Bob Dylan Takes the Family Circle Stage
Bob Dylan Takes the Family Circle Stage
You see that stately-looking fellow pictured to the left? That's David Grant: local writer, former advertising idea man, and 30-year resident of Charleston.
Some call him a friend, some a mentor, and I'm betting there are a few folks out there who would like to call him some rude names (hey, we all have a few of those out there in the world).
I call him Dad.
We've had the typical father-son relationship over the years. As a kid I thought he hung the moon, as a teenager I wondered if there was a bigger nimrod on the face of the Earth, in my early adulthood I thought I knew more than him, and finally, sometime in my 30s, I realized that I should probably pay attention to him more, because he obviously knows a thing or two. I'm now in my 40s, with a couple of sons of my own. Those boys are currently in the "he hung the moon" phase, but I know it's just a matter of time before I'll be the one getting eye rolls and slammed bedroom doors. I suppose I deserve it.
Before this entry becomes some sort of self-inflicted therapy session, let me move on to the real subject here, and yes, it is music-related. One of the things I treasure most about my upbringing is the fact that both of my parents loved music. My late mother was a fan of Elton John, The Beatles, and country music. When I say "country," I don't mean the twangy pop drivel that largely populates the country stations these days, but rather the good stuff like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and George Jones.
Being raised by a mother who was just as comfortable watching "Hee-Haw" with me as she was playing her LP of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" on our record player made me very open-minded early on to the musical possibilities that were out there. Were she still alive, I have no doubt my mother would still be seeking out new artists to savor.
My dad has a similar eclectic taste in music. My love of The WHO started with him. He's the reason I know who Loudon Wainwright III and Frank Zappa are, and why I got a head start on loving classical music. If you had to take one artist that truly defines who my father is as a music fan though, it would have to be Bob Dylan. As I've mentioned on this blog in the past, he named my little brother Dylan after the singer. I have good memories of hearing him play songs such as "Rainy Day Women #12 and 35" and "Tangled Up in Blue." For years I thought Dylan's voice sounded too weird to be taken seriously, but as I aged I realized that famous nasal quality is one thing that sets him apart from other folk and rock artists.
I finally got to see Dylan live about a decade ago when he played the North Charleston Coliseum. I'd heard that the quality of Dylan's performance was in direct correlation to his temperament at the time, and in the three times I've seen him since then, I guess I've been lucky to catch Bob in a good mood each time, because each show has been great.
It came to my attention a few years back though that my father had never seen Dylan live. I was pretty amazed to find that out. I guess I'd just assumed that he'd seen the artist perform back when I was a kid or even before I was born. Instead, the biggest Dylan fan I know, at the age of 77, had yet to see the former Robert Zimmerman live and in person.
Naturally, when it was announced a couple of months back that Dylan would be playing the Family Circle Stadium on Daniel Island, I knew what I had to do. I bought a couple of tickets in the general admission section on the center court and gave the elder Mr. Grant an early Father's Day gift.
We got to the venue Saturday night under some angry looking skies. With the event being held outside, we hoped for the best as we took our places on the clay court about 50 feet out from the stage. First up was the Los Angeles band Dawes.
I had recently reviewed the band's new album, Stories Don't End, and had been blown away by Dawes' sound. I was anxious to see how well they reproduced the album's soaring ballads live, and the quartet of 20-somethings definitely didn't disappoint. Lead singer Taylor Goldsmith has a voice that reminds you of Jackson Browne, and when he harmonized on Saturday night with keyboardist Tay Stratharin and drummer Griffin Goldsmith, the hairs on the back of my arms stood up, much like they did the first time I heard Crosby, Stills & Nash mix their vocals together. I could see why this young band caught the ear of Dylan. They play rock music like they did back in the 70s, when names such as Browne, Zevon, Henley, Frey, and Walsh ruled the roost. It was just announced this week that Dawes will be included in the lineup of this year's Southern Ground Music & Food Festival in October. The band is definitely worth checking out when they come back to town.
As Dawes finished its set, scattered raindrops started falling. It wasn't raining outright, but from the way the clouds looked, it was only a matter of time. As the crew finished resetting the stage, the house lights went down, and the giant klieg spotlights at the back of the stage began to glow warmly as Dylan and his band took to the stage. Dylan kept the lighting low throughout the show, possibly to discourage photography. No photo or press passes had been available for the show, but I managed to snap a few shots with my iPhone. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a black-and-white tailored suit, Dylan started in front of a microphone, opening with "Things Have Changed," the Oscar-winning song he wrote for the film "Wonder Boys." He seemed to be having a good time singing a verse and then posing under the lights with the microphone stand. After a couple of more songs, Dylan moved over to the grand piano at the side of the stage, where he rolled through songs both old and new, such as "Soon After Midnight" and "Early Roman Kings." It took a moment to recognize his loose version of the classic "Tangled Up in Blue," but it was a great reworking of the tune.
At the age of 71, Dylan's voice has deteriorated a bit to the point where he sounds a lot like Tom Waits when he sings. Still, there was no denying that the guy still enjoys playing live. Later in the set, Dylan performed an absolutely stunning version of another oldie, "Visions of Johanna," as well as "What Good Am I?" a track off one of my favorite Dylan albums, "Oh Mercy." After a rollicking version of "All Along the Watchtower," which found Dylan again back at the piano, the band bid the crowd goodnight, only to return a few minutes later for a one-song encore of "Ballad of a Thin Man."
Aside from a group of clueless individuals directly behind me who were more interested in discussing fashion and plans for drinking after the show (Really? You're going to talk over "Tangled Up in Blue?"), it was another great Dylan performance. The rain never truly got started, opting instead to just drizzle a bit here and there, and the majority of the crowd was really into the show. I found myself looking at my father's face just as much as I did at the bands on the stage. All during Dylan's set my dad had a little grin on his face as he drank in the experience. It honestly couldn't have gone better if I'd won the lottery and hired Dylan to play a private show for my old man. He can now say he's seen his favorite musician play live, and a stadium full of fans got to stay dry while they enjoyed a great night of music.
Things Have Changed
High Water (For Charley Patton)
Soon After Midnight
Early Roman Kings
Tangled Up in Blue
Pay in Blood
Visions of Johanna
Spirit on the Water
Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
Blind Willie McTell
What Good Am I?
All Along the Watchtower
Ballad of a Thin Man