Legendary counter-culture icon Bob Dylan performed at Ithaca College’s A&E center to a crowd of thousands on Sunday night. As specified in an email sent out prior to the event, Dylan took the stage promptly at 8 p.m.. He needed no opener.
The 78-year-old singer-songwriter sounded incredible, but a simple fact remained. He was incomprehensible. I can count on one hand the amount of words I understood. He has always been known for his unique voice, but Sunday night took it to another level. He invented a new language, but sadly no one in the audience spoke that language. Fans on every side of me were expressing their disappointment for the entirety of the show. At times, laughs rose from sections of the crowd when certain lines that everyone knew sounded like Dylan was speaking with a mouthful of spaghetti.
Regardless, Dylan’s performance was immaculate. His voice was soothing, and it lulled the audience for the full hour-and-a-half set. Further, the aesthetic of the show was beautiful. Dylan and his band donned sparkly jackets and performed as if they were on a 1950s television show. The stage was illuminated with warm lights, which hung from the ceiling and faded to black between each song, providing a true steampunk vibe to the show.
Dylan barely spoke the whole night, only speaking to introduce the band (although this could not be understood by anyone in the audience). And the legend moved across the stage seamlessly. Paradoxically, the godfather of the rebellion was both a shell of his former self and more powerful than ever. He gave off an aura of wisdom; he was purposeful with every action.
Lastly, his guitar, piano and harmonica playing was exquisite. It was the perfect combination of sultry and rough. His performance was unrefined, yet classic in every way. It was memorable, and he left the crowd awestruck by his presence.
While the show itself was outstanding despite the pitfalls that came with Dylan’s age, the event itself was an utter mess. I’m not referring to the organization, promotion or setup of the venue, either. DSP Shows, the promoter of most Ithaca concerts and artistic events, especially should be commended for their work in bringing such an icon to our backyard.
However, the audience was under constant scrutiny by the security. It felt like we were in George Orwell’s 1984. Audience members were escorted out for standing during the performance, it was truly disgraceful. Flashlights were constantly shined in the face of the audience by overzealous security guards. In one instance, I overheard a woman being told that security would drag her out if she didn’t stop dancing. I’ve honestly never seen anything like it in my life.
In general, the sad truth is that the event staff (excluding the student staff) entirely ruined the experience, even corralling people who wished to stand up into the side of the arena where they wouldn’t be a disturbance.
Thank goodness Dylan was able to keep the crowd focused. If it were any other artist, I would’ve walked out of the venue instantly.
Peter Buonanno is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]