If Bob Dylan turned 70 yesterday, it means the one time I saw him live in concert was ten years ago.
[A decade! It's flown. The baby I left with his grandparents so I could see Dylan perform heads off to middle-school next year...]
Ten years ago, Dylan was celebrating his 60th birthday by performing at state fairs (an odd choice of venue for the Greenwich Village poet of the Boomer generation). It was 2001, the same year Madonna was wandering the world on one of her widely publicized mega-tours, a huge show with numerous moving parts, you know, a show full of dancers, choreography, music and fog.
And then there was Dylan, playing in Springfield, IL. In August. At the State Fair.
It was a crowd of about 10,000. Not quite a full house, but close. The scent of clove cigarettes mingled with the odor of manure. As the sun began to set, we wandered from a draft horse competition to the racetrack where Dylan would be performing.
[This was the pre-9/11 world we were living in. Bush was most likely on vacation (he spent a great deal of his first year in office on vacation, it seemed.) Cheney was mixing it up with reporters who wanted to know which oil execs had influenced his oil policy. Cheney's stock answer was that it was none of America's business.
Just weeks later our world would crash down around us.]
That sultry night in August, Dylan strode on stage with his band, and never stopped singing until the show was done. His set list included a rousing version of All Along the Watchtower (one of my favorite Dylan songs) and a powerful rendition of Masters of War.
He said nothing at all to the audience. It was about his music. Only the music.
When it was done, he walked off stage and onto the bus that would take him to another State Fair.
What he left with his audience - indelible memories of a man hard at work at a craft he loved more than anything else. No glitz. Certainly no glamor. Just the music and the master.
Though Dylan's shows can be unpredictable, the show he put on at the Illinois State Fair in 2001 was incredible.
Here's one of the first music videos ever created: Dylan playing Subterranean Homesick Blues...
And here's on older Dylan, dressed in a shiny gold shirt, growling out the tune "Forever Young" - accompanied by the Boss...
Springsteen-Dylan "Forever young" by betterday