Tuesday, 14 August 2007


The reviews I read of Bob Dylan's weekend shows in Wellington and Auckland were mostly pissy too-cool-to-move monologues full of jokes about zimmer frames, ageing baby-boomers and how disgusting it was to hear a geriatric rocker singing (in 'Just Like a Woman') about his sex life.

Pathetic. Aside from the knowledgable Graham Reid's measured Herald review, the other juvenile reviews said more about the reviewers and their milieu than they did about the man and the artist they were reviewing.

Don't those reviewers understand what they were seeing? Has their taste--or lack thereof--been so permanently poisoned by their worship of braindead next-big-thing teenagers that they don't appreciate a craftsman somewhere near the top of his game? Do they think that it's only teenagers who can produce music? Or is just that it's only music made by teenagers that they listen to, and they've never heard of John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis or Beethoven.

Most of the complaints in the reviews were about what Bob didn't do--in other words, what he didn't do that juvenile rock bands normally do. He didn't do what the reviewers are used to? Too bloody bad for the reviewers, I say.

There was no dry ice, explosions or fancy stage sets (thank Galt), just a man and a band who were there to play music. That wasn't what the reviewers were there for.

The reviewers weren't happy because there were too many old, bald guys in the crowd ("old" meaning older-than-the-reviewer). And so what if there were? This was music for adults.

Because Bob had "a strange, odd look" when he played his organ--perhaps, I have to wonder, the reviewers have never seen a musician concentrating on his work before?

Because he didn't leap on stage and say "Yo, Auckland! Are you ready to rock!"? No, and neither did Simon O'Neill in Friday night's Fidelio, or Michael Houston when he played Beethoven's sonatas a few months back. What Bob did do, which was apparently too difficult for most ADHD reviewers to focus on, was come on stage and play genuinely moving intelligent music with a band that knows his musical chops and his back catalogue like the back of their plectrums--which they need to, because he can change direction at the drop of a Stetson, and which most of the audience who had paid for their tickets wanted him to do. He could have played longer; he could have played more guitar and better harmonica, but mostly what he did play was as good or better than most of us were hoping for.

What he played was adult music. Music with a brain performed by a man who has spent a lifetime learning his craft--a troubadour with a number one album strapped to his hipsack and a sackful of killer songs old and new to sing--but in this Age of the Braindead things like craft, brain and even (with the braindead thumping that is today's substitute) music and genuinely moving songs are just soooo out of fashion, aren't they.

Several years ago Bob was asked whether he was going to retire. Why would I, he said; he wanted to be like those old bluesmen who learn their trade and just travel the country and plug in and play. And that's what he now is with his Never Ending Tour, and that's what most of the crowd enjoyed on Saturday night in Auckland. Pity the reviewers were mostly too cool for genuine adult music.

UPDATE 1: Here's three hot YouTube links I was going to post for you last weekend, but the time is right now:
  • First, Bob in his 1966 heyday, chained to his keyboard and singing 'Ballad of A Thin Man.' Even back then he was playing adult music. (Clip is unfortunately cut short.)
  • Bob in what I think is the first rock music video, for 'Subterranean Homesick Blues.' The two losers in the background are Alan Ginsberg and Bob hanger-on Bob Nuewirth.
  • Annamia Eriksson plays Siegfried's Horn Call. As the clip says, "super woman plays the horn." Magical. Wagner, who was "old" when he wrote this lietmotif, would surely have approved.
UPDATE 2: 'Stuff' readers have their say about the concert(s), and about one of the worst reviews. Looks like I'm not alone in my sentiments.


  1. The music press too often tries to gain some sort of legitimacy and credibility by giving favourable reviews to obscure hip-hop acts and art-house bands.

    Hell, they even slagged Iron Maiden off the other week. How dare they !

  2. I always thought that Hard Day's Night was the first music video.

    Good post there my fine feathered friend.

    The sun's not yellow, it's chicken!


  3. Great post! Too bloody right.


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