Wednesday, 4 June 2008

About A Year Ago...

One Wednesday evening, me an 'er went to see Bob Dylan in concert in Geneva. I had looked forward to the concert although not passionately so, having agreed to go to keep her happy, she being the Dylan fan from decades back - not me. Having said that, I think a Desert Island Disc might well be Girl From The North Country, from Dylan's Nashville Skyline album. But I digress, so off we toddled.

Upon arrival at the venue, the Arena we founds hundreds, maybe thousands of people queuing to get in, being funneled around the side of the building from the car parks, to wait patiently as people, mostly middle aged and middle class, are wont to do. The two security staff frisked the masses, asking for mobile phones to be turned off, or cameras to be deposited at a safe store. These same people then waited while attendant audience members then had to hurriedly consume drink from the bottles they were prevented from taking in. Security reasons you understand. These rock concert goers despite so many being in their late sixties and early seventies, are obviously temperamental and rowdy folk, who are likely to storm the stage to rip Dylan's clothing from his skinny but aging frame.

The conversation in the crowd was carried on in many languages some of which I could not identify, but Geneva, being more international than Swiss, can supply almost upon demand a few people from every country on the world. French were shrugging their shoulders and saying how long they had waited to see, Dylan. A man next to me explained that Dylan was from his époque - he had seen him on film and had all his records. A family in front of me, Anglo-Americans judging by their accents, were made up of three generations and this was not unusual. Several older people had teenage children or even grandchildren in tow, giving them an opportunity to see and hear a Master.

But we couldn't get in. The queue wasn't moving. The concert was due to start at 8pm, it was now 7.58, and we'd been in the same place give or take a few metres for 40 minutes. The Missus got through and I was asked to wait, eventually being allowed in, and past the bars, staffed with several good looking young women. No drinks allowed inside due to security measures ? I think not.

Then I heard the music. The show had begun and Dylan's unmistakable but definitely older and raspier voice, the band in full flow, sounded good. Through some draped curtains and into the auditorium, and into pitch black. Our tickets had numbered allocated seats, but no one, it seemed could find where they were, and on the band played. We found our section and stepped to our right and occupied two places but stood as everyone else was. Every few moments one of three usherettes with tiny torches got down to ground level to find which row belonged to which anxious ticket holding audience member. Some people were being asked to move. The situation was quite ridiculous by this time. It was now 8.45 and Dylan had been singing almost non stop since 8pm, audience members were still shuffling in the dark back and forth looking for somewhere to stand, usherettes were continuing to move on hands and knees with torches lit looking in vain for row KD seats 41/41 in zone ZG.

This was Swiss organisation in reality. They had a ticket with a seat numbered and, by William Tell, that was where they would sit!

Surrounding me were people who had finally got to see Bob Dylan. Two guys behind me, screamed loudly whenever they discovered the song Dylan had just started was known to them, they then started to sing along, not loudly but often in their own languages, then when the refrain they knew well, from songs like She Belongs To Me, would sing in English, loudly mispronouncing the words. It was wonderful! A couple in front stood after a few numbers and started to boogie. She was overweight and a little unsteady, and maybe had never tried to boogie like that in such confined space, her grey haired spindly husband was doing better, his head was moving, his arms and legs jerkily gyrating, having the time of his life. It was a privilege to be part of this.

Two leather clad, cropped haired and bearded Germans in suits standing in the aisle next to me swigged their beer and clapped each other on the back as they recognised songs from their youth. Not your average middle management bankers, these guys. Spanish speaking women moved into vacant seats in front, stashed their holdalls, and clapped, singing along when they knew the words. I was as much aware of the audience make up as I was of Dylan's presence on stage, shielded by his white stetson, looking mostly downward, growling into his microphone, while playing some mean licking guitar.

And suddenly, it was over. Two hours later after non stop performance the lights were extinguished, and Bob Dylan was gone. The crowd of old timers, clapped, they stamped, the whistles grew as people who had previously forgotten how to whistle with fingers filling their mouths remembered how it was done. The noise grew, some people left, and still Dylan didn't return. More whistles, some frantic shouting, stamping feet found a rhythm. From a festival memory in the distant past sounded a chant, and after what seemed an age the lights went up, and Bob Dylan and his Band gave us an encore. A couple numbers more and again he was gone, and we filed out quickly, into the warm Geneva night, past the peddlars and their t-shirts "cinq francs!".

Swiss organisation. A misnomer if ever there was one. But the aging international fans would forgive that. They had boogied like they hadn't for years. And those old albums would soon be dusted off, and neighbours would complain again...

No comments: