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June 16, 1981 - Image 6

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1981-06-16

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4,

Arts
Tuesday, June 16, 1981

The Michigan Daily

Page 6

Dylan shirks preconceptions-and
talents-at Pine Knob concert

By KEN FELDMAN This is my roundabout way of letting
Daily Arts Writer you know that the Bob Dylan who per-
One old line on Bob Dylan was that he formed at Pine Knob on Friday night is
defied classification or criticism not exactly at his creative peak. In fact,
because he had a history of chameleon- he seems for the first time a played-out
like changes-that made him impossible man, one step away from Vegasy
to pin down. Second guessing him was irrelevance.
said to be useless since he would in- What he dished out was lukewarm,
variably shatter your expectations with uninspired ' gospel and wimpy
each new release. This is as true now as trivializations of his classics. It was a
it ever was, and given Dylan's present night of disgust, pity, and finally utter
curious incarnation, it is a thought well boredom. Not only were the songs
worth remembering. seeminglv arraned t oexhihit ro

mortic, but the musicians were faceless
cliche-mongers, the kind of people who
give hacks a bad name.
VISUALLY, the show was about as
engaging as a television test pattern.
Dylan brought along the by-now stan-
dard array of black female backup
singers, this time in ridiculous sequin
hats. The bassist looked like he hasseen
the Woodstock movie fourteen times;
his fake enthusiasm made me long for
the artistic integrity of John Davidson.
In short, the operative word was show
biz, and self-conscious show biz at that.
Self-conscious because Dylan seemed
totally ill at ease with what was going
on. He never seemed one for stage
maneuvers or showmanship and to say
that his attempts seemed forced would
constitute monumental under-
statement.
The concert was interesting on a
sociological level, though. The audience
seemed even less at ease than Dylan.
Though they greeted his more recent
"born-again" material with polite ap-
plause, their reactions to his seminal
material (still great songs, however
poorly played) made it clear that most
of them recognize his "born-again"
stuff for the phony product that it is.
While there was the usual knee-jerk re-
action to certain trappings (when he
first played the mouth harp the crowd
went nuts), such exhibitions of
nostalgia will probably become less
frequent if Dylan's present musical
trends continue.
Although Dylan's conversion to
Christianity shocked and disoriented
many of his fans, myself included, his
born-again status was never really the
issue. The fact is that both musically
and lyrically Dylan's imagination is
failing him. It's not just that his newer
songs seem like they were written for
Billy Graham, it's also that they would
be bad even in that context.
AND THE CHANGE was not really
as sudden as it seemed. In reality, the

Bob Dylan-
crapola index has been rising steadily
since 1975 and his watershed record,
Blood on the Tracks. Desire and the
single "Hurricane" were major disap-
pointments. With Street Legal and a
three-record live set, his artistic plunge
continued. So when his "spiritual
awakening" was announced, complete
with rumors that he had been baptized
in Pat Boone's swimming pool, it was
slightly unnerving, but it was also fun-
ny because Dylan's stock had been
dropping anyway.
If you want to hear Bob Dylan when
he believed in what he was doing, check
out Blood on the Tracks or the amazing
Blonde on Blonde. At least for now,
forget the present Dylan. While he may
believe in his new religion and music
with his heart, he doesn't believe in it
with his imagination. Consequently,
few people will care what Dylan's con-
victions are, religious or otherwise.

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