Tambourine man keeps it simple

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By Sarah Baylus

By Sarah Baylus

Nothing, save the hand of the man himself, could have kept me from seeing Bob Dylan in concert on Oct. 20. Not even getting lost in Los Angeles’ dubious Jewelry district for three hours prior.

Not the city’s serpentine bus system that brought my suburban self to Sixth and Olive rather than my buddy’s dorm at UCLA.

Not even the labor union protestors waving finely printed picket signs outside the concert’s venue at The Forum in Inglewood. This was a concert for the ages; a concert for which I would gather the children ’round and describe in mystic detail.

And just like the times a broken heart lead to exhaustive repetition of “Don’t think twice, it’s alright” in my headphones, Dylan didn’t let me down.

It’s no surprise that with the recent release of his 50th album, “Modern Times,” earlier this year, Dylan became the oldest living chart topper at age 65. The album’s combination of the traditional folk style and Dylan’s signature country/rock style proved that age ain’t nothing but a number and may well progress a musician’s style rather than antiquate it.

This was indeed the case at The Forum, where he and his band rocked out like a quintet of hipster musicians at a 1960s café. To my surprise (and mild indignation), Dylan sat himself behind a keyboard rather than his signature acoustic guitar and stayed there through the entirety of the show.

“Give him a break, the guy’s probably got arthritis,” my friend suggests.

Fair enough.

The stage was set simply, without the flashing lights and theatrics of many modern bands, including the show’s opening act, Kings of Leon. These relative newcomers to the face of popular rock gave an opening worth a modest dose of head-banging as one of the few modern acts I’ve seen pay homage to the soul of rock n’ roll.

When Dylan’s band erupted with “Maggie’s Farm,” the epic from 1965’s “Bringing it all back home,” it was like being absolved of all life’s prior trespasses. The set list progressed through a combination of old classics and more recent recordings, including “When the Deal Goes Down,” “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and “John Brown.”

The evening climaxed during the encore, with the intro to “Like a Rolling Stone,” recently named the number one song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.

With hundreds of fans singing along with the legend on stage, and a well-designed light arrangements plunging the darkened stadium into complete brightness during each chorus, I felt like I had gone to classic rocker’s heaven.

“I can’t believe I just heard Bob Dylan play that song,” Brian Gate, a Simi Valley resident and long-time Dylan pilgrim said.

Indeed, I left the venue feeling utterly fulfilled. There’s really no other way to feel after you’ve sang along with one of the most historically and musically impacting pop culture figures of the 20th century.

Let’s hope Dylan beats his own record and releases more tour-inducing albums to become the oldest living chart-topper at ages 70, 75 and 80, too.

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