Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

I Keep Meaning To Tell You ...

October 20, 2009


exactly how great Bob Dylan is, but I keep forgetting. Of course you probably already know this, but it bears repeating. I have this thing about trying to see living legends before they die. And while I hope Dylan is with us for years to come, I must admit I hadn’t been exposed to him in a live setting before. When an opportunity arose to see him last week at the newly remodeled Hollywood Palladium, I figured now was my chance. Now I’m no connoisseur of Dylan’s music from any of the many phases of his career, but I can tell you that the shows here last week were sensational. Truly. His band is so tight they border on the unfathomable. But Dylan is undoubtedly the ring leader and his emphasis on a variety of material from different periods in the set made the evening all the more poignant when it came to thinking about age, time, and faith. All of which are things Dylan has done again and again. The songs and vocals have taken on a quality at this point that remind me of Messiaen in a way. Granted Messiaen was not one for traditional rock and blues rhythms, but Dylan’s vocal performance is very reminiscent of the composer’s favored vocal approach with the voice existing almost independently of the music; only surfacing in unwavering bursts of words in between the islands of gorgeous sound. Or maybe I was just having a religious experience. Either way if you want to hear one of the best rock shows this year, Dylan’s is the one to see.

And while I’m talking about great musicianship, why don’t I draw attention to Kent Nagano. I went to update my “favorites” list of recent recordings to consider in the right-hand column only to discover that my first four choices all featured Nagano although it was not my intention necessarily to focus on him. Savoir faire is everywhere. Nagano is great at many things and as far as commercially available recordings, he appears to be on a role this year. I highly recommend all of the featured items, but the Bruckner is especially good. And although I love what James Conlon is doing for music and opera here in Los Angeles, I must admit I miss Maestro Nagano’s appearances here in LA greatly. Luckily there’s plenty to enjoy from him otherwise.

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