every opening in the white cinderblock walls inside the stadium was just pulling me into the soft blackness. the music was faint, but it was in there, and man, we were missing it! "section 15, dude." ok, i gotta hit the bathroom too. the loudspeaker over the urinals brings natalie merchant's voice to us fromthe other side of the wall. we find our entrance, and it's matte black inside, then the lights... purples and blues, and she's there, with long hair, back turned, playing the piano. we climb to the top bleachers of the stage-left seats. there are empty seats down on the main floor. she's the opening act.
i can't stand being so far away, so i go down to the platform and watch her as she sings that song that's on the radio all the time now. she's barefoot, and whirling like a pop dervish. i can almost make out her face. she's dancing, crazy, having a great ole time up there. how awesome is that. her feet are flyin and kickin up. the guy standin next to me leans over and says "man, she's beautiful," and i agree. the breath from his bearded face is sweet with marijuana and harsh from cigarette smoke, and we both just stand there and watch a star in action. even before the last song is over she walks off, and people cheer even for the empty space that stands for where she just was, her power's that strong. i watch her in the wing, exhausted, high on it all. she comes back for an oncore. "these are the days..." fuckin' a.
she's sure to tell us that "uncle bob" will be on real soon. i go back up to where wayne and josh are sitting. greg and the others are off in a different section.
uncle bob. nineteen when he became a star. he must be in his fifties now.
stage change, testing the guitars and the lights, testing the strobes, and then the lights go down. silhoettes in the strobes, which one is him? no one's at the center mike. then a note escapes and the crowd erupts. the lights are up. there he is... silver-toed boots and a black tux wrapped around skinny legs and his hair's matted and showin' a little gray. ya, that's mr. bob dylan down there.
he plays songs i've never heard, and his voice is time-eroded so the lyrics are almost impossible to make out. but we already know the lyrics, at least some of them, and the man talks to us with his solos... pidgeon strutting and tip-toes scarecrow walking and sinkin into his knees when it gets real good. can't believe those knees still bend. the crowd groves... a few rows up, and in the aisles, are those girls... the young neo-hippie long-haired girls with the bare-shouldered waterfall arms that are always there when the music is right. they weave the sound into their bodies on a chilly february night in bethlehem pennsylvania.
dylan plays "tangled up in blue", the one wayne plays. everytime he leans to the mike you know it's sweet pain he's giving you. then before we know it everyone bows and leaves the stage. we cheer and whistle, and as it dies down a bit the stars come out. and the sun sets on a few miles somewhere in the pacific ocean. and then he's back, handed yet another guitar, and does one more set, ending with "blowing in the wind", perhaps one of the most amazing songs of all time. a song you heard all you life. the song that will echo in the smoke-filled stadium of your head, as long as answers are sought, and music plays.