On November 18, I saw Bob Dylan at the Garden, with Mark Knopfler opening. Before that week, all I knew about Mark Knopfler was that he did the soundtrack for The Princess Bride (my all-time favorite movie, closely followed by Empire Records, High Fidelity, Snatch, and Love Actually. And Sliding Doors). A few days before the show, a friend of mine told me that Mark Knopfler had been in the band Dire Straits; the only song of theirs I knew was Romeo & Juliet, featured in the above-mentioned Empire Records. I really liked that song, but for some reason had never hunted down more of the band’s music.
So I was not prepared to be TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY by Mark Knopfler and his band of multi-instrumentalists. I know I’m late to the party on this one, but wow. Wow. I listen to a lot of music, but narrowly: punk, ’90s alternative rock, the Beatles and the Stones and the Who and the Clash. Knopfler’s music seems somehow more musical: more instruments, more styles, more influences – American folk, Irish and Scottish ballads, stuff I don’t normally hear much of.
It’s the kind of music that inspires movement – not a mosh pit, but at least some standing, swaying, clapping, maybe a twirl or two. But no: the audience remained in their seats as if they were glued to them. WTF? (It’s still weird to me to go to concerts where there are seats at all.) All right, though, this was the opening band, probably not who most of the audience was there to see. They’ll stand up when Dylan comes on, surely.
Or, you know, not. (As my Latin teacher used to say, “Don’t call me Shirley!”) Granted, it wasn’t a set designed to be rousing: the stage design was minimal, the lighting was minimal (which was fine with me; any lighting person who uses strobes, or flashes lights over the audience instead of the band, earns my immediate and violent dislike). It felt like a living room, or a street corner, or a pub, and the setlist started out pretty mellow, too: “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Early Roman Kings,” “Trying to Get to Heaven,” “Visions of Johanna.”
But still: it’s BOB DYLAN. If he is going to play music for you, you should at least stand up to listen to it. It’s disrespectful and lazy not to. Sure, the audience was mostly older folks – people who grew up listening to Dylan – but they got to the venue on their own steam. (I didn’t see anyone in a wheelchair; most people seemed to have full use of their legs.) To be fair, there was one woman who occasionally stood up – during both the Knopfler and Dylan sets – and seemed like she was genuinely enjoying the music. (Not that you can’t enjoy music sitting down. As many people were demonstrating.) She might have felt like standing the whole time, and only the silent pressure of thousands of eyes made her sit during some songs; I’m only guessing.
But then Dylan starts playing “Like a Rolling Stone.” And I cannot sit down for that. (At this point, I would like to rescind a comment I made earlier this year to the effect of preferring the Stones’ version of the song over the original.) So it’s this one other woman and me, and farther back a small handful of others, and I’m thinking it’s a good thing I went to Hampshire, because Hampshire is all about being in the minority that goes against the flow, but damn if this isn’t a good song, and that really is Bob Dylan up there, holy shit, and then…did someone just kick my foot?
Why yes. The man seated behind me – the man who, if he had been seated in front of me, I would not have been able to see over, because he was at least 6’2″ – was kicking my foot. You realize we can’t see, he said. Could you sit down, he asked. “Could you stand up?” I asked back. “It’s Bob Dylan.” That’s about as confrontational as I get with strangers, and I could feel the adrenalin, but NO, I was NOT going to sit down. In my experience, if you are at a concert where there are seats, and the person in front of you stands up, the way you deal with that is by standing up also. (Is my experience out of the ordinary? Any other 5’5″ rebels out there want to weigh in?)
With great reluctance, I sat down after the song ended, but I was still pretty pissed. I tried not to let it ruin my experience, and focused on enjoying the music. Dylan closed with “All Along the Watchtower” and a version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” that was much more alive and appealing than the recorded one, which can sound a little droning and repetitive. And karma’s real, y’all, because the man behind me left his brand-new concert sweatshirt behind. Finders keepers.