To promote his “New York” album, Lou Reed went around to bookstores and read the lyrics to the songs as if they were poetry. When asked why he was not singing the songs with a band, he answered that it was rock and roll, with or without a band. Watching the first half of Dylan in Memphis with Charlie on youtube, it occured to me that Dylan might come off better without the corny backup musicians, All that Charlie clutter was obscuring Dylan’s musical reading of his lyrics.

The sparse arrangements of this spring were a step in this direction, but the departure of the Duke has sent Dylan back into the rock and roll whirlpool of sound, and I for one cannot sustain interest in what he is doing with all that retro clatter closing in on him. if he is going to play with charlie, he might as well bring back Cry Awhile and Honest with Me and cough up what is left of his wolfman voice. The subtleties of something like “Soon After Midnight” are just not cutting it here.

Outside this small cavity where we theorize about the battle of the titans and other inconsequential rivalries, there is a world that is truly on its way to Hell. The president of Bolivia gets pulled out of the sky and his plane searched, all because the European Union suspects some Yankee Doodle has hitched a ride with him out of Moscow. A few years ago, while the US celebrated a para-military takeover of Egypt, the president of Ecuador was kidnapped by an attachment of rogue police and none of the US newspapers felt the kidnapping newsworthy. It was just another occurrence on the edge of the world, nothing that would interest the citizens of the United States.

Now the very thought of Latin America perks up the news editors like the nose of a dog who smells Alpo. The consolidation of a new enemy. What countries are with us and which are against us? Meanwhile, the whole world is scratching Obama off the A-list. much as the Soviet youth, in the eighties, gave the finger to their government, breaking the fear that had clamped shut the jaws of their parents, and beginning the downfall of a mighty regime.

Now Putin is having a laugh with the dumbshow pantomime he is playing with Obama. He must be bolstered by the insults the maligned countries around the globe have been hurling that way. The age of supercountries with their superheroes and superfreak grains and infra-human moloch dribbling down the chin of superbabies caterwauling against an opponent’s victory on American Idol are fading fast. Obama once said he wanted to bring the US down to the level of the rest of the world. Well get to it, Mr.President. The rest of the world, free of your King King Verses Godzilla psychology,isn’t doing that badly.

Dylan rides into Tuscaloosa,Alabama tonight, still at the beginning of what may seem to him a long and tribulating tour. I wonder how he spends those four hours while the supporting acts are on stage. Is he eager to get up there or is he already tired by the time his turn comes to occupy the stage? And how does he communicate to 20,000 jabbering people wandering around in a stadium with cell phone lights blazing?

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