Bob Dylan’s concert in Israel

I had great excitement for Bob Dylan coming to perform in Israel. Now that the concert is finished, I can tell you a little bit how it went.

Sitting and aching on my plastic chair, 5 miles away from the scene, I really felt like “the” Mr. Jones of his famous song, The ballad of a thin man. Because something was happening there, but I have no idea what it was, or even where it was, since I couldn’t see anything (cheap tickets buy heaps of distance). Although half of the tickets remained unsold, the producers preferred to keep the gig in the same huge and dispersive stadium at Ramat Gan, so that between me and the hypothetical scene there laid half a football field of wasted emptiness.

The only efforts made to try and breach distances was the courtesy of four big flat screens which only replicated the same distant perspective, and anyway stopped broadcasting all together during the second part of the show (no explanation was given). Basically three-quarters of the crowd had no visual clue whatsoever where the mythical singer was standing on the scene, what was he doing, which instrument did he play. To make things more painful, Mr. Dylan managed to go through the whole set without uttering a SINGLE word to the public. Quite impressive. Noo hello and no goodbyes, but even no thank you and no personal saying on anything whatsoever. He even chose not to introduce his band at the end of the show, so that the musicians went out as anonymously as they came in.

We all know that Dylan is not a champion of politeness, nor a great improviser.  The expectations were low, so low that 20.000 people preferred to stay home and save money for the upcoming concert of Paul Simon. Did it really make sense for the acclaimed singer to come all the way to Israel – which happens to be also the land of his forefathers – just to replicate the exact same show he did in Hong Kong, but with a worse production? Yet something inside of me couldn’t help forgiving The Man. Fans would give him credit for anything, like they would for a primadonna. Or not? Honestly people seemed really bored during the show, preferring to hover around the bar (which was conveniently placed in front of the rows, taking away the last possibility of a decent view), or to talk to each other, with increasing manifest distraction. I also saw a lot of tensed faces, sporting that special look people have when they are trying to decide if they have been screwed, and how deeply. It is still too early to read critics in English, but I am sure that disappointment is a word that will surface.

Musically speaking (since it was a concert after all), I can say that leaving aside the visuals, I also had a hard time recognizing which song was being played. The band held out a 1,5 hour set seemingly playing the same Motown tune. And that includes the untouchable hits – All along the watchtower, Tangled up in blue, Times they are a-changing... each song sounding amazing like the previous one: as flattened out as a pancake. Lyrics that have the potential to tear your heart out, went flushed down in a happy-crappy blues arrangement. As of Dylan’s voice, it was much better than I expected, with a pleasant earthy tone. Nevertheless, there was no peak in the concert, no great excitement nor any particularly emotional twist, if you exclude the predictable singing along during Like a rolling stone, where the anesthetized public seemingly came alive for a moment.

So yes, I did like the idea of seeing Dylan playing live in Israel, and I still do, because I feel I actually haven’t. The respect I have for his work was not enough to make me blind to the fact that his Israeli show was as boring and unfortunate as a show can be.

I did see a shooting star, which was about the nicest thing of the whole evening.

ps. I haven’t said a word about the warm up gigs of Ricky Lee Jones and Asaf Avidan because they had conveniently finished by the way I made it through the security check at 8.40 pm

* NEW *

I am now embedding a video I shot during the climax of the concert, where you won’t be able to see a thing, just as we did.

It did accidentally record for posterity the magic moment when the screens went black.

SETLIST:

  1. Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking
  2. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
  3. Things Have Changed
  4. Tangled Up In Blue
  5. Summer Days
  6. Simple Twist Of Fate
  7. Cold Irons Bound
  8. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
  9. Highway 61 Revisited
  10. Forgetful Heart
  11. Thunder On The Mountain
  12. Ballad Of A Thin Man
  13. Like A Rolling Stone
  14. All Along The Watchtower
  15. Blowin’ In The Wind
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7 thoughts on “Bob Dylan’s concert in Israel

  1. I hear you, Laura. Well said, and eloquently put.

    I started writing a comment here, and it grew so long and so wordy that I decided to pull my finger out and write my own post, which I am currently doing and will publish later today. I quote you there, with due deference and reference and linkage. 😎

    Suffice it to say that I sported that “special look” of which you speak all of last night and much of this morning.

  2. Pingback: The best and worst concert I ever heard « The Return of the Penguin'-Lovin' Trollmamma

  3. I also had the unfortunate experience of attending the non-concert of someone who should not have performed and left so many fans with so much disappointment. Tangled up in garbage would be a fitting name for that regrettable performance of Mr. Jones and his anonymous band

  4. living in israel sucks!!! and i have been here since the day i was born except for like 1.5 months overall. that’s why i’ll probably use my canadian citizenship when i’m older to explore my options 🙂

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