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Friday, September 29, 2023

Last week, I mused on why Florida needs to get on the ball when it comes to decriminalizing marijuana, and I attended the Bob Dylan concert with thousands of other fans at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Some would like to use that anecdotal evidence to further their claims of me as a “stoner.”

I’d like to rebut that claim. I was intoxicated by the aura Dylan brings with him and nothing else.

The Alligator’s been pretty good about covering the living legend’s trek to UF and other state universities, including the University of Central Florida, University of South Florida, Nova Southeastern and Florida State University. But I want to take the position of a starstruck freshman whose foot couldn’t stop tapping and head couldn’t stop shaking.

Frankly, I couldn’t find a reason to miss the show. Bob Dylan was an influence on so many of today’s artists, and his stories permeate modern music. The man’s not had a hit single since 1979 in the U.S., but he’s still a household name. Perhaps it was the “Tangled Up in Blue” appearance in Rock Band 2 that kept his perpetual fame alive with a new generation.

I went to the show alone, not knowing what to expect. My seat was next to an older couple  who were probably in their 50s or early 60s and two college students. The older couple seemed subdued, almost like they were obligated to attend, while the collegiate couple stumbled in a bit late but couldn’t contain their excitement.

I texted a few friends in the audience. Most were just as nervously excited as I was in the 30 minutes before Dylan came onstage. There was no opening act, which just served to heighten our nervous energy.

Finally, the man himself arrived with his band and began to play “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” — the best possible opener in my mind.

The musicianship and instrumentation were top-notch, but Dylan’s vocals were a bit shaky. My mind ran amok for a second — is this really Bob Dylan? I rationalized immediately — the man’s 69 and a living legend. I found out the next day from some more-experienced Dylan fans he sounded much worse 10 years ago, so my temporary dread turned into confident satisfaction.

And from a man who one can say has defined music’s past and future, it wasn’t half bad.

The show continued on from there, dragging at certain points perhaps due to my ignorance of some of Dylan’s newer work, and I was pleased to hear “Tangled Up in Blue” but wasn’t incredibly satisfied with Dylan’s interpretation of it versus his live performances earlier in his career that YouTube (something no one in Dylan’s height of fame could have imagined) so graciously allowed me to see.

The show picked up with “Highway 61 Revisited,” the title song from Dylan’s 1965 (45 years ago!) album. The audience got into it, and you knew you were rocking to Bob freakin’ Dylan, who was described in his introduction as the “poet laureate” of rock ‘n’ roll.

My inner student wanted to leave early to beat the rush out, but I just couldn’t do it.

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Dylan was too powerful, and the encore encapsulated vintage Bob Dylan.

I needed to see Bob Dylan before he died. I couldn’t be more glad I did.

Sean Quinn is a first-year political science student. His column appears every Wednesday.

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