Review of Bob Dylan in Saigon

(These are always biased coming from me)

Bob Dylan played in Saigon last Sunday. The international media went nuts with ridiculous catchphrases, saying that he had come “full circle” now that he was playing in the country that he had written protest songs about during the war. What a load of baloney.

All of Bob Dylan’s “protest” songs were written in the early 60s and were on the topic of the Cold War and civil rights in America. If anyone cares to use the internet, they’ll find that this is true within a minute or two.

Then I saw local expats writing “reviews” of the show but they couldn’t even name the albums that some of the songs on his set list were from (try the internet folks, it helps). More complaints were along the lines that it was just an old guy playing the blues. Well, if you’d taken the time to listen to the last couple of albums, you’d have known that’s the musical direction that Dylan is taking presently.

Dismissing with all of the clueless international “media” reports and the equally befuddled local expat “reviews” of the show, I’ll add my opinion: It was great.

This was the fifth time that I’ve seen Bob Dylan live. The previous time I saw him, in Indiana, I swore I’d never see him again. In 2004, the last time I saw him, his voice was weak and monotone and he didn’t budge from his electric organ stuck on one side of the stage. I never thought he’d come to Vietnam, but I took this as a once in a lifetime opportunity and I simply had to go.

He rocked. On Sunday, April 10th, in Saigon, Bob Dylan played a hell of a show. His voice was still weak, but there was a huge range of emotions flowing from it and it gave me chills to hear his expressive turns in “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” and “Ballad of a Thin Man.”

I turned to Tyler Watts, who I attended the show with, and said that the tropical air must’ve done wonders for his voice.

I was also impressed with his harmonica playing at the show and the way he switched things up on stage. My friend Minh said that he acted like he wasn’t even performing. Isn’t that how all singers should be?

And his backup band? They’re always rock solid.

In short, it was a great evening of good music. The event should not be distorted through reporters writing from thousands of miles away or from local “reviewers” that have little or no idea of what true art really is.

P.S.:

(He doesn’t care what you think)

“Well, I try my best / To be just like I am
But everybody wants you / To be just like them”
-Bob Dylan, “Maggie’s Farm”

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14 thoughts on “Review of Bob Dylan in Saigon”

  1. Well said. If all you know about Bob Dylan is the chorus to “Like A Rolling Stone” or at best his Greatest Hits album then you probably shouldn’t be writing reviews of him in concert.

  2. @jobnomade: The way I see it, true art is more about expressing your own feelings and emotions at the time, not about producing something that is expected by others.

    @Tyler: Both of us know more than the average person about Bob Dylan, yet he exceeded our knowledge by playing songs that we weren’t familiar with and even changing around the songs that we did know. You or I could have exerted 50% of the effort and written better reviews of some of the stuff I saw.

  3. I saw Dylan in 2002 when he was touring for the “Love and Theft” album in Michigan and the prominent reviews back then too were that his voice was weak and that he had no stage presence. But I agree with these previous posts in that if you’re going to a Dylan concert just to hear the encore selection of songs, you’re going to miss out on a whole lot.

    Would have loved to see this show!

  4. @Mien: I was pleasantly surprised with the Trinh Cong Son tribute beforehand. I especially liked hearing Uyen Linh in person as well as Manh Tuan on the Saxophone.

    @Rod: Can’t thank you enough for the huge role you played in this whole event. Perhaps a couple beers someday as a show of gratitude?

  5. Woow finally there’s a positive comment from a “non-Vietnamese” on the Trinh Cong Son tribute. Here is the reason why I asked you that question: http://bit.ly/eVqZps (unfortunately in Vietnamese only) – If you can overcome the language barrier, or ask someone to help, then this is an interesting insight from a typical Vietnamese person about that “warm-up” session 🙂

    I caught this tweet during the time of the performance: “At Dylan concert. Local opening act that shouldn’t be opening for Dylan. #bad #bobdylan #saigon #vietnam”

  6. The Redeye in Chicago also wrote a review about the Vietnam show and wrote it exactly in the style you had described (not knowing anything and not using the internet for 2 seconds).

    I’m glad you saw it and can say otherwise, because I scratched my head when I read it.

  7. @Mien: Well, I tried Google Translate, but I think that something was lost there. And speaking of the Trinh Cong Son tribute, the musicians there were awesome, probably the best I’ve seen in Vietnam.

    @Stanko: I think that every media outlet in the world got the same damn story and ran with it, instead of actually trying to report something closer than the truth.

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