Describe The Worst Concert You've Ever Seen? Brilliant!
It must have been in 2001. Lantana had just come out and my pal Kerry dragged me to that as well, good flick. I liked Kerry, she was a lot of fun to hang around and a hoot with a dry, evil sense of humour, but she left to live in Brisneyland and I’ve not seen her since early 2002. There was a lot of unrequited and unconsummated sexual tension and a physical attraction going on between us, but it was more fun like that. I doubt the physical act, at the time, could have lived up to the taunting, teasing and half-arsed promises, so it never happened, nor was it ever entertained. The general feeling was why ruin a perfectly good friendship with five minutes of roly poly? Mind you that has nothing to do with this narrative so I’ll stop the digression.
Bob Dylan had announced he was coming to town, more to the point the promoter announced that he was bringing Dylan to town and Kerry phoned up and asked if I wanted to go. I demurred because, frankly, I was never really into Dylan (however Hurricane is one of my favourite songs, as is Love Rescue Me, his collaboration with Bono). Still, said Kerry, it is Dylan so if nothing else I could say that yes, I’ve seen Bob Dylan. I passed. Kerry then said that she’d buy the tickets if I’d go. How can you say no to a free night out? So off we went.
Earlier in the day I’d managed to swing a meeting with Dylan’s guitarist, Charlie Sexton. This might sound like heresy to everyone, but for someone of my age (the disposable generation, the generation that wore tea-towels on their heads and called it the New Romantic movement) Charlie Sexton is far more important. When I was eighteen the song, ‘Beats So Lonely’ meant far more to me than the entire Dylan catalogue. Dylan never wrote anything as vital, as immediate and as;
“Beats so lonely,
I bet it’s lonely at the top.
But the beat will never stop.”
“She finds him, interestingly”
But of course Dylan has written many, many songs and is, rightly so, one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century. He helped shape and define his craft, whereas Charlie merely played a loud guitar. That’s to prove that I’m not a total idiot, just at the time. Also notice I said that Dylan is a songwriter, that’s because I’m yet to be totally convinced that he can actually sing. Sure Hurricane has some great vocal work, but virtually all of Dylan’s best work sounds better when someone else is singing it. More proof that music taste is selective, which is why I stopped writing reviews.
Now where was I? Yes, Dylan. I’d met Charlie Sexton, he’d signed my promo 8x10 photo from the Beats So Lonely era and we chuckled about his hair. He appeared to be embarrassed when the girl with me said, “F*ck me!! Charlie Sexton? Charlie ‘Beats So Lonely’ Sexton??” He said yes, so perhaps that’s his name now, Charlie Beats So Lonely Sexton. Works for me.
Sadly we wandered into the concert in time to see the support act, Paul Kelly and pals. Those pals were some guy playing an organ and Vika and Linda Bull. Backed by two of the best voices in Australian music Kelly showed why he’s an idiot by only allowing them one song each to sing and proceeded to bore the tits off everyone in the room. It was a harbinger. I managed to get a heckle out, something I rarely do. It went like this (and anyone that was there will remember it because hundreds laughed, that’s how quiet it was);
KELLY: “And I’d like to introduce…”
ME: “F*CK OFF!!!!”
KELLY: “…Johnny Bananas* on the keyboard.”
ME: “AND TAKE HIM WITH YOU!!!!”
Oddly enough Kelly played one more song and did indeed f*ck off and took the keyboard player with him. Then Dylan walked out and got straight into it. That’s where it all went wrong, actually it went wrong when I said I’d go, and it went very wrong when Kerry paid nearly $200 for the tickets.
Remember what I said about Dylans voice? Well he did himself no favours that night. He sang two songs in a language that I’ve never heard before, but I do know it wasn’t English. Four minutes into the third song Kerry and myself were head to head trying to work out when Kerry suddenly went stiff.
KERRY: “Oh – my – GOD!! It’s Blowing In The Wind!!”
Her ears were better than mine. Katrina And The Waves was a shit gig (a blog for another time) but at least I recognized Walking On Sunshine when they murdered it. We guessed what song was what by the music mainly, resulting in a running game of ‘Name That Song Man’. Dylan stood at the mic stand and bashed his right foot into the ground, bringing his leg up sideways at the knee like someone with a disability having a seizure and sang a combination of English and Alien. He looked bored, bored with being on stage mumbling the same old tunes to the same old hippies, bored with life, bored with everything and he played accordingly. He did clear his throat and came alive on his (then) new tune, the song that won him an Oscar, the vocals on that was clear, but the rest was just guess work. We started to chuckle again when some old bag next to us hissed, “Shut up. Can’t you see you’re in the presence of genius?” Kerry hissed back, “He must be genius, he’s managed to fool everyone here into giving him money,” resulting in me laughing and getting some very dark looks. It got better.
About an hour in to the show Kerry gently nudged me. I looked over and she pointed to a person a few seats down. They’d nodded off and were happily sleeping. I broke a huge smile and we looked about. Pretty much everyone was sleeping; we were two of the few awake in our section. I couldn’t help myself and lofted an empty water bottle into the air and we both chuckled as it bounced off a few nodding heads. The biggest cheer for the night was reserved for when Dylan announced his band and announced, “On guitar, CHARLIE SEXTON!!” I know I was screaming, “SING ‘BEATS SO LONELY’ CHARLIE!!!” Perhaps Dylan heard me because he left the stage two songs later. Once the lights came up people awoke and filed out saying how great it was and how good it sounded. They must have seen a different concert to me while they dreamed; perhaps they were re-running the Rolling Thunder Revue? I know that Mick Ronson has been dead for quite a number of years but he'd have provided more entertainment than Dylan that evening.
However I can say that I saw Bob Dylan live. Sadly it was about 30 years too late. Remind me to tell you about the best concerts I’ve seen, that’s more fun.
* I say Johnny Bananas because I have no clue as to his name.