I grew up listening to my parents' scratchy Bob Dylan albums, which predisposes me to appreciate the gritty-voiced folk and rock legend. However, I became slightly disenchanted after witnessing a few of his conversation-less live shows, so when I entered the Marcus Amphitheater tonight, I harbored a mixed bag of emotion and very few expectations.
The cool temperatures and thick gray clouds made it difficult to believe it was July, but opener Willie Nelson warmed the stage with his heartfelt words and performance.
Nelson ripped through fan favorites and a few covers, including "Whiskey River," "Still Is Still Moving To Me," "Crazy," "Georgia On My Mind," "All Of Me," "Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To be Cowboys," "On The Road Again," "City Of New Orleans," "Hey Good Lookin'" and "Always On My Mind."
Dylan provided a bevy of classic tunes, too, like "It Ain't Me Babe," "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again," "Desolation Row," "Highway 61," "Like A Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower."
The multigenerational crowd -- many wore jackets and hats to protect themselves from the chilly lake breeze -- was more responsive to Nelson's set, with the exception of Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" which inspired a mellow sing-a-long.
Unfortunately, Dylan maintained his reputation for ignoring the audience and did not address the crowd except to introduce his band. The most disappointing aspect of the concert, however, was that Dylan and Nelson did not play together -- not even for an encore that many assumed to be inevitable. It was particularly surprising considering it was the first night of the duo's summer tour.
Also, it was annoying that the video screens remained dark throughout the show. Rumor has it that Dylan prohibits the use of the screens, but for those in the grass seats, it was impossible to decipher if Dylan was really even on stage. For all we knew, he was lip synching or had a Stetson-wearing double.
Dylan's latest studio album, "Together Through Life," was released on April 28, 2009, and received good reviews. The first week of its release, the album reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, making the 68-year-old Dylan the oldest artist to nab the top spot.
One has to wonder who Dylan is going "Together Through Life" with, considering he is twice divorced. He was married to Sara Lownds from 1968 until 1977 and to Carolyn Dennis from 1986 to 1992.
The 76-year-old Nelson released the album "Naked Willie" earlier this year. The album features stripped-down remixes of songs from 1966 to 1970, including "Bring Me Sunshine" and "Sunday Morning Come Down."
It's a long story as to why I sat in the lawn seats tonight, but despite my gripes, watching the two salt-of-the-earth rockers from the grass seemed appropriate. Of course, listening to Nelson from grass seats opens itself to a slew of bad puns, especially considering he was arrested in 2006 for marijuana possession, appeared on the January 2008 cover of "High Times" magazine and traveled to Amsterdam with Snoop Dogg where they recorded a live version of "SuperMan" that became a YouTube sensation. (Even his concert T-shirts have a pot leaf on them.)
If life had unfurled differently, I might have waved my freak flag tonight and inhaled up there in The Amp's grasslands, but instead, I breathed in the second-hand stuff and dutifully sipped my beer. Sorry, Willie.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.