History (a.k.a Bob Dylan) was in Albuquerque last night.

History Column
Written by Nathan Mattise
For The Albuquerque Tribune 7/23/07

Sometimes you get to see history by chance, but sometimes you have the opportunity to seek it out.

Bob Dylan coming to Albuquerque during my summer in N.M. fits the latter description. You better believe I was at Journal Pavilion two hours before showtime. For just $14 (and numerous hidden transaction fees) I couldn’t resist. I actively chose to see living history. My Dylan knowledge was at best the album Highway 61 Revisited and then various other mega-singles like “The Hurricane,” “All Along The Watchtower,” “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” But any self-respecting music fan knows, even without having the precise details, that Dylan is a legend. I’m fairly sure that’s even considered an understatement.

If the Mount Rushmore of rock music is ever constructed, Dylan solidified his reservation long before his latest CD entered the U.S. charts at number one. He’s a mainstay in the top five of Top 100 Artists lists including both Rolling Stone’s and VH1’s adaptations. The iconic Highway 61 Revisited receives the same treatment in the Top 100 Albums circuit. And perhaps his greatest credential, Dylan’s anthem “Like a Rolling Stone,” makes a habit of being named the greatest song in rock history.

That’s where I’m torn about last night’s show. I’ve seen Neil Young perform “Keep On Rocking in the Free World,” Billy Joel play “Piano Man,” Earth, Wind & Fire do “September,” and even Dave Brubeck delight with “Take Five.” Yet I never experienced a more, “Oh, wow. I’m really seeing something historical, something I’ll be bragging to my kids about” moment than when Dylan opened last night’s show with “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” It was about 7:36 p.m., people had been standing in line for at least an hour waiting for lawn position beforehand and everyone who could was already through at least one $7 beer. The crowd went nuts despite all of that. If I got those kind of chills during the opening, what was the finale going to feel like?

He wasn't exactly this young last night.But Dylan didn’t give me the chance to discover a new level of rock euphoria. He played “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Lay Lady Lay,” “Ballad of a Thin Man,” and “All Along The Watchtower,” all before the standard concert encore. “The Hurricane” and “Like a Rolling Stone” immediately came to mind for likely closers. And since “The Hurricane” was an eight minute epic, Dylan should clearly bring the night home with his most well-known track. But he didn’t. Rock legend Bob Dylan didn’t play his most legendary song off his most legendary album to close the most legendary show of my life.

“Like a Rolling Stone,” has its own Wikipedia entry, a book written about it and scholarly essays galore. The song appears on 11 albums, was covered by countless artists and features some of the most poetic and deeply metaphorical lyrics in rock history. Last night I felt like I saw Michael Jordan during his minor league baseball stint or Kevin Bacon performing with his band – obviously in the presence of greatness but not getting to experience it to the fullest extent.

So, even though I saw a living legend perform a monster set (at least two hours), snagged a sweet t-shirt and saw a guy who had “Bob Dylan” written on his sunglasses in what appeared to be Elmer’s Glue (Note: here’s a photoshop recreation), part of me was disappointed. I chose to see history but didn’t get to see the part you’d read about in any textbook. In the end I guess some history is better than no history, and seeing Bob Dylan last night was certainly better than if I saw The Fray the week before.

(Article today originally published by The Albuquerque Tribune)

If you want to yell at Nate for being so tardy with his piece that he needed to reuse his blog from work, e-mail him.

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Filed under Essays, History

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