It was hard to get the tickets, but a kindly young chap from Singapore had helped this stranger buy the tickets
We flew to Singapore on August 4, two days before Bob Dylan was scheduled to perform there in the Asia leg of his 2018 Never Ending Tour. With three tickets to the show, wetwo friends flew. An unlucky third who was supposed to be with us could not make it in the end.
It was hard to get the tickets, but a kindly young chap from Singapore had helped this stranger buy the tickets. We met him the next day because we needed him to appear at the venue to collect the tickets. He had never listened to Bob Dylan.
On the day of the show, we took the MRT to Bueno Vista where the Star Performing Arts Centre is located.The Star Theatre is a massive building, with the concert hall at the very top. My friend and I lounged around all afternoon, with our young benefactor joining us in the evening. When we collected the tickets, I asked if he would interested to see the show with us since there was an extra ticket.
He said:“No, I won’t enjoy it, I might fall asleep.”
We were about to part ways when the kid suddenly changed his mind and decided to stick around for a few songs.
Our lives they are a-changin’
The show was scheduled to start at 8:30pm, but we entered 30 minutes early. The cavernous Star Theatre with its over 5,000 capacitywas scarcely populated. An announcement was made that photos or videos of the performance would not be allowed, not even by the press, in accordance with Dylan’s wishes.
There were no giant screens on the stage either, so the people at the back could only hear the music, and barely see the person on stage. This was no whimsical request, rather a staple of his Never Ending Tour since 1988.
As we waited with bated breath, the seats gradually filled up.
I speculated to my friend that the show might start with the Oscar-winning song “Things Have Changed.”After a brief instrumental prelude, that is what Bob sung to start the show with. My friend winked at me;ourbenefactor was dumfounded as he was not familiar at all with Bob’s work.
Instead of the guitar, he sat at behind the piano and let his aged, gravelly voice lead.Then Dylan started “It Ain’t Me Babe,” and I was transported to a whole new world. The whole theatre seemed empty to me, I could see nothing but the band, hear only Bob’s voice. I probably shed a tear when he finished the song. Then he moved immediately to hard hitting “Highway 61 Revisited,”and I noticed that our young benefactor had his jaws agape.He could scarcely believe that music like this exists in this world.
After each song, the lights dimmed, the musicians jammed briefly with Charlie Sexton’s soaring guitar, and then Bob was back. He started “Simple Twist Of Fate,” the song almost unrecognizable from the original recordings.You would have to know the songs by their lyrics, that is how Bob performs! You do not go to his concerts expecting to hear studio recordings.
He proceeded with “Duquesne Whistle,” a more recent song, and an old song that he did with the band, “When I Paint My Masterpiece,”then again few recent numbers like “Honest With Me,”“Tryin' To Get To Heaven,”and then beautifully crooned“Make You Feel My Love” and “Pay In Blood.”
Dylan and his band performed all the songs with heavy blues music. He then did “Tangled Up In Blue,”“Early Roman Kings,”“Desolation Row” and “Love Sick.” The whole time, I was singing along, trying to do the songs the way he was doing, which was an impossible task to begin with.
Dylan was spirited and focused in performing each and every song at this age. The guitars flowed with synchronization; the melodies were reassuringly satisfying. Tony Garnier and George Receliknit all the songs with their faithful bass and drums groove, while Stu Kimball strummed his gritty rhythm guitar and Donnie Herron backed up with his pedal steel, lap steel, electric mandolin, banjo, and violin.
The rendition of “Don't Think TwiceIt's All Right” blew me away.“Thunder On The Mountain” and a stripped down version of “Soon After Midnight”were followed up by “Gotta Serve Somebody”with the chugging Peter Gunn theme!
The bard made a quick exit, save but merely facing them for a moment before disappearing from view. But the thirsting audience he had wrapped around his fingers craved more. They applauded, and the voice of a generation returning for an encore.
I said, “He might as well do ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ now! The rearranged version Dylan and his band put on was yet another testimony to how ingenious, innovative, and adaptive this man, this legend, was to reinvent himself and his songs while drawing on the undivided attention of his faithful fans and those who had never heard him before.
The show ended with a snarling “Ballad Of A Thin Man” and the man of the hour disappeared without a word.It did not really matter, because the songs spoke for themselves.
On the other hand, our young acquaintance did not leave after a few songs. He stayed for the show. He barely spoke after the concert ended. I saw his life change before my eyes.For my friend and I, this was a pilgrimage, a lifetime experience.
Thank You, Bob!