(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.
“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”