Concert Review: Bob Dylan, San Diego, June 18, 2022

Bob Dylan, being my preeminent favorite music artist, I have obviously seen him in concert many times over the years. He has a 60-year career already, getting close to Queen Elizabeth reign duration numbers, which by itself is amazing. How many artists today can say that? Yesterday, my wife gave me a Father’s Day present and took me to the Bob Dylan concert at the Civic Center in San Diego.

If you had told me when I was 15 as a schoolboy in Germany, when I bought my first harmonica and practiced playing Blowing in the Wind in the city park, that I’d be going to a concert to see that artist when he was 81 years old, I certainly would not have believed it.

The San Diego Civic Center is a beautiful venue for concerts, symphonic events, with great acoustics and a capacity of about 3,000 seats. When we first arrived, they scanned our tickets off our smartphones as it is done nowadays. But then they took our smartphones away and locked them into pouches we could not open. Before they did that, they had to write our seat numbers onto little slips of paper. Kind of beats the paperless ticket process and creates a bunch of jobs for the people who have to handle the crowds. Then as we entered the venue, we were without phones. I usually sit there and read my book while I wait for an event to start. With no phone, I didn’t know what time it was, I couldn’t read, and I could not take the customary snapshot of the stage that I would then post along with these words. But none of that has to do with Bob Dylan.

The crowd was mostly old. Lots of folks in their 60ies, 70ies and 80ies. Some young people, some children, but I am sure the average was in the 60ies. Lots of pony tails and tie die shirts. Dylan has a lot of dedicated fans, and he can pretty much do what he wants and get away with it.

My first Bob Dylan concert ever was in 1978,  when I was 22, in the stadium at Arizona State University with 60,000 of my best friends. The last one was at the San Diego Sports Arena maybe five years ago. It was bad. Dylan’s voice was completely shot. He only played the keyboard. The sound was terribly distorted in the arena and too loud. I remember walking out of the concert thinking that, well, that was Bob Dylan. I don’t have to go to his concerts anymore.

But then I went again yesterday at a much different venue. There were just six guys on the stage and played a bunch of songs I had never heard. Of course, that is because I had not bought or listened to his latest album Rough and Rowdy Ways. That’s what the concert was about, and if I did it again, I’d listen to this album a few times before going to the concert. My mistake.

Except for a single song, which Dylan sang out in the open, he was mostly hidden behind an upright piano for the entire concert, so we only saw his head. He hardly plays plays the guitar anymore. Between songs, he would step out for a few seconds to be seen by the audience. He never greeted us, never said a word, except at the very end when he introduced the band by their names. But that’s how Bob Dylan does concerts, and we’re used to it.

I recognized very few songs. Either it was obscure material, or new material. A few songs I recognized by the lyrics, like When I Paint my Masterpiece, but not the music. But Dylan sang, with his broken voice, and it was mostly melodic, with good projection, not too loud. He would whisper into the microphone and we understood the words, for the most part. It was a good concert with wonderful music, performed by a legend.

But I missed Bob Dylan. There was not a single one of his hits. Blowing in the Wind would have fit perfectly into this playbook. I could have have used It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding, or of course the iconic Like a Rolling Stone to top it all off. That didn’t happen. Worse – in what seemed like the middle of the concert, when the audience got fired up and gave him a standing ovation for the previous song, the stage suddenly went dark, they walked off, and didn’t come back. He houselights went on and that was the end. No encore whatsoever. I didn’t even realize I was listening to the very last song. And then he was gone. No final bow. No final howling hymn. No Bob Dylan anywhere to be seen.

I didn’t know how to feel. I liked the concert. I liked the music. I liked the new, melodic Dylan. But in the end, I was let down. The concert ended like a popped birthday balloon and next thing I knew I was in the parking lot.


Willie Nelson in 1965

I had never seen images of Willie Nelson as a young man before. All I could ever remember is braids and a beard. Here is an early video.

I have to close my eyes when he sings and I get the familiar image of him in jeans and braids.

Movie Review: The Sapphires (2012)

In 1968, at the height of the Vietnam war, there is turmoil all over the world. The American military in in Vietnam, in search of morale boosters for the men, is looking for performance acts to tour the country and play music for the troops.

In Australia, Aboriginals had just secured the right to vote. We in America are focused on American injustice through the centuries, particularly in the genocidal crimes against Native Americans, and then, of course, on slavery and racial injustice that reaches into today. But most of us do not know or realize the suppression, humiliation and subjugation other indigenous peoples have suffered and are still suffering. And that brings us to the injustices against the Australian Aboriginals, one of the oldest cultures in the world.

The Sapphires introduces us to an Aboriginal Family in Australia in modern times – well, in 1968. “Coloreds” are not taken seriously. But there are four sisters, Cynthia, Gail, Julie and Kay, who love to sing, and through a coincidence, are discovered by Dave, a hapless musician and talent scout. He takes them under his somewhat less than impressive wing and signs them up to travel to Vietnam to sing for the American soldiers.

While it was not obvious to the girls what they were getting into, a trip to the bush in Vietnam was nothing like a normal music tour. Events take on their own life when bullets fly and bombs hit all around you without warning.

This movie is based on a true story. It celebrates the human spirit, family bonds, and music, and it portrays the lives of modern Aboriginals in Australia.

Ukelele Virtuoso Hawai’ian Taimane Gardner

Can you imagine a rendition of Stairway to Heaven played on a Ukelele?

I am sure you can’t. Neither could I.

Listen to Taimane Gardner and you’ll never look at your ukelele the same way again.


Der Mond ist Aufgegangen

Text from Musen Almanach (1779)[1] English translation by Margarete Münsterberg[5]

Der Mond ist aufgegangen
Die goldnen Sternlein prangen
Am Himmel hell und klar:
Der Wald steht schwarz und schweiget,
Und aus den Wiesen steiget
Der weiße Nebel wunderbar.

Wie ist die Welt so stille,
Und in der Dämmrung Hülle
So traulich und so hold!
Als eine stille Kammer,
Wo ihr des Tages Jammer
Verschlafen und vergessen sollt.

Seht ihr den Mond dort stehen?
Er ist nur halb zu sehen,
Und ist doch rund und schön.
So sind wohl manche Sachen,
Die wir getrost belachen,
Weil unsre Augen sie nicht sehn.

Wir stolze Menschenkinder
Sind eitel arme Sünder,
Und wissen gar nicht viel;
Wir spinnen Luftgespinste,
Und suchen viele Künste,
Und kommen weiter von dem Ziel.

Gott, laß uns dein Heil schauen,
Auf nichts vergänglichs trauen,
Nicht Eitelkeit uns freun!
Laß uns einfältig werden,
Und vor dir hier auf Erden
Wie Kinder fromm und fröhlich sein!

Wollst endlich sonder Grämen
Aus dieser Welt uns nehmen
Durch einen sanften Tod,
Und wenn du uns genommen,
Laß uns in Himmel kommen,
Du lieber treuer frommer Gott!

So legt euch denn, ihr Brüder,
In Gottes Namen nieder!
Kalt ist der Abendhauch.
Verschon’ uns Gott mit Strafen,
Und laß uns ruhig schlafen,
Und unsern kranken Nachbar auch!

The moon is risen, beaming,
The golden stars are gleaming
So brightly in the skies;
The hushed, black woods are dreaming,
The mists, like phantoms seeming,
From meadows magically rise.

How still the world reposes,
While twilight round it closes,
So peaceful and so fair!
A quiet room for sleeping,
Into oblivion steeping
The day’s distress and sober care.

Look at the moon so lonely!
One half is shining only,
Yet she is round and bright;
Thus oft we laugh unknowing
At things that are not showing,
That still are hidden from our sight.

We, with our proud endeavour,
Are poor vain sinners ever,
There’s little that we know.
Frail cobwebs we are spinning,
Our goal we are not winning,
But straying farther as we go.

God, make us see Thy glory,
Distrust things transitory,
Delight in nothing vain!
Lord, here on earth stand by us,
To make us glad and pious,
And artless children once again!

Grant that, without much grieving,
This world we may be leaving
In gentle death at last.
And then do not forsake us,
But into heaven take us,
Lord God, oh, hold us fast!

Lie down, my friends, reposing,
Your eyes in God’s name closing.
How cold the night-wind blew!
Oh God, Thine anger keeping,
Now grant us peaceful sleeping,
And our sick neighbour too.

Source: Lyrics from Wikipedia.

It is very difficult to translate poetry, requiring absolute command of BOTH languages and all their nuances. I have tried it before and my attempts have always been mediocre at best. Here is another poem expertly translated, Der Panther, which I posted in 2014. I very much admire Margarete Münsterberg’s translation shown here. It’s not just a translation, it’s definitely a poem in its own right.

Jerry Jeff Walker – RIP

I listened to Jerry Jeff Walker’s music a lot in the 1970ies. Nice road trip music. Ridin’ High was one of my favorites. Brings back memories of living in Arizona in 1978. He was a legend, and I will miss him.

I Remember Everything – by John Prine

Here is John Prine’s very last recording. He died on April 7, 2020 from Covid-19.

I miss him. We play his music a lot at our house, now more than ever.

Here in another one – Hello In There! which I posted in 2017 over three years ago.

John Prine in Critical Condition due to COVID-19

John Prine is one of my favorite singers and songwriters.

He is 72, and a lung cancer survivor. I so hope he makes it through!

Hello in There – it’s so very appropriate right now:

After posting this, I found Joan Baez sending well wishes to John Prine, using the same song:

That he not Busy Being Born is Busy Dying – Bob Dylan

There are two sections in Dylan’s It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) that ring true over 50 years after they have been penned:

From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying


But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked


Enjoy a listen and read along with the lyrics below.


Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying

As pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying

Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you’d just be one more
Person crying

So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Except hatred

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods 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

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you’ve got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it

Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your eyes is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to

For them that must bow down to authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something they invest in

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone living in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To tell fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed
Graveyards, false goals (gods), I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough, what else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only”

Movie Review: Rocketman

I usually don’t like musicals. When the actors in the beginning of Rocketman all of a sudden stopped talking and started singing, it had me pause. But Rocketman is a biopic about Elton John, who is one of the great singers and songwriters of pop music history. A little musical extravaganza with actors singing and dancing to make their point provides just the right mood.

Elton John burst onto the music scene in 1969 and his career exploded in the early 1970ies. In those years he was the best-selling musician in the world, rivaled only by Stevie Wonder.

Rocketman tells the story Elton John’s life, his childhood dominated by inept and emotionally abusive parents, and the discovery of his talent of being able to listen to a melody and instantly playing it back on the piano. When he crossed paths with Bernie Taupin, who would become a lifetime friend, their collaboration made creative sparks fly and changed pop music history. Most singer and songwriters write their music and then compose lyrics to fit them. Elton and Bernie worked the other way around. Bernie wrote poetry, gave the lyrics to Elton, who pondered the words, built the music around it, and sang it with his characteristic voice. The outcome was true pop music magic.

I was just entering my teenage years, and I remember clearly New Year’s Eve 1973 when I was with my friends, we were awaiting the New Year while with were playing cards, and Crocodile Rock was playing in the background. In the years that followed, Elton John and his music had a huge influence on me and my coming of age.

I remember as an 18-year-old, lying on the carpet next to the stereo with the headphones on listening to the Madman Across the Water and Captain Fantastic albums.

Rocketman brought back all of those memories and feelings.

What I didn’t know was how bad Elton John’s substance abuse was at that time, how destructive it was for all those around him, and how much he suffered from it. This movie, which celebrates his life and musical genius, also serves as one “hell of a warning” to everyone about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

The actor Taron Egerton, portraying Elton, sings all his own songs in Rocketman. I was skeptical about this approach before I went to see the movie. After all, how do you imitate the voice of a legend who is a legend partly because of his voice? It seemed impossible, but it worked. Elton John’s music powers through the movie and keeps a relentless pace. For those of us that grew up with that music it is a joy to watch. I don’t know if it has the same impact on the younger generation.



Movie Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody is a biopic of Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), the iconic lead singer of the British rock band Queen. It starts with the early life of Freddie, whose birth name was Farrokh Bulsara, was born in Zanzibar, and grew up there and in India before moving to England with this family.

He is widely regarded as one of the best singers in rock history with a vocal range of four octaves. Freddie broke through stereotypes and conquered convention when he lead the band Queen through a meteoric rise in the 1980s.

Freddie’s lifestyle almost ruined the band. They reunited just before the Live Aid concert in 1985. Their performance at that concert is widely regarded as the greatest rock performance of all time.

The movie was criticized for flattening out the Freddie Mercury character, but I don’t know how you could give it any more depth in a movie. Yes, to the music critics and people studying the persona of the famed singer, no movie can ever do it justice.

But for the average person, like me, who really wasn’t that into any specific band, Bohemian Rhapsody has prompted me to study up on Queen, read more about Freddie, and relive some of those iconic moments in rock history.

Rami Malek did an amazing job playing Freddie. He warned the producers that he is not a singer. The soundtrack is original Queen, and the voice of Freddie. The New York Times also reported that Rami’s voice is mixed in with Marc Matel, a Canadian singer who is known as one of the best Freddie soundalikes.

I was rocking, I was reminiscing, and I was thoroughly enjoying the Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s a killer soundtrack.


An Evening with The Eagles

Last night, from 5:00 to 11:30, we spent at Petco Park downtown San Diego with what I estimate were 40,000 of our best friends at a triple header concert, headlining The Eagles.

Here you see The Woman in front of the poster. The stadium was packed. It seats 42,445 people for ballgames, but for the concert configuration there were some sections empty behind the stage, but then there were thousands of people on “the field” in front of the stage. Those tickets went for over $1,000 each, and I am not going to tell you what ours cost.

It started out with the Doobie Brothers, a staple band whose songs transported me back to my senior year in high school. I found myself reminiscing about sitting in the yellow school bus rolling through snowy Lakewood, New York, with

Old black water, keep on rolling
Mississippi moon, won’t you keep on shining on me?

playing on the speakers.

After the 90 minute set of the Doobie Brothers, they brought on the Zac Brown Band. While everyone around me cheered and sang along, I must admit that somehow Zac Brown had not been a name or band that I had ever consciously heard before. I am not much of a country music listener. They played a high energy set of rock and country, with an amazing rendition of the Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, something I had never heard before in a live concert. I concluded I need to listen to more Zac Brown. They also promoted one of the charities they sponsor, the Camp Southern Ground:

Camp Southern Ground is located on over 400 acres in Fayetteville, GA and will serve children ages 7-17, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, races and religions, with activities to challenge, educate and inspire campers. As an inclusive camp, Camp Southern Ground will bring together typically developing children, children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, learning and attention issues, social or emotional challenges, and those with family members serving in the military.

Then, by 9:00pm, The Eagles finally came on and played for a solid two and a half hours.

One of the founders, Glenn Frey, died in January 2016 of complications from rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 67. To our surprise, his 24-year-old son Deacon Frey, has taken his father’s place and played front and center all night. Here is a picture of him shot in zoom with my iPhone off the big screen. How amazing it must be for him to play on the main stage with his father’s friends from the Seventies!

The Eagles played many of their staples, but also some songs or renditions I had never heard before. But it really kicked in with the encore, when they thundered out a powerful version of Hotel California.

The picture above is the best shot I could get zooming into both screens showing Joe Walsh and Don Henley, having the time of their lives, passionately pounding out Hotel California, one of the most iconic songs in rock history, right up there with Like a Rolling Stone by Dylan.

Walsh and Henley, both 71 years old, obviously had a great time performing in this concert and made 40,000 people rock and reminisce. It is amazing to think that two “old men” could fire up an audience in a rock concert, but these guys are some of the masters in the field. It’s no surprise that Walsh’s net worth is around $75 million and Henley’s over $200 million. I guess that’s what happens when talented musicians dedicate their entire lives to their craft.

The Eagles concert was worth every penny we spent on it, and Hotel California right here in California seemed just right on every level.

The Ageless Sounds of Silence

When I was a 12-year-old schoolboy, my German professor (W.I.) once ruminated about the longevity of various types of music. He was a lover of the classics, we all knew, and his point was that the classic composers like Beethoven and Mozart created works that lasted centuries – probably millennia. Pop music on the radio, according to him, would last months in comparison, perhaps a few years.

Well, time has shown that it’s not quite true. Fifty years have gone by, and when I listen to the rendition of Sounds of Silence in the video below I get goosebumps. I am transported back to my youth instantly, and the feelings, the passions and the memories flood back, and I drift in timeless reveries. The Ageless Sounds of Silence will live on at least as long as those of us who listened to it when we were young are still here to testify.

Go on, have some goosebumps!