First, let me say that seeing U2 at TCF Stadium in Minneapolis in a raging downpour was awesome...but it was not as formative as the story I am about to relate .
The year was 1995. I was 19 years old and was beginning to come into my own identity as a music fan. During the college years, so much of life is about embracing both new discoveries as well as holding on to things one has been given. One day, when I was much younger, I was sitting in the back seat of my parents' car and the song "Like a Rolling Stone" came on the radio. My father explained to me who was singing the song. It was Bob Dylan, he said, an enormously talented man who wrote complicated songs. In the years between that first experience of Dylan and when I was 19, I had begun to grow in my appreciation of his music. In the early 90's, I had seen certain performances on television by Dylan wherein he looked tired and his voice was incomprehensible. Despite those experiences, early in '95 I saw that Bob Dylan would be playing three shows at the Hollywood Palladium in May. I decided that I needed to go and see this legendary performer, whatever my impressions were. A few friends and I made our way into Hollywood. I grew up about 20 miles from Downtown LA, and going into the city was not rare, but it was always exciting. As the time of the show drew near, the line outside the Palladium began to get longer. There was no set seating at the Palladium, so all of us would wait until the doors opened and get the best spot we could for this show. The capacity at the Palladium is 3700, so this was going to be a relatively intimate show, especially considering Dylan's prowess. One passerby observed me and my friends in line and stated loudly, "Looks like we got some young Dylan fans here tonight!"
PJ Harvey opened that night. I remember enjoying her set, but I have never followed her career, so I don't remember much of anything about it. My friends and I ended up sitting in the balcony with an obstructed view. It was close to the stage, but we couldn't see the whole stage. Fortunately however, we could see the front of the stage, and there was a lone microphone by the edge of the stage where the man himself would be standing during his show. Then, I heard the words I still remember: "Ladies and gentlemen, Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan..."
I have several impressions from that show that still stick with me, almost 20 years later. Dylan sang with a clear and familiar voice. This sounded like the man I had listened to in my room and on the radio, and it was thrilling. I remember the chill that I got when he first blew into his harmonica during an acoustic performance of "Mr. Tambourine Man". Of all the songs he sang that night, I remember that one the best. I still remember hearing the lilt in his voice when he reached the all important lyrical passage in "The Times They Are a Changin'." I was deeply moved that night by his performance of "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright". He sang it with such a charisma that when I recall the performance, I can still feel the emotions that I felt when I first experienced it. As I left the Palladium that night, I knew I was hooked. I would listen to Dylan whenever I could.
In the years since that first show in '95, I have seen him two other times. I look forward to seeing him yet again as he comes to my adopted hometown of Minneapolis to perform next month. The father who introduced me to Dylan (and who accompanied me to my second Dylan show in 1998), has since died. It is impossible for me to listen to Dylan and not think of my father and of that wonderful night in LA almost 20 years ago. It will forever be a major part of my musical journey. Those nights are priceless, even though I only paid $25 for the ticket.