Garden Concert

In my salad days I couldn't stand the sound of Bob Dylan, what with his wailing voice and whining harmonica and labyrinthine lyrics. Equally irritating was the hyperbolic assumption of just about everyone I knew even barely, that he was a bona fide genius. And when he converted to an exceptionally ludicrous form of Christianity just at the moment when punk was blasting all the past dinosaurs of rock to kingdom come, well, that was the last straw on this camel's back: I pushed Dylan out of my world without a second thought, like he was so much expired milk. Until around about a decade ago, when Joan Reig, the drummer for the Catalan rock band Els Pets, insisted I listen to a recently released album of a live concert Dylan had given in the States, back in 1975. Reig being the undeniably encyclopaedic authority he is on rock and pop, I thought there could be no harm in following his advice. No sooner had I put Dylan on the earphones than I realised that this was some of the most serious and sincerest music I'd ever had the thrill of listening to. From then on, I started to collect all those Dylan albums I'd ignored so deliberately for so many years. And just a couple of months ago, I found out he was playing in Barcelona on the 4th of July, at the once aristocratic Pedralbes Gardens. Although I'd heard that in recent years he's been giving some pretty run-of-the-mill concerts - playing with his back to the audience and shunning encores - I went along anyway. Right from the start of the show, when he howled 'Long And Wasted Years', the snooty, prissy ambience which usually clings to the Pedralbes Gardens like a pricily perfumed fog, was swept away by an energy that had us all in thrall. He ended by belting out (at age 74): 'I'm sick of love; I hear the clock tick/This kind of love; I'm love sick'. By this stage, the audience was one concerted standing ovation. It had been so good to have heard beautifully arranged music played beautifully; to have heard candour turned so precisely into words and chords; to have seen genius at work. The next morning my partner said: 'I've still got his voice in my head!'. Me too. And there it will stay, with luck for ever and a day, to make up for the long – even if not entirely wasted - years when I refused to listen to it.

Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, setembre de 2015.

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