Tuesday night, Bob Dylan and his band took to the stage of Ramat Gan stadium for an evening of freedom, fun and electric rock n' roll, playing to a nearly full venue of Israeli Dylan die-hards and other catharsis seeking concert goers. If seeing the 70-year-old folk/rock/pop bard, harmonica blowing, painting, poet and axe-slinging guitarist was not enough to draw the crowd – a beautiful evening under the stars in a staple venue certainly was.
Closing the night off with a double encore featuring the driving rock anthem from the 1965 LP, Highway 61 Revisited, "Like a Rolling Stone" and the 1963 standard, "Blowin' in the Wind," the audience was also treated by Bob to such classics as, "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall," "Tangled Up in Blue," and the chilling and hypnotic "Ballad of a Thin Man."
One concert attendee, a 30-year old male named Tzion said, "I was disappointed by his singing. His voice seems to squeak." True, Dylan's voice does sound weathered, however since the beginning of his 50-year career; however, over the years his vocal chords have seemed to acquire a high-pitched nuance, but it does not detract from the singer's musicality, and instead serves as a humble homage to the road and years and years of rock n roll warfare.
Monday's Ramat Gan Stadium show was Dylan's third concert in Israel to date. He also gave concerts in Israel in 1987 and 1993. This concert in particular did not come without controversy, as several Facebook groups called for a boycott of the event. However, these bumps in the road seem to fit in with this tour in particular, and strangely Dylan's career as a whole.
Earlier in the tour, Dylan was criticized for performing a concert in China, as that country is held by much of the Western world to be an oppressive totalitarian regime; not one that reflects the message of the lyrics of "Blowin' in the Wind," for instance. Dylan issued an explanation on his website on May 13 that reads:
"Allow me to clarify a couple of things about this so-called China controversy which has been going on for over a year" he explains defending his concert and not necessarily the Chinese regime, "The Chinese press did tout me as a sixties icon, however, and posted my picture all over the place with Joan Baez, Che Guevara, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. The concert attendees probably wouldn't have known about any of those people" he continues, "As far as censorship goes, the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing. There's no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months. If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play."
Such is Bob Dylan's message to the world it seems: he does not stand for freedom. He does not stand for folk music and perhaps not necessarily even rock and roll. In 1965 he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival featuring an electric rock band and a new repertoire of driving, sour 60s rock tunes. This also found Dylan accused of treason. This time, however, not against an army of political correctness, or the anti-Israel crowd, but of folk music purists. It remains, after fifty, some-odd years, Dylan's message to the world, is a message of iconoclasm.
This being said, it was wonderful to have the legendary Jewish artist on home turf. And we'll look forward to more iconoclastic adventures from the godfather of American folk-rock.