I’m in Park City standing in a line that’s nearly one-third of a mile from the entrance to Deer Valley Resort. I’m in a T-shirt and flip-flops, and I realize that this is pretty poor planning when the rain begins to pour. Before long my friends Jack, Jennie, Errin, Vegor and I are all soaked. The thunder tears in the sky like a giant paper bag shredding and rumbles the ground under our feet. There’s no obvious reason to be standing here.
But I’m going to a Bob Dylan concert.
When the tour dates were announced more than two months ago, I scrimped and saved until I had enough to buy an auctioned ticket (since the tickets were sold out in literally a matter of days) for $170. I felt the dire effects this last week as I went without a couple of class textbooks and roughly a meal a day.
Needless to say, I’m pretty hungry. The line begins to snail forward as our faces keep flashing with lightning from the east, and for a moment I wonder if it’s really hidden paparazzi, scouring the crowd for Dylan.
We climb up the hill as the rain and wind continue to pelt us. My right ear is filled with water as if I just got out of a bathtub. Jack holds Jennie tight inside his wet jacket. Her knuckles are bare white. I’m covered only in a blanket Jennie made, and my toes are nearly numb. We watch people in the crowd take shelter underneath tarps while some open Coors and Coronas. I stand next to Vegor, both our bare feet marked with grass blades, as we watch the stage — waiting for half an hour.
The rain suddenly stops as if it never came. Men pour single file onto the stage and the lights go up. The last man on stage is dressed in black with gold trim along his jeans and wears a white Amish hat. He ascends the keyboard, and with a flourish, the stage erupts with a rock ‘n’ roll arranged beginning riff to “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” Bob Dylan howls into the microphone with a voice that barks like wood: “Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ a-be so good / They’ll stone ya just like they said they would!” People raise their beer cans and cheer.
Hearing Bob Dylan in concert is often a gamble; for a man with a smoking habit and nearly seventy years along, it sure comes through in his voice. He will either sound great or he will sound terrible in concert. It just depends.
Even to ears seasoned by the Dylan catalog, it can be difficult to distinguish the lyrics to “Not Dark Yet” from a Russian rendition of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” I don’t recognize “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” the fifth song, until the band is halfway through. But part of this is due to a complete rearrangement of the music; this song that has helped me through heartbreak and tears is toe-tapping folk rock tonight as some punch the air when Bob sings with a raw voice of that anonymous lover who wasted his precious time. This song won’t be heard the same way ever again. But I’m at a Bob Dylan concert.
The sky is dark and the visceral taste of rain, dirt, and alcohol mingle in the air. The crowd cheers to “Desolation Row,” and many are bouncing their hips to Dylan’s harmonica solos. He plays the keyboard with fingers as wrinkled as ours as we stand in the cold wind, still wet. I wipe my runny nose as rain begins to fall again.
I hear the band play an upbeat opening, and with a start I recognize one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, “Simple Twist of Fate.” Dylan twists his left foot on his toe with the beat as he crouches down to the keyboard and sings. I sing along, but mostly to myself, since how Dylan will sing the next line is completely arbitrary. I can’t get the smile off my face.
Dylan ends with an encore, performing “Like A Rolling Stone,” and it’s time to go home. We make a perilous journey down the now muddy hill. My left sandal gets so stuck that the strap snaps off. The street is filled with water as we peel away from Deer Valley. We all feel a bit dazed. In two days I’ll go back to working and going to classes, completely dry and probably bored, as I fall back into an all-too-familiar daily routine.
But I went to a Bob Dylan concert.