Monday, March 2, 1998

Disturber of the Peace

Just as my faith recently has been a bit shaken, I came to an agreement with my recently discovered and much appreciated spiritually enlightening soon to be Mexico bound seniorita. Together we decided I am not a psychopath the definition of which says one must be "aggressively anti-social." We agreed I was, at best, "assertively anti-social." Whew.

Which brings me to my saddest moment in Cheapo history when one of our favorite former employees admitted to me that she wondered why happiness was such a prevalent feeling in our society since it was a feeling that "she'd never felt."

It was a revelation I have thought about a lot since. And this past Wednesday as I watched the Grammy telecast it was yet another example of how sad I feel when I think about why she made that statement because I ultimately just can not relate. Not that I am one given to hyperbole but wasn't it one of the greatest moments in recorded television history? What up to that moment had been a rather standard television awards show (save for Vanessa Williams nearly being killed by a moving stage prop and the impromptu speech from the rapper from Wu Tang that upstaged Shawn Colvin's acceptance speech) came to life with Bob Dylan's performance of Love Sick.

My favorite CD at the moment is one (Tailgates and Substitutes) containing the first live performance of a Time Out of Mind song which happened last October 1 at the Bournemouth International Centre, with a great version of Love Sick. It's an exciting moment with the strumming of the opening chords when the crowd recognizes what is coming and there is actually a squeal of delight from someone. Dylan's performance at the Grammy's was equally impressive. Bathed in a stream of white light, Dylan and his band stood in front of a group of bohemian dancers dressed in black swaying with the music. It was a scene straight out of Shindig and was much fun in the midst of a typically staid Grammy's show.

The searing performance became even more surreal when one of the dancers pranced forward sans a shirt with the words "soy bomb" painted on his chest. Leaving the hip boppers behind this individual soy boy spastically did an interpretive dance next to Dylan who merely glanced at him and coolly continued singing without batting an eye. Bob sang with great passion, "I'm sick of love, I'm love sick..." (only Bob could snarl such lyrics so convincingly at a national audience) and it was such a spellbinding moment that I even managed to crack a smile, ear to ear. Dylan again proved what a great live performer he is as he leaned into his guitar solo knees slightly bent, pointing his guitar toward the audience, tommy gun style. As the dancer was escorted from the stage Bob glanced at his bassist Tony Garnier who shrugged and smiled. A scan of the audience was equally bizarre showing a joyful Patti Smith whooping it up behind Tara Lipinski as Celine Dion pulled up her dress.

The crowd gave Dylan a standing ovation seemingly more out of a sense of obligation than actual appreciation. Later as he accepted the award for album of the year he seemed truly proud of his honor. Rather than give an unconventional acceptance speech (which has been his history) he gave a gracious and somewhat standard acknowledgment of those that helped him be so appropriately recognized. And he topped it off by telling of the time he saw Buddy Holly perform in Duluth and how Buddy had somehow been with him during the recording of Time Out of Mind.

In 1991 at his last appearance at the Grammy's Dylan gave a stumbling performance in his acceptance of a lifetime achievement award. Coming in the days following the opening of Desert Storm, he chose to sing his most bitter antiwar song, Masters of War in a version where all the words were slurred into one. His coinciding speech was brief and typically cryptic: "My father didn't leave me much... he did say 'son it's possible to become so defiled in this world that even your own mother and father will abandon you. But God will always believe in your own ability to mend your own ways.' Thank you..." Compared to that this time around Dylan's speech was almost normal. In fact right after he left the stage my phone rang. As my heart stopped I wondered who was calling me and it turned out to be the fourth least likely person who would call me. This person, who is hardly a Dylan fan admitted he was impressed by the performance. That he knew I would be excited and cared enough to call meant quite a bit to me.

There are those rare instances in life that truly make you appreciate all that is to be treasured and remembered. I thank Mr. Bob et al for last Wednesday night which provided one of them increasingly hard to find happy moments.

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