This past weekend, Father Barron had the opportunity to see Bob Dylan in concert at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago. Read his synopsis of this legendary concert experience here.
Last Saturday night, I saw Bob Dylan, one of my great heroes, at the Riviera Theatre on the northside of Chicago.
With me were Bobby Mixa and Rozann Carter from the Word on Fire office and Mike Leonard, the executive producer of the Catholicism Series, who last saw Bob Dylan in 1963!
The theatre is fairly small (capacity around 2500), and I managed, with Bobby’s help, to get pretty close to the stage.
There were a number of aging hippies with gray pony tails and granny glasses, but I was surprised by the number of young people who were on hand.
Dylan is one of those rare figures from the golden age of rock and roll who has managed to hold his appeal across the decades.
His voice is pretty much shot, but he sang with a lot of passion—and his band, led by the great guitarist Charlie Sexton, was terrific.
I was delighted by some of the more obscure numbers that he played, including “The Man in Me,” a ballad featured in the Cohen Brothers’ film “The Big Lebowski.” Dylan played a lot of very bluesy and energetic harmonica, and his keyboard work was surprisingly spry and inventive. As always, I was drawn in by the enormous spiritual power of his songwriting. He sang “Tangled Up in Blue,” with its haunting line about “an Italian poet from the 13th century (Dante),” all of whose “words rang true and glowed like burning coal.” And he closed with “Forever Young,” a beautiful ballad written for his son Jakob (who is now himself a popular singer). The song, which begins “may God bless and keep you always,” is essentially an extended prayer set to music.
Not long before attending the concert, I finished Sean Willentz’s wonderful new book Bob Dylan in America, which explores the myriad influences—country, folk, blues, rock, jazz, even the higher styles of Gershwin and Aaron Copeland—that contributed to Dylan’s music. I thought that Willentz underplayed, however, the massive importance of the Bible to Dylan’s songwriting. In his “Sixty Minutes” interview from some years ago, Bob Dylan spoke of holding up his end of a bargain that he had made at the beginning of his career. The interviewer pressed him: “may I ask whom you made the bargain with?” Dylan responded, “with the chief commander both of this world and of the world that you can’t see.” Bob Dylan’s intense preoccupation with God and the spiritual life can be discerned from beginning to end of his career. What a joy and privilege it was to see and hear him in person!
Here are several pictures from the concert:
Father Barron in front of Riviera Theatre
The stage backdrop and Bob Dylan on the piano
Bob Dylan with his guitar