I went to see Bob Dylan last night and left a fan of John Mellencamp. The two, along with Willie Nelson and the Wiyos played to a sold-out crowd at a minor league ball park in Washington, Pennsylvania.
It’s a night I’ll long remember because Valerie and I got to bask in the genius of three legends (well, maybe two true legends) and because I got to confront a face of pure evil.
First, the show.
I predicted my wife would enjoy Mellencamp the most, Nelson second and Dylan the least. I’d never seen Mellencamp or Nelson. It was the 23rd time I’d see Dylan.
I wish my football pool predictions could be as bullseye. It happened just the way I said it would.
But Mellencamp, to me, was a revelation. I’m familiar with all his catchy hits, have about three of his albums and am aware of his shrill, lefty political rants, all of which I whole-heartedly endorse.
I’ve always considered him a credible and authentic artist if for no other reason he finds a way to work accordions and fiddles into great rock.
He opened with “Little Pink Houses,” a song we’ve all heard about 1,000 times. But he and his outstanding band played it with a ballsy blues riff. The thumping bass sent shivers up my bowels, a sensation that might sound unpleasant but is actually quite agreeable.
In fact, if I could somehow spend a part of each day with the bowel shivers, I’d probably do it. But it would likely lead to complaints from the neighbors and the need for me to stock things like adult diapers so I’ll have to find other ways to get my jollies.
Mellencamp and the band played with an adolescent exuberance that was a joy to behold.
The sound was perfect, a condition that only heightened my eagerness to see Dylan. I want my wife and the world, really, to share my appreciation for Dylan.
But Dylan keeps getting in the way.
She enjoys his studio work and like me, absolutely loves his beguiling “Theme Time Radio Hour” on XM Sirius radio.
But every time I drag her to see him live, I can see that she just doesn’t get it. I’m sure my face has the same confused look every time our 8-year-old insists I watch part of iCarly because, really, it’s just so darned funny.
I thought he was great and the band that played most of the songs in a swing tempo kicked ass. But a casual fan has a right to expect one of the world’s greatest songwriters to play some of the world’s greatest songs in a form that is recognizable.
Dylan’s defiant about this and would never, as Val suggested, let someone like, say, David Archuletta, perform the vocals.
I believe it’s a privilege to be within 50 miles of him, but my wife said she’ll never stand to see him again.
So next time I’ll see him by myself. That’ll be a pity because then there will be no one to brag to the next time I win a face off against someone so malignant that he leaves nothing but human misery in his awful wake.
It was Bob Nutting, lowly owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Thanks to cheapskate Nutting, the once-proud Pirates are on track for their 17th consecutive losing season, a record in professional sports.
I recognized him as he walked in through the turnstiles. My blazing contempt was instantaneous.
“Bob,” I said, “what the hell are you doing?”
“I’m doing great,” he said smiling, offering his hand. “How are you?”
I let the hand of this rich and powerful man just hang there, a huge insult, especially coming from a rich-man’s reflexive suck up like me.
“I didn’t ask how the hell you’re doing,” I said. “I asked what the hell are you doing. You keep trading away all our best players.”
He was taken aback and went on the defensive.
“Now, we got some good young prospects for those guys . . .”
“You’ve been saying that for 10 years. As soon as a ballplayer gets good, you trade him away for less expensive prospects. We’re sick of it.”
He’d greeted me expecting friendly banter and was surprised by vitriol. The Pirates weren’t winning but I was. He began to retreat.
“Well, I’m glad you at least still care,” he said. “We’re confident . . .”
“I stopped caring when you traded Nate McLouth.”
With that, he turned and fled. I hope I ruined his night. I hope he spent the night thinking, “You know, maybe that slob in the beer line is right. Maybe I should start signing guys to long term contracts and build up a core so fans will enjoy the game. Maybe . . .”
Me, I spent the rest of the night reveling in my little victory. But whenever Dylan became unintelligible, I found myself thinking of a hundred other witty points I should have made. I wondered if I could have been more clear, more articulate.
Oh, well. It was Dylan show, a night when even barely intelligible mumblings draw cheers.
Set lists: Bob Dylan
Watching the River Flow
It Ain't Me, Babe
The Levee's Gonna Break
Rollin' and Tumblin'
It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
If You Ever Go to Houston
Highway 61 Revisited
Like a Rolling Stone
All Along the Watchtower
Paper in Fire
Deep Blue Heart
Check it Out
Don't Need This Body
Take Some Time to Dream
Rain on the Scarecrow
If I Die Sudden
The Authority Song
Pittsburgh Pirates at the All-Star break, 38 wins, 50 losses