Bob Dylan at Pacific Amphitheatre Last Night

Chasen Marshall/OC Weekly
Bob Dylan and His Band
July 15, 2011
Pacific Amphitheatre

Attending a Bob Dylan concert isn't what it used to be. It's not so much about the music anymore. His voice is raspier and his words more slurred than ever. In many of the songs he performed last night, the opening night of the Orange County Fair, the lyrics are entirely indistinguishable. But it was Bob fuckin' Dylan. No one would have cared if he just made up words as he went along. As one man in the audience mentioned, "It's okay if Bob Dylan forgets some words to his own songs, we can't understand him anyway!"

A Dylan concert is about being in the presence of a music legend, and commemorating a man who's contributions to music are vast and irreplaceable. Well, there was plenty of celebrating at the Pacific Amphitheatre, enough to surely make a musician years beyond his prime feel welcome. (Not that he needs the convincing.)

At the strike of 8 p.m., the lights in the stadium went low, the stage lit up, and Dylan appeared from stage left. Wearing a black suit with green trim and a barbershop quartet-like hat, he stepped to the microphone and said, "Thank you for coming out," and his five-man band cued the first notes of "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking."

Dylan was the opening performance of the 2011 Summer Concert Series at PacAmp. The venue was sold out, including the lawn section, which seemed to be the place to be on this night. Couples swayed from the comfort of their blankets, while others chose to stand and dance along with the faster pieces. 

Song after song, even though most weren't Dylan classics, the crowd reacted appreciatively. Particularly raucous reactions came after Dylan's various harmonica solos. The man's voice may have left him, but he can still wail on his trusty harmonica.
People knew what they were to expect. They knew Dylan is now 70, that he has 50 years of music-making and smoking that have worn his vocal chords thin. Some expressed disappointment that even when his popular tunes were played--"Like a Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower" in the encore--the band didn't use the original tune, opting for something with more pace that, some assume, could help mask the vocals. 

By the end of the nearly two-hour show, much of the lawn crowd was on its feet, fans were still dancing and the doobies were being burned down to the last bit of smokable substance. The final three songs were ones the crowd, from longtime fans to newbee hipsters could recognize. He closed with "Blowin' In the Wind." 

After Dylan had taken a bow and his band had left the stage for a second time, the applause continued. The audience didn't lose hope that he would return once more. The "encore" chants carried from the stage back to the lawn, but alas, it didn't happen. But everyone had their story of seeing Bob Dylan live in concert.

Personal Bias: I came to see Bob Dylan in the flesh. He could have motored out in a Rascal scooter and coughed up flew between songs into the microphone and I would have still left pleased.

The Crowd: Every seat was filled. The lawn was covered. Young and old. Clean-cut and hippy. Rich and poor. And local surf star Alex Knost.

Overheard in the Crowd: "I don't know what he's saying, but I don't give a shit! Woo!" and "YOU'RE A GOD!" The lawn had nothing but appreciation for Bob Dylan to still be doing what he does at 70.

Random Notebook Dump: Does Dylan still perform because he loves it? Because he needs the money? What possesses the man these days, especially considering he's had a bit of harsh press in recent years.

Set List:
"Gonna Change My Way of Thinking"
"Don't Think Twice, It's Alright"
"Things Have Changed"
"Tangled Up In Blue"
"Beyond Here Lies Nothin'"
"Sugar Baby"
"High Water"
"Tryin' To Get To Heaven"
"Summer Days"
"A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"
"Highway 61 Revisited"
"Forgetful Heart"
"Thunder On the Mountain"
"Ballad of a Thin Man"

"Like a Rolling Stone"
"All Along the Watchtower"
"Blowin' In the Wind"

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Old Geezer
Old Geezer

I also saw Dylan at the Pacific Amphitheatre on Friday night and I have seen him live many times since 1965.   I wonder if Bob knows that most fans don't care if the quality of his voice is not what it once was.   Personally I think he should still do some a few solo number with just the guitar and/or harmonica - it has always been about the lyrics and his voice back in the day was a perfect compliment to his incredible lyrics.  Today the voice is gone but who cares, I just would like to hear the legend once more with the acoustic guitar and harmonica.  But since Bob has always done what ever he wanted and usually could care less about the desires of the audience, I don't expect I will hear seem him solo again. 

Rebecca-faith Dietz
Rebecca-faith Dietz

You don't get Dylan. He doesn't care about the press, and he doesn't forget his lyrics either. It sounds like you had really bad seating in the "lawn," because I was in the 10th row and I heard every word to each of his songs just fine. Masking the songs to conceal lyrics? What a conspiracy, haha, perhaps having sung the songs thousands of times, he has continued to be true to himself and constantly evolve his style, sound and performance. The only thing you really have right is that he is a legend.


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Romance Ab
Romance Ab

I expressed the same sentiments about attending a Dylan show, almost verbatim, to my friends. And I, too, had the same "Random Notebook" thought! Obviously, he loves performing. He's a real song & dance man! (btw, I swear he sang "Mississippi!")--s'e'ek'c'ou'ga'r.c ó is the first and best club for y'ounger women and old'er men, or older women and y'ounger men,to int'eract with each other. Maybe you wanna ch'eck 'it out or tell your friends!

Angel LaCanfora
Angel LaCanfora

I expressed the same sentiments about attending a Dylan show, almost verbatim, to my friends. And I, too, had the same "Random Notebook" thought! Obviously, he loves performing. He's a real song & dance man! (btw, I swear he sang "Mississippi!")


Kinda clueless. I hear every word. It's all about the music and the vocal performance. The final 20% are the icing (venue, weather, drinks, audience, etc). I come to see and hear Bob, but I also expect him to deliver. These days, he does. I saw him three weeks ago, twice. There was very little not to like about the shows. I pity you that you were there and you still weren't capable of enjoying it like it could and should be enjoyed. You'll regret it once you wake up.

Bill Sykes
Bill Sykes

FredHow do you know if he has child support to pay? Mere speculation. He may have had a vasectomy for all you know. It is unlikely at 70 years that he would have to pay child support.My own speculation is that he would be unimaginably well off. Just the royalties from Heavens Door (only one of hundreds of well covered songs) would keep him in luxury forever. But Bob is a worker and since he still packs stadiums all over the world he appears to have a deep sense of responsibility to his audiences. People want to see him, so he keeps going.


Very good writeup.  I've seen Dylan many times as well and he can be very inconsistent live.  Even his bandmates often aren't prepared for the key he starts a song off in.  He's known for leaving his band in the dark about musical direction.

I'm a huge fan but seeing him live is a crapshoot.

Dylan is like licorice, love him or hate him. Nothing in between.

One of the reasons he tours so much is that he has a lot of child support to pay.  Plus he can stay a step ahead of the hen pack.


I've always loved Dylan's voice, and I didn't have a lot of trouble understanding the words. I've been continually attending Bob's shows since I first saw him at Hollywood bowl in 1965 - been to over 160 shows, and I seem to remember the same crap after show... "... I can't understand a word he sings!" In the beginning they just didn't like his voice - they said he couldn't sing. blah, blah, blah... Well here it is, 45 years or so later and he's still doing it - still filling venues, still pleasing audiences young and old all over the world on his "never ending tour". He's not like some of these has-beens who drag themselves out of mothballs once in a decade or so,  line up a couple of big shows, charge high prices, dust off some of their "big hits", sing/play 'em the way they used to, and then disappear. No he's doing it all-the-time. There is nobody like him in concert. His 'worst is better than best'. The show at the OC Fair was fantastic, and the musical arrangements were, as always,new and fresh - they are always evolving. They were not designed to cover the voice. Changing the musical delivery of his songs is Bob's signature. He is a true artist!

Diana Wolf
Diana Wolf

I LOVE his voice now. I can understand him (mostly) The show I saw last year was amazing- probably the best Dylan show I've ever attended- it was intimate, dark, edgy with an amazing theatricality and way cool lighting going on- (yeah I know he can't do the same in open air-) Apparently he isn't doing that lighting thing this tour.

Still, I'd see him sit there and read the dictionary--- silently! 

here is a quote from another review here:“Satisfaction” and “Hey Jude” always sound like “Satisfaction” and “Hey Jude” -- as they arguably should. Yet, no matter how many times you’ve heard Dylan do “Watchtower” or “Rolling Stone” or “Thin Man,” the next time will still sound different -- he’ll attack a certain line a curious way, or recast a mood from bleak to optimistic, or get you thinking that maybe you didn’t really understand that one verse (or song) as well as you thought you did."


I've seen Dylan many times and do not agree with the blog....Charlie Sexton back with Bob was awesome. Dylans old man voice still commands respect and the Harp was plentiful typically weak but still Bob....I loved it. After the show this pretty blonde was looking for Tom I hope she found him as he is a lucky


I like d the comment, like licorice, you either love or hate him. I'm on the love side of that. Largely because he's spoken through a forest of autobiographical elements that have resonated with me as he (and I ) have gone through the various stages of life. He's older than me by 13 years, but has added a richness, so I appreciate his publicly sharing his experience in a self-searching and authentic way, both the highs and lows, hopes and fears, and what ifs. I'm glad he keeps touring, maybe it keeps him young, feeling alive. And probably out of trouble : - ).

Diana Wolf
Diana Wolf

recently I read speculation of about 80 million!He tours because its what he does, its his work- his journey- his purpose... and I am so grateful that he is still on the road.

As he said in the Ed Bradley/60 minutes interview several years back- its part of the deal he made with "the great commander" or words to that effect.

your right- he is a hard worker- that midwest work ethic. I think he'd work in an old blues bar if he couldn't fill the venues he does today.


Hi Bill, Bob has had quite the wandering eye and has fathered several kids with his backup singers.  Dylan records don't sell that briskly, so even though he's the "poet laureate of his generation" that doesn't necessarily mean he's rolling stone in dough.


I can relate to your statement "very inconsistent live".  The last time and final  time I saw Bob was a couple years ago at the Long Beach Arena.  I was so excited to see him but completely disappointed.  Every song sounded like the last where I couldn't tell what song he was singing and his band never took their eyes off of him, not knowing what was next probably, like you said.  He's a legend but I like to remember him as he was.  The great part about that concert was the Kings of Leon opened for him.  I wasn't familiar with them at that time and they tore the place up!

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