Bob Dylan, Forever Geil

“Tonight I’m going to see Bob Dylan at a music festival in a little Swiss village!” I told my dad yesterday over lunch.

“Ha! You’re going to see the retirement house playing! C’mon Cécile, he’s at least 100 years old and has no voice anymore!”

“Actually, he’s 70 and still a legend. He’s been on tour forever. I’ve been listenning to his earlier albums so many times… And now here he is in Switzerland!”

“But his shows are famously bad. You might be disappointed.”

“I know, my expectation are very low. I just want to see the guy; good music will be a bonus.”

A few hours later, I was sitting on the train with Beat, my Swiss German instructor, and his friend Jan.

“So, why are you coming tonight? Do you really like Bob Dylan?” Asked Jan, suspiciously.

“I’m just here to stalk Beat actually. Who is Bob Dylan?” I said. “Of course I like him! It’s the first time I’ll see him live, quite exciting actually”.

“My girlfriend thinks that Bob Dylan makes music for men.” Said Beat.

“Well, she’s clearly wrong.” I protested. “I know lots of women who…” No wait. Actually, I don’t know many women who really like Bob Dylan. But I know a lot of men who do. Hum. Weird.

We arrived at Sursee. The atmosphere was perfect for an open-air concert. It had been raining in the morning but the sun was coming out now, giving colours to the clouds. It was neither hot nor cold.

Sky at Sursee

It was quite a big open-air venue, and it was full. People of all ages, more men than women. There were a few “mini Bobs”: 16 years old kids looking like a younger version of Dylan. They looked adorable:

While we were eating, I asked Beat and Jan how were last Dylan concerts they’d seen. They had both seen him a few times already.

“Absolutely Fantastic!” Said Jan, enthusiastically.

“Really? The music was good?”

“Super Geil! (Geil means awesome)” He went on.

But how was Dylan’s voice? I’ve heard it’s pretty rough now.”

“Oh yeah, his voice was shit. Terrible. Brrr”

Beat made a funny impression of Bob Dylan then. It sounded exactly like this:

We went as close to the stage as we could without being too far from the beer stand. The evening was getting darker and people looked cheerful and excited.

“What songs would you like to hear tonight?” Asked Beat.

“Blowing in the wind”, said Jan.

“Like a rolling stone” I said.

“Er… that was last played in 1976, I don’t think he’s going to play that.” Joked Jan. “I’ve checked his last playlists and he sang ‘Forever Young’ quite a few times recently. I hope to hear it tonight.” We all laughed.

“Are you going to sing along?” I asked them.

“No way!” Exclaimed Beat. “Dylan hates it when people sing at his concerts.”

Suddenly, the stage lit up, and everybody went crazy (in a very polite, Swiss way). Some guy came on stage to introduce Bob Dylan in English I think. I only understood something about “Jesus” in his presentation.

And the music began with Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat. Good choice to begin a concert. Dylan’s voice was indeed pretty rough, but far from non-existent. The song sounded just terrific.

The band went on with Don’t think twice it’s all-right. I love this song, but I did not enjoy it that much. They played it in a bluesy, country way that was too far from the original mellow-version I’m so used to listening to. And the Harmonica was cruelly missing.

They played other songs I didn’t know. I had a look at the crowd: people were really happy. Older people seemed younger and kids looked hip. I recognised To Ramona and Make you feel my love. The sound quality was surprisingly good. I was totally absorbed by the songs and the atmosphere.

When they played Tangled up in blue, the crowd got properly hot, singing and cheering while the concert was getting fantastic. Beat and Jan were also having a good time: they kept on saying “Cool! super Geil!”. It makes the concert even better when you’re with fans. We were treated to Highway 61Ballad of a thin man and A hard rain that’s gonna fall among other songs I didn’t recognise but enjoyed. It’s hard to explain how I felt at that point. A bit like I was the coolest person watching a legend playing. And then came the song I asked for: Like a rolling stone. It was the best moment. Everybody was singing “How does it feel”. I was singing too: “How does it feel, to be without a home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.” Even Beat was singing- inside.

The concert ended with Blowing in the wind. It made me feel a bit emotional. Almost teary. Or maybe I was getting a bit drunk.

“It was the best Dylan concert ever!” Exclaimed Beat in Swiss German. I was drunk enough to reach an illusion of  fluency, so I also talked Swiss German:

“Es isch super Geil gsee!!”

Jan looked at me, surprised, and said: “Super Geil ist not so good Swiss German, you know.”

“Er… You’ve been saying it the whole evening” I protested, not sure if he was being sarcastic or not. “You’re actually the one who taught me this expression tonight” I laughed.

“Whatever, you’re right, the concert was fantastic! Bob actually looked in good shape!”

He did. He also gave out a lot. The concert was a thousand times better than my expectation. He did not play Forever Young, but he’s definitely forever Geil.

You might also like:

A Song is a Story- Stairway to Heaven

Swiss Politics Explained to an Ignorant French Woman


3 thoughts on “Bob Dylan, Forever Geil

  1. The Dylan introduction:

    «Ladies and gentlemen please welcome the poet laureate of rock ‘n’ roll. The voice of the promise of the 60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock. Who donned makeup in the 70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse. Who emerged to find Jesus. Who was written off as a has-been by the end of the ’80s, and who suddenly shifted gears releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late ’90s. Ladies and gentlemen — Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan!»

    This introduction was adapted from an article about Dylan that had appeared in a local newspaper, The Buffalo News, on August 9, 2002. (Wikipedia)

  2. sometimes you do just have to go and take the chance despite what other people say — and you can end up with a gem:)

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