“Flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark” – Bob Dylan, Blackpool, 23rd of November 2013

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It’s morning in Blackpool, and in a neurotic seizure of self-justice, it occurs to me that I might in yesterday’s notes have judged the city too hard, after only having seen it in the dark the night before. After breakfast I therefore leave The Big Blue Hotel located at the end of a spectacular roller coaster that seems to wrap up “half of the town “, which plausible reminds us of life’s ups and downs. So far, so good. I cross the street towards the before mentioned “Pleasure Beach” , and spides an absolutely huge boardwalk, walled in stone, like the ancient Egyptians would have done it, and in a way that makes similar installations in both Nice and Cannes to appear rather tiny. Outside, the big blue sea, which is not faithless, because it has nothing promised, as an Norwegian author put it. “However, when I look down the boardwalk and into the city , there is a skyline and a story where the sum unequivocally suggests that the city’s motto is: ” Give us your money!” Alternatively with the addition: “It is easier and safer if you just leave them at the gate and turns.” Blackpool Tower rises 158 meters above sea level, and is essentially a replica of the Eiffel Tower, but today with a light showing that the inspiration from Las Vegas probably is as strong . “Central Pier” is like an erected extension of the city’s craving for money, sticking out into the sea with Family Bar and amusement activities, casinos and houses one-dimensional bandits some with one and other with two arms. “Slots of fun”. The series of shops and hotels in the front is of priceless interest and almost unreal quality, about seventy percent of them offer fish and chips. I pass a sign with the simple and clear message: “Upstairs Full Service Dinner”, and I’m thinking that I could not imagine going in there without a police escort – “upstairs” stares down at me with empty windows. Behind the sign “Superior Modern Holiday Flats” it’s a wrinkled house with bad knees, apparently on the point of kneeling under its own weight – I literally see the naive time-share customers arrive with red cheeks, full suitcases and good humor. Poor bastards ! “Hotel Camelot” is trying to charm they who pass with yellowed advertising images from the 70s – it surprises me , after studying the pictures , that they do not have a specific recommendation for the color blind, visually impaired and/or particularly strong-nerved customers. A little further up the street we can see the little store called “Booze & News” where it reminds us of an eternal unbeatable combination. The city also has its own B-edition of Madame Tussaudes, with, for me, unknown glamor models ( presumably ) and partly unknown actors (presumably) in the massive artwork on the walls .

I move a little from the main street and I see houses with “Rooms £ 15 a night” and realize quickly that I, even without allergies, would not gotten myself into it without medication, safety shoes and wetsuit . Upgraded Charles Dickens-like characters wanders the streets, I sneak past the evil twin of Uriah Heep , meet beggars with far fewer bones in the body than normal, scary Quasimodo-like characters jumps out of the alley, wearing home-knitted hats and mitts. “Another angry beggar are blowing you a kiss .” I end up in a store where the proprietor constantly looks hateful towards me with one eye, while the other looks lustful towards an unmentionable magazine under the counter. I’m going back to my hotel, eagerly observing what is likely to be the most vulgar Christmas street decoration after the flood of sin, and any connection with the Christmas message must be long time considered lost. The term gaudy appears to be to weak, and I’m looking for what lies beyond gaudy. Next to that word in the dictionary, it could have been a photo of Blackpool. “All human forms seem glorified . ” That’s it.
Blackpool – The Black Pool – it’s really a Svinesund (a little Swedish border town) on steroids, an Atlantic City in miniature ” for beginners”, a small “boardwalk empire” of today , the perfect metaphor for modernity’s scourge and our civilizations large challenges. As taken from a song by you know who. I will see him in concert tonight . He who wrote :

” Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human freight aim for their mark
Make everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh – colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred . ”
*******************************************
A few hours later we cluster together outside the Winter Gardens Opera House again, and this time I find the stairs to the gallery with a perfect view of the small stage , and I shall gradually experience, even with perfect sound.

Stu buzzing around with the guitar tonight and share it completely in half, but this is the evening’s only mistake. Dylan has replaced the white shirt with black, and already from the first lines I realize that this could be a big night : “A worried man with a worried mind / Nothing in front of me , nothing behind” . Where the voice was husky yesterday , the vocals are now perfect and Dylan makes the song true: “I’m not that eager to make a mistake .” He makes no mistakes tonight. The vocals , harmonica , piano – it’s all just right. There are many magical moments at Dylan concerts, sometimes they are there for one song, sometimes several, but this is a full magical concert. The presence is total and the voice strong and powerful where it should be, but tender and Augustinian confessional where it should be, as in “What Good Am I”, fearsome and tough where it should be, as in “Pay In Blood”, where he eventually boldly quote Mark Antony from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”: ” I came to bury , not to praise.” Relentlessly, with no mercy. You can look at Dylan’s left foot when he is in his best mood, that’s when he makes repeated attempts to spin it around its own axis. It happens several times this night. The first set ends with a powerful “Love Sick ” where Dylan once again takes little dance steps, as if to emphasize the existential movement in the song and in the hourglass of time.

During the break we discussed the indisputable rise from the night before, and we are all excited for the sequel – will it continue as good as this?

We need not to have worried, he picks up where he left off. “Simple Twist of Fate” is if possible even better tonight than yesterday, and he just rocks on “Early Roman Kings” like his life depended on it, with dramatic piano and thundering vocals : “I’m not dead yet/My bell still rings “, he almost shouted, triumphant. He is at times more wide-legged than the piano itself, and for a while I worried about him coming up again from near-splits, but his thin legs does the job tonight as well.

” Forgetful Heart
Lost your power of recall
Every little detail
You do remember that all
The hour we knew
Who would remember better than you ? ”

At any concert, also a Dylan concert , there will be different kinds in the audience, from those who can’t get their eyes of the artist to those who looks at this as a nice evening out, a ” happening”, where trips to the bar, the great atmosphere and the chat with your neighbor is as important ingredients that the music. It just does, and that’s okay, if you’re not disturbing. But when Dylan sings ” Forgetful Heart” tonight, it’s as if the audience holds its collective breath through the whole song – just like the audience is one organism that Dylan holds in the palm of his hand, both with the song and with the inimitable harmonica. We breathe out during “Spirit On The Water”, and the ladies in the row in front of me , are dancing gently in the chairs . “You think I’m over the hill ,” sings Bob , while the audience shouts “Nooooo!” “You think I’m past my prime”, sings Bob, and the crowd yells Nooooooo! Again . “Let me see what you got/We can have a whoppin’ good time .” Then he has made us all soft and receptive, before he puts in for the kill with the three of his newest songs.

When the hypnotic and suggestive groove of “Scarlet Town ” starts, it strikes me that it flows a clear vein of eastern inspiration through the song – this is music that got snakes tamed, and tonight it’s almost so one can see the twitching in the coiled microphone cord when Dylan virtuoso lead us through the mystical fable about the place he was born. And he seduces us with “Soon After Midnight”, where he get us to agree to accept murder, let alone dragging the corpse through the mud, when it’s for love. He conquers the audience for the new songs, night after night, and most people forget to ask for more than what is actually delivered. He’s like a grill chef, one musical Barbecue Bob, who has chosen the best pieces of the tenderloin to just us, and he serves them , hot and perfectly seasoned, straight from the oven. And we just eat.

“I wear dark glasses two cover my eyes/There are secrets in them that I can not disguise/Come back baby, if I hurt your feelings, I apologize.” When Dylan ends the main set with “Long And Wasted Years”, you can hear how much he loves the word, and the words, and his ability to be phrasing them – eyes , disguise , apologize – you see that it tastes good to him and that he’s thrilled to deliver them, night after night , presenting them as a higher unity between content and form, between music and rhythm, between poetry and meaning. Never more than tonight. A perfect ending to a near perfect concert – extra numbers included. One of the best concerts I ‘ve seen this fall. One of the best concerts I ‘ve seen with Dylan ever. There are those nights I hunt. Thank you, Bob! This can be hard to top .

Johnny Borgan

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