The standard established by Dylan has been heightened during the past decade. Tireless touring marked by quality performances continue to draw crowds to his shows. Dylan's Grammy-winning Time of out Mind again reestablished his stature as an American icon.
His touring in the nineties has included hundreds of dates throughout the United States, Europe, the Far East and a performance for the Pope at the Vatican. During two of his whirlwind tours of the United States I was able to catch him. This an account of my first Dylan show...
11-13-96, Madison, Wis., Dane County Coliseum
I accompanied my kind mother, an aging hipster who will never lose her benign sixties ideology. When she offered to pay for tickets to Bob at the Coliseum, it was not an opportunity to pass up. The Coliseum was half full as Bob opened with an average Crash on the Levee. The atmosphere was energized despite the small crowd; everyone who showed up wanted to be there.
Five years ago, my primary source of Dylan songs was through Jerry Garcia, to whom I listened tirelessly as a student at the University of Wisconsin. A friend has warned against my going, saying "his shows suck now... heís too old... I talked to...." He proved to be wrong. While Dylan canít reclaim his youth, this performance displayed an artist content with his accolades, achievements and recognition. The setlist consisted of his celebrated sixties material -- with the exception of Robert Hunterís Silvio.
After the crowd prompted a third encore, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, the teens and twentysomethings in the front rows could not contain themselves. Soon Dylan was singing and playing guitar among 100 bodies dancing around him. In the sixties, Dylanís relationship with his audience was conflictual at times. Here, there was mutual respect. The poet strummed his guitar, surrounded by a reverential crowd that expanded with each note.
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