Bob Dylan and his band exceed expectations

Daniel Maraccini, Features editor

The performance by Bob Dylan and His Band at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre exceeded my expectations.

Seeing him live for the first time was weird and exhilarating.

When he first strutted onto the stage, I couldn’t really see him. The light was too strong, and he seemed little more than a golden shadow (if that makes any sense).

He and his band got right into it. There was no introduction, just an awkward wave from Bob Dylan.

The first song was apparently “Things Have Changed.” I say apparently because the next few minutes were disorienting. There was yelling and flashing. Soon there was yelling at the flashing and people twitching like agitated chimpanzees.

Another classic song, “She Belongs to Me” went straight over my head. According to the online setlist it was the second song, but by that point I was gone.

I just remember feeling really happy and confused during those first twenty minutes. I would imagine hardcore narcotics feel like this: like you were seeing your favorite musician for the first time. But I bet heroin wouldn’t be half as cool.

Cool. That’s been my one word description of Dylan.

It was also my biggest concern beforehand. Could any 73-year-old man live up to the guy that marched on Washington, plugged in at Newport, or wrote “Visions of Johanna”?

Thankfully, the answer is yes, but only because it’s Dylan himself.

By the fifth song, “Duquesne Whistle,” things became clearer. The gold lights were lifted, and for the first time that night, the audience can see Dylan and his (phenomenal) band.

One member of that band, Donnie Heron, spent much of the night hopping between instruments. One song it was banjo and for another it was violin. But he spent most of the night on the pedal steel located behind Dylan’s piano. It looked strange from my seat, as if he was taking notes on the legend in front of him.

For much of the night I also took notes, sitting quietly on the right side of the theatre, trying to absorb as much as possible. But, there were moments when I set down the pen and notepad, and simply watched. Some of those moments came when Dylan played harmonica. There was no metal contraption around his neck this time, but he’s clearly improved since his folk days.

I was also relieved that, donning a slick grey suit and his now customary cowboy hat, Dylan was still the best-dressed human in the building.

The man himself seemed worn with age: his hair has grayed, his strut has stiffened and his voice has changed dramatically.

A classmate of mine compared his voice to a lizard’s. And, while I’ve never heard a lizard speak, I got what she was saying. The voice that I heard was raspy, and vaguely slimy. If a lizard were to speak it could very well sound like 2014 Bob Dylan.

While I couldn’t always understand the words he was saying, I understood what he meant.

On this night, his voice was of a classic Delta Blues singer. Like a Robert Johnson, Dylan can wail. And though that sound might not be for everybody, it was for me.

You readers probably don’t care, but I’ll tell you anyway: my favorite performance was “Simple Twist of Fate.”

It was so beautiful and sad: beautiful because great music always is, and sad because I’m 20-years-old.

I missed out on the first 50 years of Dylan. Soon he may be gone, and my generation will still be giving me Taylor Swift.