No one was expecting Bob Dylan to say a thing during his two-plus hour concert last night at Northrop Auditorium. For years, Dylan has been known to keep to himself during shows, often only speaking between songs once in order to introduce his band members. But last night, after a lengthy break between his regular set and his encore which I can only imagine was spent discovering that Barack Obama had won the election, Dylan returned to the stage to play "Like a Rolling Stone" and then turned to the audience and spoke.
"I was born in 1941," he said, a wavering sentimentality in his scratchy voice. "That was the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. I've been living in darkness ever since. It looks like things are going to change now."
He turned back to his keyboard and led the band in an almost unrecognizable rendition of "Blowin' in the Wind." Throughout most of the set, Dylan opted to keep his voice low and sparse as he half-sang, half-coughed the words into the microphone, but at the end of "Blowin' in the Wind" he strained his voice to hit the high register of the original melody and held onto the words in the chorus as long as he could. When his voice couldn't bear any more, he picked up his harmonica and practically skipped to the center of the stage. Even from my seat in the balcony it was obvious that Dylan was excited, and it only served to further ignite the fired-up crowd.
As the entire sold-out room rose to its feet with praise, Dylan and his bandmates lined up at the front of the stage to take a bow. In his tight tuxedo pants and white wide-brimmed hat, Dylan danced around like a marionette doll, waving his pointer fingers in the air like guns. It was surprisingly charismatic and endearing moment, and it had the whole room roaring with cheers and applause.
The house lights went up, and our attention turned quickly to the other main man of the night. The crowd started cheering "O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma" in unison as we made our way out of the auditorium. Walking toward the lobby, a swell of loud cheers suddenly rose from the foyer and we rushed to the stairwell to see what had happened. A screen in the lobby projected the results of the election: Obama had already received a projected 297 electoral votes.
As each new throng of concertgoers entered the lobby, a new wave of cheering -- no, screaming -- would erupt. The woman next to me broke down in sobbing tears. My dad turned to me and said, "We won. We finally won." We made our way out into the night, and a huge crowd of concertgoers were already partying in front of the auditorium, dancing to the beat of an impromptu bongo beat. Car horns were honking, people were screaming, and the whole world felt like it had let out one giant, simultaneous sigh of relief.
Here's a set list from the show last night. I'll let the songs tell the rest of the story. Full disclosure: "The Times They Are A-Changin'" brought me to tears.
Cat's in the Well The Times They Are A-Changin' Summer Days This Wheel's on Fire Tangled Up in Blue Masters of War Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again John Brown Beyond the Horizon Highway 61 Revisited Shooting Star (with Dylan on guitar -- another rarity) It's All Right Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Under the Red Sky Thunder on the Mountain Ain't Talkin'
Encore: Like a Rolling Stone Blowin' in the Wind