“Bob in Paris”

a letter I wrote to Rusty Owens, an old high school friend and fellow Dylan geek, on my impressions of a Bob Dylan concert in Paris…

“Well Mack the Finger said to Louie the King
I got forty red white and blue shoe strings
And a thousand telephones that don’t ring
Do you know where I can get rid of these things
And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son
And he said yes I think it can be easily done
Just take everything down to [ boulevard soixante-et-un ]”
– Mr. Dylan, with additions by Mr Leedy

I went to see Bob Dylan last night. Show was sold out – as was the previous night (I believe.) It was at le Zenith – way the hell out in the north 19th. Vicky & I took the Metro and had a quick dinner there in the park at Café de la Musique. The Zenith holds about 6,000 people – I know – I asked the usherette (to make small talk) while I fished coins outa my pocket for the pourboire (tip, literally, “for drinks”) She actually asked me for a tip when she sat us…

We had great seats on the first row of the elevated seating above the floor. But then there was a hot dog stand with an umbrella (now what the fuck does one need an umbrella for in a dark, enclosed, stadium?) right in front of us, obstructing our view. I asked him to take it down or move out of the way. He took it down AND moved out of the way. I was a hero for a few moments. I guess only agressive (I was going to take that umbrella down myself if he didn’t) Americans complain about these things…

When a large projection screen rolled down and commercials started playing, I was worried that this type of crass commercialism might run Bob off. Talk about America being materialistic! And one of the commercials was for some hair goop that kids can spike their hair with. I wonder if the company gave Bob a complentary jar of the stuff…

There was a big mix of spectators – old French hippies, wet-behind-the-ears young rockers, British and American expats (a lot of ’em) and people you wondered how they ever heard of or knew Bob Dylan. I would have never guessed it was a Dylan concert. But then, there are a lot of French women who look like Joan Baez…

(and I have to admit I was a little nervous about a Jewish American doing a rock concert in a predominantly Arab neighborhood in the midst of political protests over Le Pen’s recent victory – all on the eve of a big, sure-to-be-city-wide-protests, commie holiday Wednesday [today]…)

Tuesday night, April 30th, 2002
OK, here’s how the line-up went:

1. I Am the Man Thomas

2. I Want You

3. Desolation Row – the Parisian crowd liked this one. I did too.

4. It Ain’t Me Babe – wow, Bob, you sure are changing them tunes around. But then, Bob likes to do that. keep ‘ em interesting, you know? Bob’s guitar was a little too loud on this one. But I think that was intentional too. Bob had his two, very talented guitarists backing him up, your first impression is that they are carrying most of the weight – the one on stage left (the one with the shorter hair) was doing some magical things such as the moment I swore I heard a Hammond organ in the background (early Bob days); then I’d hear a piano and I kept looking around for the keyboard player. Nothing except mixing boards and amps. Boy, this guy must really be hidden or he’s totally modest! Then I realized it was this guitarist making them there sounds!

But as I said, Bob likes to sing a bit out of key on occasion and hit the wrong chord on his guitar but he really is a good guitarist – I was watching him with binoculars and he surprised me…

5. Highway 61 Revisited – They go electric here. As everything else was changed, so was this one. But it was really good. One of my favorites of the evening.

6. Simple Twist of Fate

7. Lonesome Day Blues

8. Floater (Too Much To Ask)

9. 4th Time Around

10. Visions of Johanna – another good one

11. Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right – one of my favorite Dylan tunes, as you may know.

12. Summer Days – crowd liked, I liked…

13. Not Dark Yet – “Well, I’ve been to London and I’ve been to gay Paree” – this got the expected response.

14. Drifter’s Escape

15. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat


16. Things Have Changed

17. Like a Rolling Stone – Bob knew he was required to sing this one. I really like this one better in hs younger days…

18. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – The frogs were quick to do the old, hold-up-your-cigarette-lighter-and-and-sway-your-arm-back-and-forth trick; a brief moment in time where you actually catch French people NOT cool and NOT in tuned to the latest, coolest, trends… oh, but what the hell, a little nostalgia, ya know?

in any event, proof that cigarette smoking is NOT dying out in France. In fact, there were “DEFENSE DE FUMER” (NO SMOKING) signs all over the auditorium but that didn’t seem to deter anyone. Vicky suggested the real meaning must be “In Defense Of Smoking”.

19. Honest With Me

20. Blowin’ In The Wind – now this is the song for all of the French people who did not speak or had limited English. another crowd pleaser.


21. All Along the Watchtower – A totally electric and totally rocking cover of a classic. Is Bob going through a late Mid-Life? Is he trying to appeal to a younger generation of rockers? Or is he just having fun? I don’t know but I enjoyed it!

The crowd loved him. All of the band came out to the front of the stage and bowed for the last time. Dylan got down on one knee, held his guitar as if it were a scepter, and bowed to the crowd one last time. They loved this gesture. Bob headed for back stage. He turned and looked over his shoulder as he waved goodnight to the crowd.

The audience pounded the floors for more. Vicky and I high-tailed to get a seat on the next Metro out.

I don’t think Bob came out any more…

“Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles…”

– Bob Dylan

got you a program, be looking for it in the mail…


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