Bob and Mark: Hound dog howling

Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler
Greek Theater
October 19, 2012
Berkeley, CA

The untold story of this blog is that the idea of a concert review blog began bubbling through the cobwebs of my addled brain after a friend asked me how was a recent concert I had attended by legend, icon, mythic hero Bob Dylan.  I sent her a short email summary of the show and she replied by saying that the review was poorly written and the reviewer understood nothing about the greatness of Bob Dylan.  Four years later and after over 75 (!) concert reviews, I think I’ve proven that I can consistently post poorly written reviews that understand nothing about the artist performing.  So, here's one more!
Mark Knopfler, former lead guitarist of Dire Straits, opened the concert on Friday night at the Greek Theater with a bland set of dazzling guitar work.  MK is one of the best guitarists in rock history but his music sounded rather dated on Friday night.  His opening set also highlighted a perennial dilemma for artists with extensive oeuvres.  Should they play songs that they enjoy, deep cuts that only direhard fans will appreciate, or should they stick to popular songs that they have played thousands of times and are sick of playing.  I think artists need to do a mix.  If they are sick of a popular song, they just need to suck it up!  Not to put too fine a point on it.  MK has had close to a dozen genuinely popular songs with Dire Straits and played none on Friday.  His final song was a smaller Dire Straits hit, “So Far Away From Me,” which, frankly is not enough.

Bob Dylan is an icon and a legend.  He is certainly the best songwriter in American history.  It’s difficult for me to say anything negative about Bob since his music is art and his lyrics are poetry.  He revolutionized popular music.  And he accomplished all this without having much a singing voice.  When young, his voice was nasally, creaking but warm and world-weary.  It invited you into the poetry of his songs and made you feel understood.  Now, his voice is a croaking bullfrog.  It was difficult at times to even identify the songs with his staccato, sing-songy rasping.  It was very difficult to listen to.  On the plus side, he didn't have to worry about singing in the right key.  Bob played Tangled Up in Blue, Highway 61 Revisited, Make You Feel My Love, Desolation Row.  A fantastic set list.  However, I will need to go home and listen to the recordings to remind myself how fantastic these songs are because they were not fantastic at the Greek on Friday night.

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