I came across one of his letters called "Je est un autre," which translates into "I is someone else." When I read those words the bells went off. It made perfect sense. I wished someone would have mentioned that to me earlier." (Bob Dylan about Rimbaud:"Chronicles, vol 1")
Bob Dylan’s masks are many, as is his voices, phases & stages. The poetic freedom he found supported by the words of the young French poet Arthur Rimbaud is well known. When we read the Reader’s Companion to World Literature description of Rimbaud, some more bells might go off: “His extreme sensibility to the “deep and eternal wound” inflicted by life, is condensed into sharply drawn images grouped about central metaphors. His elliptical compressions and complex rhythms, his use of words for their tone color, his distortions of common meaning and syntax, his use of free verse — are characteristic techniques deliberately employed to produce the overtones of the vague, mysterious, intuitively sensed, complexities of the life of the mind.” Even the beautiful description comes off as poetry, and the obvious relationship to the young Dylan is easy to see, as to the Dylan of today, still searching for that Masterpiece that he still haven’t painted: “DYLAN: I am interested in all aspects of life. Revelations and realizations. Lucid thought that can be translated into songs, analogies, new information. I am better at it now. Not really written yet anything to make me stop writing. Like, I haven’t come to the place that Rimbaud came to when he decided to stop writing and run guns in Africa. (Playboy, 1978). Let’s just hope that he’ll never come to that place.
Tonight the band seemed a little confused at the start, should they play Watching The River Flow as yesterday or as before, should they stay or should they go, as Dylan at the piano had the longest instrumental intro so far, before they all agreed on the inferior version. Too bad.
After the last refrain of “Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” we can hear Dylan continue: “I don’t care!!” After a bit rusty opening everybody knows their parts from “I Contain Multitudes” on – the parisian audience is as responsive as the first two nights, always eager to listen to Dylan’s voice, words & piano, in order cheering for all three of them through the night. And what a night for the piano it was, surely the best playing of all the shows I’ve seen so far.
The dramatic reading of “Black Rider” was the first highlight of the night – very strong vocal all through, singing up against the encouragement from the deeply concentrated crowd. Speak about drama – tonight’s intense and dark version of “My Own Version of You” was just a plain phenomenal performance from both Bob & The Band, by far the best I’ve seen since the tour started. He takes us down to Armageddon Street, but we’re still following him every step of the way, and it may very well be The Highlight of the evening – loooong applause for this one. But Dylan, The Director of this drama has thought thoroughly through this – after the darkness we need a little sunshine, or at least moonlight, making the hearts melt one more time with “I’ll Be Your Baby Ce Soir”, the audience dancing in their seats. There is darkness, there is shadows & there is light in this show. We’re in a theatre, and this is a drama. Maybe Dylan was a bit inspired after seeing “Girl From The North Country” musical in New York, the one that, according to himself, brought tears to his eyes? Maybe reminding him about his knowledge of the strength of the theatre’s possibilities, like when he saw Brecht at the stage in Greenwich Village in the sixties:
“It was the form, the free verse association, the structure and disregard for the known certainty of melodic patterns to make it seriously matter, give it its cutting edge. It also has the ideal chorus for the lyrics. I wanted to figure out how to manipulate and control this particular structure and form. I could see that the type of songs I was leaning towards singing didn’t exist and I began playing with the form, trying to grasp it — trying to make a song that transcended the information in it, the character and plot.” (Bob Dylan, Chronicles I)
And about Pirate Jenny, one of the inspiring songs:
“Each phrase comes at you from a 10-foot drop, scuttles across the road and then another comes like a punch on the chin. This piece left you flat on your back and it demanded to be taken seriously. It lingered.”
That’s exactly the kind of songs Rough And Rowdy Ways are made of, and that’s some of the magic the audience are witnessing when autumn leaves start to fall in 2022. This is songs that demands to be taken seriously. This ain’t your everyday rock’n roll show, this isn’t light entertainment. This is drama.
Like in “Crossing The Rubicon”, another majestic performance this night, the audience cheering after each verse. It’s hot in here, and when Dylan in “Key West” sings the line “It’s hot down here, you can’t be overdressed”, the working man has already taken off his jacket, showing us his purple shirt in full this night. He steps out from behind the piano and into the arena may times, always dead serious, still pleasing the cheering audience with small movements of his hands.
As usual the show ends with a beautiful “Every Grain of Sand”, always the perfect closer and summary of it all, tonight even topped with a raw and beautiful harmonica solo at the end. Wow! What more could we ask for?
The Dylan train is now moving on, just like the “Rail Car” he made for Château La Coste this year. If you look closely, it is made of the same elements as Dylan’s songs, the unlikely elements woven and welded together in surprising ways, making it look like something out a fairy tale with its “Once upon a time…….”
Bob Dylan – King of Paris for three nights, still at the heels of Rimbaud!
4 thoughts on ““Je est un autre.” – Bob Dylan at Grand Rex, Paris, 13th of October, 2022”
Three interesting articles! Thank you very much.
Thank you, Johnny, for another masterpiece. My dream is about you been invited to meet with mr Dylan. I can see you pick up some notes and ask some questions at the start of an inerview. But it would unfold like a conversation and soon your notes will be in your pocket and the two of you on the same wavelenght elaborating deeper and deeper. What a story it would be to read or interview to listen to. I hope you will get an invitation. I know you would be prepared.
I’m going to Bob Dylan’s 2nd concert in Amsterdam next monday. I am 61 years old and am going with my 27-year-old son. I know Dylan mainly from the mid-70s to mid-80s, so I was very curious about the concert. My son is a huge Aznavour fan and doesn’t know Dylan very well. We are both now “listening in” to the CD Rough and Rowdy Ways and after the reviews of Paris we are very curious and I am in any case very much looking forward to the concert by the now old master and myth Bob Dylan. Thanks for your very interesting articles.
Well Johnny, you got a taste of Rimbaud too, thanks for the images of all these concerts in colourful words