Bobby says no thank you

Perhaps they expected him to appear smoking. Or with no hat. Or with a hat, that he would take off to shake his curls. Or wearing black Wayfarer Ray Bans covering his eyes. Or with a metal structure hanging from his head, holding his harmonica right in front of his lips.

Perhaps they expected him to help himself with a walking stick. Or not to walk at all, and just sit. Or cough. Or be late.

Perhaps the London Royal Albert Hall asked himself if he would get in using the subterranean entrance, the one made for the Queen. The one that, walls whisper, was once used by Winston Churchill.

Perhaps when night came inside the Hall, and lights disappeared, and a guitar whispered, a few people released a childish yell. Held their breath. Squeezed the hand of the one sitting on their right side.

Probably all the heads and hearts that heated the Hall’s seats the night of October 25th awaited without knowing quite well what they were waiting for. They waited for a myth, a dream, a memory, an idol, a platonic love, an aspiration, an objective, a father, a god.

But it’s hard to wait for a legend.

Roars when lights came back and there he was, wrapped in his band. Musicians slowly placing themselves all over the stage, slowly. Man your battle stations. Wait for an order.

There he was. No guitar, no harmonic, no cigarette, no Ray Ban.

Mafioso shoes, those shiny black and white ones, straight from the Al Capone and The Godfather New York. Black suit. Or dark grey, who knows. White shirt?

Hat. White, short-brimmed, black ribbon.

He grabs the microphone and starts. And that voice rebounds on the Royal Albert Hall walls. That deep voice, from the centre of the Earth. That dragged voice, so dirty, so dusty. A loud whisper. He stretches it, as if it was a chewing gum. He touches it. He tries vibrattos, and he succeeds. Then it grows for a chorus that half the auditorium does not know.

It’s an ugly voice. Ugly.

Such an ugly voice that when it shuts, you wait. The same ugliness Serge Gainsbourg claimed to have: “I am so ugly, that once someone sees me, will never forget me”.

Once someone listens to it, will never forget it.

But is this one the voice you came to see?

Is this the voice that sang Like a Rolling Stone? Is this the voice that sang Mr Tambourine Man? Is this the rollercoaster voice, that sang with a pattern, telling a story, the nasal voice, the voice of the squeaking notes, the voice that made Jimi Hendrix say “if this guy sings, so do I”?

The throaty sound that flows from his mouth comes back (a mouth you must imagine, because you don’t even get to see it, you are so far away from the stage you don’t even see it). And the song finishes but the guitar goes on.

Enraged applause, hands shake, floor trembles. Next song. Doesn’t he say thank you?

He wanders from the piano to the microphone and from the microphone to the centre of the stage and from the centre of the stage to the microphone and from the microphone to the piano. He stands up with his legs wide open. He slightly shakes his hip. What an unattractive way to dance. He places one hand right on the low part of his stomach. Does he move the other one as if he was playing a guitar? Why doesn’t he play the guitar?

Harmonica. He’s playing the harmonica. Then you close your eyes and drop a tear. Then you realize you are crying. Your cheeks are completely wet, you suck in the mucus, a sudden hiccup surprises you, you are not sure about if you are going to stop weeping at some point.

And the harmonica perforates the metal in the microphone and perforates the red cloth on your seat and perforates your ears and perforates your eyes and perforates your skin and attacks your heart. She opens it with a quick gash, she peels it as if it was an onion, she removes layers and layers and layers and she touches you there, right there, where it most hurts, where you most feel, where your fears and your dreams hide.

While the harmonica howls, the bass shakes, the guitar moans, the drums echo, the banjo pierces.

End of the song.

Hey, how are you doing?”

A pack of wolves responds.

We’re going to do a pause.

Dawn.

Is that it? He says nothing else? Each song glued to the next one, and he says nothing else?

Twenty eternal minutes, while people mosey around the hall, the bathroom, the seat and the bar. Waiting for a familiar song, something that is not from his last albums, a bite from his past, a Subterranean Homesick Blues tasting, maybe? They come back. Musicians, to your battle stations. At your service, my king. No. He keeps tying one song to the other. The hands keep clapping, rabidly, after each song that sticks to the next one, but he never says ‘thank you’. Piano, harmonica, voice go on. There’s still the guitar missing. Why isn’t he picking up the guitar? Why is he still quiet?

Autumn Leaves, Tangled Up in Blue… Autumn Leaves?

So many ballads…

Concert finishes.

Wait… what?

It looks as if the Royal Albert Hall is about to fall down. Nobody wants dusk already.

They finally come back. You almost lost hope.

He sits to the piano. Wait a second… That is… No, it can’t be. No, it is. Wait, what?

How many roads must a man walk down

Before you call him a man ?

How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand ?

Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned ?

The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

 But it does not sound like that Blowing in the Wind he used to sing back in 1963. With that young voice. With that young skin. With the harmonica attached to the guitar and the echoes of folk and Woody Guthrie’s taste and the amplifiers very, very far from there.

Harmony is not the same, rhythm is not the same. Swing is not the same. It does not sound the same.

It does not.

However he is there. And you close your eyes and see him, with his curled hair and his Ray Ban Wayfarer. And you open your eyes and see his face covered in wrinkles (well, you know it is covered in wrinkles but you don’t see it, you must imagine). But your ears are not imagining. Your ears cry.

And so do you, once again.

And suddenly…

Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows

That too many people have died ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

The end. Dawn. Applause. And he leaves. This is it. He is leaving. Applause goes on. Your hands hurt, your back hurt, your teeth hurt. Your heart hurts.

He said nothing. Nothing. He didn’t say ‘thank you’. He ignored everybody. How can you ignore 8.000 people?

But you don’t care. You don’t care. You realize you don’t care at all. React. React, you’ve seen a legend. The million-voices man, the million-faces man.

React.

When going out you bump into the Stage Door. People dressed in suits go out. Two vans wait in front of the door. There’s a group of people. It’s cold. You wait too.

A guard comes out.

-What are you waiting for? Go, Bob Dylan went home long ago.

You’re wrong, sir. Bob Dylan never goes home.

 

To be on your own, with no direction home

Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.

 

 

Spanish version here.

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