Four years and 450-plus live performances ago, Bob Dylan stood squinting in front of millions of TV viewers to accept one of the music world’s most coveted honors.
“We didn’t know what we had when we did it,” Dylan said as he received the award, “but we did it anyway.”
The prize was for Best Album of the Year – the third Grammy Time Out of Mind had garnered that evening. The album is dark and spooky; the lyrics are dangerously straightforward and reflective, plainly spoken, as opposed to Dylan-esque.
In 2000, Dylan wrote and recorded “Things Have Changed,” a driving apocalyptic rant that mirrored the style he had showcased on his previous album. The single, featured in the film Wonder Boys, earned Dylan both an Academy Award and Golden Globe. Several weeks ago, Dylan was once again nominated for the Best Album Grammy for Love and Theft. The album will also be in the running for two other Grammy awards: Best Contemporary Folk Album and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance (for the track “Honest with Me”).
Unlike its lauded, moody predecessor, Dylan’s latest masterpiece is an amalgam of styles that runs the gamut of Americana traditions, jumping from jazz and swing, to Delta blues, 1940s Bing Crosby-esque crooning and hard-driving rockabilly. With lines such as “My sense in humanity has gone down the drain” and “Behind every beautiful thing there has been some kind of pain,” Time Out of Mind showed Dylan to be completely disenchanted with the world around him. On his latest release, rock’s most celebrated scribe has learned to chuckle at some of life’s cruelest realities. Lyrics such as, “I’m driving through the flats in my Cadillac car / Girls all say, ‘You’re a worn-out star,'” roll off his tongue with such great ease you can almost hear him grinning as he emotes such lines.
Needless to say, since facing a near deadly career slump in the mid-1990s and a life-threatening heart ailment in 1997, Dylan has re-emerged as one of today’s most vital recording artists. Whether touring with his ace band or in the studio recording platinum and gold-selling albums that are drastically different from the records with which he has built his reputation, Dylan continues to buck current trends and triumph on his own terms. No major songwriter from the 1960s – Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney or Pete Townsend – has come close to matching their previous work the way Dylan has. No artist other than Dylan, who mixes traditional folk, country and blues tunes with reworkings of a classic such as “Blowin’ In the Wind” and cuts from his latest album still approaches the stage like a true, unflinching artist, willing to take risks to keep himself and his admirers interested. If you want to hear a greatest hits album played live, note for note, the way it was recorded 20 years ago, shell out $100 the next time The Eagles do a reunion tour. If you want to witness one of the most important recording artists of all time, a man whose music is as relevant today as it was during the Vietnam War, tuck your Gasparilla beads away, get over to the Ice Palace Saturday night and witness Bob Dylan for yourself.
- Bob Dylan and His Band will performSaturday at The Ice Palace at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.75 and $41.25. For more info call (813) 301-2500.