Bob Dylan, Professional Mumbler.

The sky opened and started pouring sheets of rain over London as we hurried towards Albert Hall to see Bob Dylan.  We were running a little late, and not being terribly familiar with that part of London, we had a bit of trouble finding where we were going. Was this a sign from the Weather Gods that we shouldn’t be doing this?

We arrived drenched and I spent the first half of the show shaking with cold because the temperature inside the Royal Albert Hall was not warm enough to dry off from the October rain.

Bob Dylan Albert Hall rain London 2015
Two drowned rats at a silly angle: This was after we arrived at Albert Hall and my Dearest had a sausage roll. Sorry about the blacking out but he works in a job where he might get into trouble if he gets found on the internet.

Before we go any further, I need to make it quite clear – I have no idea what 80% of the songs were that Bob Dylan sang that night. It didn’t really make a difference. The guy’s a genius. Do you know any other musical artist who can professionally mumble for 2 hours in the Albert Hall, London, and get a standing ovation? No profanities, no “I’m so pleased to be here” no “without you there’d be no us” it was just a man with a sparkly suit (a beautiful ensemble in black with a lovely teal embroidery-and-sequins accent, that was co-ordinated with the rest of the band wearing the same in the opposite colors, I really loved the outfits) doing whatever the damn hell he pleased on stage.  There were a couple of songs I recognized from his latest album – Shadows In The Night – a re-imagining of sorts of some Frank Sinatra classics.  Aside from that, I recognized Blowin’ In The Wind.  The rest was a mystery.

I got the distinct impression that he did this tour out of a sense of humor – he was entertaining himself rather than the crowd, he didn’t feel he owed the audience a single thing. You had to admire his audacity. The amount of time and effort that went into putting this show together, and the music was great. It didn’t really matter that we couldn’t understand what he was saying – consider Enya, for a moment. She invented her own language to make her songs’ vocals sound more lyrical and fluid. She doesn’t perform live tours, of course, because her whole act is so post-processed that it wouldn’t be do-able as a live act. Bob Dylan seems to have taken the concept of music and once again turned it on its head. Do the audience need to be able to discern the lyrics? Are discernible lyrics part of what it takes to make a legendary show? Apparently not.
A thoroughly good time was had by all.

His re-interpretation of Blowin’ In The Wind was phenomenal. But then, it should be – he wrote the original.

One thing I didn’t like from my vantage point, sat behind the stage, two rows from the musicians, was the amount of people who flouted the no flash photography rule. If there hadn’t been a rule, I probably wouldn’t have cared, I dunno. But because of where I sat, it meant there were dozens of people getting photos and I couldn’t get any. Right at the very end of the show, when the band and Bob Dylan took a bow, I got my phone out and caught a couple of quick snaps, but they’ve mysteriously disappeared from my computer.  Maybe the reason he didn’t want any photography is because he’s secretly a vampire and doesn’t show up in cameras or mirrors?????  Or maybe the idiots who left their flash turned on just bugged the hell out of him.
I felt like the night was complete, since I’d also acquired two patches for my battle vest.

Bob Dylan concert London 2015 Royal Albert Hall
Bob Dylan concert London 2015 Royal Albert Hall

I feel incredibly privileged to have seen Bob Dylan (especially with the harmonica) and I don’t think I regret going in any way at all, but I think it’s not for everyone and you have to go in knowing that he probably isn’t going to spend 2 hours singing catchy tunes.

This review of Bob Dylan’s concert is quite short, so I thought I’d ask my Dearest to weigh in with his perspective on the Bob Dylan concert, since he was there too.

DH Says: “Bob Dylan was using his voice like a musical instrument, not like a voice.  It was interesting being behind the stage because you could see all the stuff that was going on that the audience don’t normally see, such as that the whole band used ipads with all the scores, you could see the technical adjustments on the sound set, and exactly how the drummer was playing, that I really liked. It turned it into a very sit-back-and-listen, rather than sing along. Was it because Bob Dylan maybe didn’t like people singing along? I suppose you have to ask, would the same effect have been done if he’d just played an instrument such as the piano or guitar rather than singing. He was using his voice as a musical instrument, I think, rather than a voice. To some extent it worked. Do you think if you had expected the Bob Dylan gig to be like that, then you would have felt differently? I knew the concert was likely to be like that, Bob Dylan’s known for mumbling, so I don’t think that’s the case. But I think part of that is not knowing anything, so you can’t sing along, different music, unintelligible lyrics… I don’t think the Bob Dylan concert was ever going to be an outstanding night, but neither was it a disappointment – unlike Megadeth. I think it comes down to: Do I think its a shame I wasn’t doing something else that evening? Certainly not.”

So there you have it.  We both had a great time seeing Bob Dylan in concert but I think his act can possibly be classified as avant-garde; don’t go if you’re expecting to hear Subterranean Homesick Blues.  Another one for me to tick off my Official Bands Bucket List – the list of bands and musical acts that I need to see before they kick the bucket.

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My Official Bands Bucket List

So I keep referring to my bands bucket list when I write about things I’ve been up to.  Today I wanted to go back and explain what it is.

You are probably aware that a bucket list is usually something written by people of all ages to ensure that they get to do all the things they’ve dreamed of doing in life – all the things they want to do before they “kick the bucket,” to coin a term.

In my case, that would be my ever-dwindling 30-list and my currently being written 40-list, which are the things I want to do before I reach age 30 and age 40, respectively.  It would probably not surprise you, then, to know that, when I was eighteen, I started this whole thing by writing a 20-list, a set of things I wanted to do before I turned 20.

The Bands Bucket List is very separate.  My age-lists are really more a set of things I feel would be achievements, accomplishments, or that I have some control over.  Things you can get with work and dedication.  They are lists of things that are within my power to make happen, however unique the circumstances would need to be for the achievement to be made.

The reason I don’t include bands on my 30-list and 40-list is because anyone can buy a ticket and travel to a gig.  Yes, some bands only tour in their homeland of Japan or The Faroe Islands, but by and large, live music is a capitalist, class dependent commodity (ooh er) that anyone with time and money can engage in.  For that reason I don’t think it’s an achievement to see The Who or Lynyrd Skynyrd, in the same sense that it would be an achievement to climb a mountain or get a master’s degree.  It would certainly be an achievement to play in a band, an honour that I have never been privy to (flutes tend to get stuck with orchestras rather than popular music bands, and ukuleles are the sonorous pariah unwanted in most ensembles), but seeing a band?  I am responsible for quality control of my lists and I decided it would cheapen the accomplishment of a PhD or climbing Everest to liken them with going to Download Festival (sorry, Download, it’s not that I don’t think your wonderful, but you are very easy).

I did need to keep track of a large set of data though, to make it possible to organize, and as I was spending more and more time on the internet typing different band names into Google, I thought I needed a spreadsheet.  I do love a good spreadsheet.

So I wrote them all down in alphabetical order, every band I could think of who, if their members died in a plane crash and they ceased to exist, I would feel like I’d missed out if I had neglected to attend them.  I know I won’t see all of them, but I wanted to make a concerted effort to see as many as I could while I could.

The list doesn’t distinguish between bands who have been apart for 30 years and those who are still coherent, it does separate out individual artists who are known to currently have a solo career and also link them to the band they used to be in (so, for example, the entry for David Gilmour states “Dave Gilmour/Pink Floyd” and Roger Waters’ entry is “Roger Waters/Pink Floyd”) ensuring that the musical genius that spawned the bands are placed to be seen even when they can’t be in the same room as one another.  Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are another example, where their entries are “Jimmy Page/Led Zeppelin” and “Robert Plant/Led Zeppelin” respectively.  Either entry can be ticked off once the required people have been seen, so if I’d seen Jimmy Page, it would then be at my discretion whether I decided the performance was sufficient to tick off Led Zeppelin, or whether I also wanted to see Robert Plant first.  I have ticked Guns n Roses off because I’ve seen Slash, and his performance with Myles Kennedy would be sufficient to tick off Guns n Roses (although GnR weren’t on my list) even though I haven’t seen Axl Rose and the band he’s put together when he kept the name Guns N Roses.

This list, and the ticking off part especially, has raised two very interesting dilemmas facing the modern music fan of older bands:  To what extent does the name of the band matter if none of the original members survive, and what actually counts as having seen a band?

The naming question is difficult.  So for example, there’s only one founder member of Lynyrd Skynyrd left in the band, but when I went to see them you could tell straight away that it didn’t matter.  Trying to define a band as who they were when they first signed on the dotted line of that fateful first record deal in the 1960s is a constrained and counterproductive way of going about things.  Take Pink Floyd again – guitarist Dave Gilmour wasn’t even in the original line-up, but for many people, he IS Pink Floyd, moreso than any other member.  Likewise, I need to be cautious about letting too many things be defined as the correct band.  It gets to a point where the only member of a band worth seeing is the drummer, and unless it’s Ringo Starr or Keith Moon, you might as well go and see a tribute band and tick off the real thing.  It’s false.  So somewhere between these two polarized opinions lies the way forward.

With The Who it was easy – the lead singer/guitarist and the lead guitarist are both still knocking around, the drummer is Ringo Starr’s son, and the bassist is an excellent session musician.  Hearing them play, you can tell they’re the real deal not some tribute band which have learned their songs meticulously to the letter and never deviate from the script.  They had the spark of Who-ness that made them Who-lesome.  I make no apologies for the wordplay.  Not all wordplay is a pun.

With Guns N Roses it would have been harder, since Axl kept the band name but is the only remaining member.  Seeing Slash play was such a jaw-droppingly stirring experience that I decided there was no way any replacement guitarist could ever possibly outdo him, unless Axl had hired Hendrix or Jimmy Page (which he hasn’t, which is a good job because Hendrix is dead and in either case, they’d want to play like themselves so you’d not get the same result).  It’s all a matter of style and substance.  Tribute bands and lesser replacement musicians can copy the style but have no substance.  Replacement musicians who are greater than the original will have substance but a differing style.  It takes a rare genius to walk the line between these two and still come out on top.  So I ticked off Guns N Roses.

The second dilemma is also one that I could spend years obsessing over if I wanted to:  How much of a band counts as “having seen” a band.  Here are my criteria:

1. It has to be live.

2. I had to be close enough to see and hear the band, not just watch the video screen, because that defeats the point.

3. I have to have heard the actual band play at least one full song.

4. Televised appearances are lovely, but there is so much loss of quality and atmosphere that they can’t possibly count, and the same goes for Youtube and other ways of seeing them.  For example, I watched the Pink Floyd Live 8 performance live on the BBC as it happened less than 20 miles from where I was sat (2 days after my mother had tried to kill me resulting in my being removed and never returning home, and 5 days before the 7/7 bombings), but it doesn’t count as having seen them, even though it had a profound and evelasting impact on the course of my life after that moment and probably stopped me killing myself.  That bit where they played “Wish You Were Here” and dedicated it to Syd had me in tears.

5. It doesn’t matter what they play:  If I wanted to hear a specific song I could buy and listen to the proper recording studio version.  That’s not what I’m looking for in my quest to see these bands.

Then there’s the single criterion for removal from the list:  If there are no living members of a band or if a solo artist dies, they are taken off the list.  Here is the list so far, there are currently 60 entries, and things are always being added:

Click to enlarge, again to zoom.
Click to enlarge, again to zoom.

For planning purposes, only the bands in white/orange matter:  The ones in pale grey are supposed to be ones who are just not touring at all, so they’re discounted from planning purposes (but breakups/reunions etc are so fickle that I don’t exclude reunion tours until the last member has kicked the bucket).  The ones in dark grey are ones I’ve now seen.  The ones in lime green are currently not attainable due to either dates, cost, or some other factor of sheer preposterous awkwardness that makes them unachievable such as announcing on the day of sale, selling out in 10 minutes and placing ridiculous resale criteria on the tickets, that only means that WHEN the tickets are resold, they’re triple the price they would have been so the resellers make even more money.  The ones in lime green are generally ones I’ve written off for this year.

So that’s my bands bucket list.  What do you think?  Who would be on yours?

Bob Dylan, Dave Gilmour and Apocalyptica

It’s been an exciting 8 hours, and I have learned that Bob Dylan and Dave Gilmour are both touring in the UK this year (we’re definitely in 2015, right??).

So my favourite favourite band of all time is Pink Floyd. If I got stuck with one band on a Desert Island, they’d be it. If I could build a time machine, I’d go back and see Syd play “See Emily Play” along with my other favourites from their first couple of years as a band. They’re number 1 on my bands bucket list: The bands I need to see before they kick the bucket
So I regularly check the listings to see whether Roger Waters or Dave Gilmour are doing tours in 2015.

I was, in fact, checking them today, when I was crashingly disappointed to find out that Dave Gilmour’s first tour in years sold out within an hour of being announced on 6th March.  All the dates are in October.  I must have last checked hours before that got announced!  I would have known this in April if my dad hadn’t died as I was totally caught up with that until now.  To top it off, Dave (or his management, because it’s not a standard ticket condition) has insisted that to prevent ticket resale, the person who booked the tickets MUST be present with photo ID on the day of the event! So people can’t buy tickets as birthday presents, and if you’re in a group and the person who booked them is sick and can’t go, you’re going to get turned away at the door! If your circumstances change or you have a bereavement? Your tickets are non-refundable, voided and non-resaleable. This seems unreasonable conditions to impose on people who are paying to see someone perform. So no hope of last minute re-sales. I don’t think disappointed covers it. I thought I was going to start spiralling down into the blackness of depressionland again (and I’m not due for at LEAST another month or so), I mean, literally, I would have sold my car to go to this concert if that was a way to make it happen.  Or blown my meager inheritance.  I know my dad would have implicitly approved; Pink Floyd were his favourite as well, along with the venerable Bob Dylan, The Who and Jimi Hendrix.

I checked Roger Waters (because they often used to plan dates to clash with each other, back when they had a bit of a feud), and all his dates were in America (I might go to America to see him at some point). So I went to look at the Royal Albert Hall’s tickets page in case there were still some left at the venue and the “sold out” thing might have been a mistake.
No they were sold out of Dave Gilmour on all ten dates.

But they did have a scrolling banner of upcoming acts and Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan were both billed (not together, although that would have been epic).

I’ve never been the biggest Clapton fan although I totally appreciate what he did for the field of guitar music. Bob Dylan is one of my favourites, though, and the one that I never thought in a million years that I would ever get to see play live.
I excitedly went to the listing and looked at this:

Bob Dylan 2015 tour dates UK screenshot from Royal Albert Hall.
Bob Dylan 2015 tour dates UK screenshot from Royal Albert Hall.

There was only one UK date left for Bob Dylan, and best news ever, it was a Saturday sometime in October, so I looked at seats to see about getting some tickets. The only seats were those ones BEHIND the stage, that I remember looking at year on year back when I used to watch TV, whenever there was a televised performance, because I remember thinking, “why would people buy tickets to sit where they can’t see?” I still don’t understand why you’d do it to see, like, the Spice Girls or something (and y’know, when I was 11 I used to dream about being their long-lost sixth member, Jasmine Spice. Like literally go to sleep and dream this), but for Bob Dylan, I would do it.  Bob Dylan is a freaking LEGEND.

This was all about 8 hours ago, then my husband came home from a party and I excitedly bounced up to him and said, “Bob Dylan, Albert Hall, 24th October, it’s a Saturday, they’ve got a few tickets left.”
He said we’d talk about it in the morning which is responsible-person-speak for “no. And I don’t want to talk about it.” Okay, London is very far away and train tickets are generally stupidly expensive and its neither of our favourite place, in fact we both have it at the bottom of any list of places we’d like to go, next to Slough and Luton (Paris is only slightly higher on the list, give me Salzburg or Rome ANY day), and he doesn’t tend to love 60s alternative hippie music as much as I do because his parents worked for the man their entire lives and mine tuned in, turned up and dropped out, and grew me in a cloud of narcotics and other “plants.”  We are Dharma and Greg (except for the whole Kitty thing).  But Bob freaking Dylan!!!

Anyway, it’s the morning (or it was when I started writing this) and we talked about seeing Bob Dylan live in concert in October, and I pointed out that although it was in London, it WAS a Saturday, and he agreed that this WAS a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a musical legend and that even choir seats were better than missing it since we missed out on so many concerts this year due to late announcements and tickets being held for fan clubs, and that’s how he very generously bought two Bob Dylan tickets, one each, and said that mine can be my birthday and Christmas present for a couple of years.

See?  We can has tickets!!!
See? We can has tickets!!!

Excited doesn’t even cover it.  And I know this sounds awful but things happen for a reason and if I’d checked Dave Gilmour in April I wouldn’t have seen Bob Dylan’s tickets because he didn’t announce until 1st May.  So something slightly good came from losing my dad when I did.  I know my dad is looking down on me going “yay! Tickets!”

Ooh and the third band I listed in the title, what about them?  Well, I’ve had my Download 2015 tickets for a while, it’s in 2 weekends’ time, and I was looking at the line-up last night when I saw Apocalyptica were confirmed.

Which put me in mind of one of my favourites of theirs:  The Hall of The Mountain King.  Which is an awesome interpretation of a classic and reminds me of when I used to work as an Ice Dancer at Alton Towers (because they’d licensed the classical version as their “ambient music” for some areas).  Enjoy: