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Dylan brings wisdom for all people

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"WHAT can you tell me about Bob Dylan?" I asked my 20-year old daughter, Katelyn, who is a huge music fan and an education major at the University of Winnipeg.

"Um, he's an old guy with a raspy voice," she said after pondering my question for a few moments. "Can you name me one of his songs?" I asked. "Nope, not if my life depended on it."

Yikes. It was as though I'd failed her as a parent.

"Get in the car; you're coming with me to his concert tonight."

With Kate now officially my prisoner/student, the snowy drive into the city from our Cooks Creek hideaway was filled with Dylan tunes played loud and proud. By the time we hit the city limits, my typically chatty daughter was eerily quiet.

The wintery conditions required me to keep both eyes on the road, but I'm pretty sure as we drove, Kate was sniffling while Dylan stabbed at her heart with a tale of a mother's surprise of a thalidomide baby born with no eyes.

Maybe I hadn't failed her after all.

Before even laying eyes on the Minnesota-born legend known worldwide for his poignant messages, Kate already had a new-found understanding for the American troubadour. Part one of our lesson was complete.

Amid the buzz of an estimated crowd of 5,500 last night at the MTS Centre, Kate noted she wasn't the only young hipster in the crowd, a cool-looking dude named Lucas she goes to school with said hello to us in the lobby. Practically everyone else, however, appeared old enough to be MY parents. There was wisdom in that arena last night, undeniable wisdom.

Dylan hit the stage at 9:20, looking as if he'd just climbed off the pages of a Steinbeck novel. Dressed in black and sporting a wide-brimmed tan-coloured hat, he strolled out onto the stage like a farmer surveying his crops. I'm not even going to try to pretend I know all of Dylan's songs, but the first few weren't entirely recognizable to me. That really didn't matter, though. Both Kate and I were mesmerized by his larger-than-life presence.

The effortless manner with which the 71-year-old Dylan bounces back and forth from his guitar to his keyboard, occasionally blowing softly into his harmonica, was magical and certainly not lost on Kate, who commented "Wow, he doesn't even have to try, he makes that look way too easy."

So practised he seems spontaneous, so polished his sound fills a modern arena with a blend of nostalgia and harmony that transformed the MTS Centre into an intimate venue and our folding seats into antique leather chairs. For a moment here and there, you think Dylan is ripping off another artist, then you remember it's the other way around. Kate noted John Mayer may not sound like Dylan but his vibe is clearly influenced by him, so is Dallas Green of City and Colour fame, "Dallas clearly ripped off Dylan's groove," Kate told me with a grin. "He doesn't just sing for the sake of singing, he's got a point to make and he's making it."

With a killer band at his back, Dylan's vibe moves from blues to jazz, to funk and rock, often all in the same song. You can really feel his influence in so many ways. Quentin Tarantino owes him for sure -- most of his movie soundtracks clearly mirror a sound Dylan perfected.

Sit back and relax and Dylan makes you feel like you're a passenger in an old Chevrolet that is calmly and capably winding down the highway of life. There's a few bumps in the road, but this brother can drive.

In the past, others who are casual fans, such as myself, have come away from his shows with complaints that his voice was difficult to hear and his messages were lost. Super-fans, however, have repeatedly told me a Dylan concert is a spiritual encounter. If you ask me, he sounded absolutely fantastic.

After a lifetime of curiosity about the man and his never-ending message, the mystery that is Bob Dylan was finally unlocked for me tonight. He is a living legend.

Maybe I haven't failed Katelyn after all. Perhaps in the future, when she's teaching young people of the turbulent ways of the world, she can turn to Bob Dylan for guidance.

I know I have.

 

Mark Knopfler

Calling a legend such as former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler an opening act isn't fair, this was more of a two-for-one show. If fans were hoping for a Dire Straits flashback, for the most part Knopfler didn't deliver, choosing instead to play songs from his relatively obscure but extensive solo catalogue. That said, even if the songs weren't entirely familiar, he is one of the godfathers of guitar and his finger-style playing is a treat on both the ears and the eyes. A tall, strapping lad with hands like catcher's mitts, he absolutely owns his guitar. You'd be hard-pressed to find a tighter band than the seven talented lads Knopfler brought to town and they were thoroughly enjoyable, he did finally please the crowd with So Far Away, and it was worth the wait.

paul.williamson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 6, 2012 A13

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