the opening strains of the song that had comprised the salutatorian’s address for my high school graduation filtered through the recesses of my memory I was again confronted with my wasted potential. Certainly, I have lived up to many of the wishes evoked by Forever Young on that spring day seventeen years ago, but there are so many things I have left undone. Things that were perhaps forever lost during my own haze of the 1990’s. Speaking as a child of the seventiesI never thought I’d habit. I guess that is the nature of chemical dependency (in this case alcohol), typically you have a problem long before you realize you have a problem. In my recent fall from grace, I had disappointed myself and I had disappointed my mother. ButIt’s Alright Ma, it’s life, and life only, and I CAN make it. Although the masters make the rules for the wise men and the fools, I got nothing Ma, to live up to. My mom’s reply was subsequently channeled in the form of It’s All Over Now Baby Bluego strike a match and start anew. Which of course elicited my frantic responseSend Lawyers, Guns, and MoneyDad get me out of this! I’m stuck between a rock (IRAQ???) and a hard placeand I’m down on my luck.

As these words filtered down from the Voice On High the show took a turn towards more worldly affairs. I had made my way through the self-examination. Somewhat more comfortable with me, I (or was it Bob?) turned my gaze to the rest of the world and the disturbing Tales of Yankee Power. Senor Bush? Are we really heading towards Armageddon? You can be Honest With Me. The commander-in-chief replied”I’m here to create the new imperial empire, I’m going to do whatever circumstances require.” So I set out running, but I’ll take my time, because a Friend of the Devil is still a friend of mine. With the emergence of this Dead classic my Dylan experience had come full circle since the last time our paths had crossed. I was back at Portland Meadows, linked arm in arm with my very own band of gypsies, the ring of power closed and the skyrockets in flight. Dropping raucously in to Lonesome Day Blues the undertones of war littered throughout, this song from Love and Theft culminates in the key to it allyou can’t make love all by yourself!

So you’re my witness, I am your Mutineer (Warren Zevon tribute Part Three), I was born to rock the boat, some may sink but we will float, grab your coat let’s get out of here, you’re my witness, I am your mutineer. The seasons they are a turnin’ and my sad heart is yearnin’, to hear again the songbird’s sweet melodious tone, won’t you meet me out in the Moonlight alone? The Summer Days, summer nights are goneshe's looking into my eyes, she's holding my hand, she's looking into my eyes, she's holding my hand
she says, "You can't repeat the past." I say, "You can't? What do you mean, you can't? Of course you can."

And Mr. Dylan did. Returning to the thunderous applause of the less than capacity Mac Court crowd, Bob ran through a three-song encore of some of his most memorable tunes. Each one having been covered innumerable times by some of the greatest musicians of the past three decades. The ghosts of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, and yes even Guns-n-Roses poured through the amplifiers as Bob Dylan and his band reclaimed Like a Rolliing Stone, Knocking on Heaven’s Door, and All Along the Watchtower. How does it feel to be on your own? Thanks to the support of good friends and family, I will never know. Am I knocking on heaven’s door? If heaven is as Belinda Carlisle says a place on earththen certainly I am. Because I am just beginning to understand the miracle of living, baby I was afraid before, but I’m not afraid anymore. There IS a reason to get excited however, apparently there are some among us that feel that life is but a joke. You and I, we’ve been through that, and that is not our fate, so let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late. Make your voice heardlife is not a jokeArmageddon will be at hand if we let the Masters of War make the rules.

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