Monday, 4 May 2009

Cardiff, Shoe Shops, Bob Dylan. What More Could You Want?

Tuesday 28th, in Cardiff with Hannah. (The daughter without autism) We had some lunch with Hannah's mate Cheryl who had come to Cardiff to see Hannah from Swansea for the afternoon. They have been best mates since they found they were the only two Philip Pullman readers at middle school. Bizarrely, nothing bought, but there are a hell of a lot of shoe shops in Cardiff.

Time for Hannah and I to book ourselves into a hotel for the night. We're going to see Bob Dylan at the International Arena and public transport is a bit unreliable after 9.45 pm and we'd probably want something to eat after the gig and that would be leaving it a bit late to be traveling back up to Aberdare for me or down to Bath for Hannah. Staying overnight in Cardiff meant we could spend Wednesday morning looking in more shops and exchanging more gossip. We stayed in a Travelodge, quite reasonable but don't bother with the breakfast, it was a bit hit and miss and you needed a pilots license to work the toaster...but on to the main event...

I'm no music critic, but I am a Bobcat so whatever I say is going to be a bit predictable. I'm also honest, and yes, His Bobness has his bad days. Happily this wasn't one of them. He was laughing, smiling and very animated. Because it was the CIA and there is precious little in the way of seating, most of the audience is on its feet and quite animated as well. I've noticed over the years that you never finish the night where you started it, with all the short people shuffling in front of the tall people and the poor sods trying to get to the bar of wherever leaving a swathe of shuffling people with stretched necks bobbing about in their wake. Yes, there is a pun there, and no it wasn't intentional.

So as I said, I'm no critic and there is no way I'm going to start reviewing what I think was one of the best Dylan gigs I've attended, and I have attended a few. In 1965, I was only 14 and had somehow acquired tickets for the Albert Hall, I don't actually remember any of it except the wonder that I was actually seeing Bob Dylan, I went with my best mate Susan who I last saw in 1969 pushing a pram and telling me she had married a telephone engineer and was living in Norbiton. She couldn't look me in the eye. I'd just spent some of the summer in Cornwall at an International Anarchist Camp and was on my way to the Isle of Wight to the festival, headlined by Bob Dylan and the Band. Don't remember much of that either for reasons you can probably guess! My memories of 1965 are pretty blurry anyway, and not helped by the existence of Don't Look Back, so I won't say anymore about that. The whole of 1969 was just weird, not going to say any more about that either.
The next live encounter with Mr Dylan was in 1978 at Earls Court. I was lucky enough to be there all week every day all day because I was part of a small business selling stuff in the arena. There was a sort of carnival set up before you went on to find your seats with stilt walkers and jugglers and the like, and the likes of us trying to make a living selling our wares wherever we could. This was a good gig for us, plenty of people milling about before finding their seats, a very busy interval which lasted about half an hour and not everyone was rushing home, we did well. Of course this meant we were there from mid morning to late evening every day so we heard rehearsals, sound checks and so on. Most days Dylan was was on stage during the afternoon and nobody seemed bothered about who was going in to listen, so naturally we did! I was on cloud 9 most of that week, listen to the Live at Budakan album to get a feel of that week. About a month later it was the Picnic at Blackbushe. I was working at this one as well, so it was more like 3 days for us than just 1 day, but what a day with added Eric Clapton!
Didn't get to see Bob Dylan again till 1997 in Cardiff, went to that one with Bill, who is the worst person in the world to go to a gig with because of a low boredom threshold or short attention span, never been quite sure which. Don't think that one was so good though.
Since then Hannah and I saw him in the CIA in 2002/4/6 and last week, and have always come out feeling better than when we went in. As I said, I am not reviewing or criticising, all I can say is an arena full of people gasping audibly when the lights hit the backdrop at the start of Mr Tambourine Man, the now inevitable cheer at the first blast of harmonica and the also inevitable shout along on the first `How does it feel' line in Like a Rolling Stone can't be wrong and it all adds up to an experience I would gladly have again and again. I've been to loads of gigs over the years, but no matter how big the artist none of them compare to the buzz, for me, as being in the same place as Bob Dylan. This is all purely personal, I'm pretty sure most people will disagree with me, but then you are reading the words of someone who never really got the hang of the Beatles, was never that keen on Bowie and can't stick Morrissey, although artistically I appreciate them and what they do. We enjoyed ourselves, and it looked as if His Bobness enjoyed himself too, what more do you need?

What you need is some food, so we had some sort of curry in Wagamamas with a glass of wine and felt very pleased with ourselves about the whole evening.

Checked out of Traveloge after breakfast and found even more shoe shops, then spent an hour sitting in a window in Starbucks watching the people in Queen Street and picking out other Bobcats still trying to get home, altogether a good 24 hours in a place not at all like home and incredibly good for the soul. I just have to say thanks Bob, you did it again and long may you go on doing it.

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