American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan’s lyrics are nothing but visual and dynamic. The Nobel Prize winner destroys the world and recreates it, just like French poet Arthur Rimbaud who used to swill strong liquor absinthe. To be made into a film, his pieces would require devoted collaboration between filmmakers Coen brothers and Guillermo del Toro to create a philosophical fantasy in which surreal make-up and computer graphics, and black humor are mixed.
Yet, Dylan’s concert cannot be farther from this, filled with extreme boredom. His second concert in Korea, held at the Olympic Gymnastics Arena in Seoul Friday, seemed to have eliminated visual components as much as possible, and thus was even more tedious for a person who does not understand what his lyrics said.
Not even a large screen through which an audience can see Dylan’s face up close was prepared. It was originally planned to be set up, but Dylan and his team apparently rejected the idea right before the beginning of the performance. There was no change of lights, either, which are generally used to stress the inflection points of songs. All in all, the concert was an experience closer to reading than watching. It felt like watching a two-hour long video without any close-ups or edits through a 50-inch TV from 50 meters away.
This, on the surface, could sound as if Dylan was insincere in preparing his concert. However, it was in fact a show, or even an oratory, that he put every ounce of his energy. The American legend removed all other components that could distract an audience, so that they can concentrate on the nuance of his lyrics that he transformed and read out loud according to his reinterpretation. He did not even say hi to those in front of him, being only focused on singing songs, thereby proving why he is a musician who unusually deserves the Noble Prize in Literature.
Still, there are lessons learned. It would be better to take a front row seat at Dylan’s concert because you would be able to see his face up close, or you should thoroughly study his lyrics before going to a performance. By doing so, you would be able to feel his delicate variations at the moment and shudder when he, for example, changes the rhythm and key for the part “Kill me a son” (of “Highway 61 Revisited”).