When dealing with something that plays upon emotions as much as music does, being a fan has more to do with loyalty than it does with having discerning taste.
When dealing with something that plays upon emotions as much as music does, being a fan has more to do with loyalty than it does with having discerning taste. A person who truly loves music, knows that the majority of music has to be painfully bad in order for remarkable music to exist. That's the nature of all things, and that's where the discerning taste part comes in. If everyone on earth was honest, attractive, hard working, and virtuous, how would we ever know who the honest, attractive, hard working, and virtuous people were? No one would stand out. Everything would be a flat line. If every piece of music created caused your body to break out with head to toe goosebumps, you would come to forget what it was like to ever not have head to toe goosebumps, and those goosebumps would stop meaning anything. I guess it's possible to just say "I like all music, any music at all," much in the same way a person would say "I like white bread no matter what," and that would make that person a simpleton. Which is a thing. And also okay, and also a part of life.
The point that I'm trying to get at is that the majority of the audience at Barclays Center for the November 21st Bob Dylan show was there because at one point in their life they made the choice to love Bob Dylan, and his music, no matter what. Bob Dylan, for many people, for many years, has said the things that meant the most, and produced the sort of emotional reaction that was never, and could never, be trumped by any other artist, and it's for that reason that his fans were at this show already prepared to not care about the fact that he sounded like Scooby Doo, forgot the lyrics to his own songs, and dropped the microphone on one occaision. Similarly, this is also why people let their family members suffer through countless years on life support - when just a flip of the switch would bring them the comfort they're not able to ask for. When you attach so many of your own memories, hopes, dreams, wishes, and wants onto another thing, it's nearly impossible to let it go. You know you're looking at a ghost, but you don't care. A ghost of a thing is better than nothing at all. Bob Dylan is a ghost of his former self, but he's still able to filll seats because people want to be in the same room with the person who's made them feel more than most. A few weeks ago I took a trip to Graceland and stood at the foot of Elvis' grave, feeling privileged to be so near what I knew to be just dust and bones. I felt the same at this Dylan show, and I'm not sure if that should seem morbid or bleak. I think it's nice to appreciate what you have, when you have it. And for Dylan's fans, aside from memory, this is the reality of what we have left of him.
Dylan started his set at 9:30 PM on the nose (which I'm told is ritual for his shows), and made his way through the majority of his hits, and a few of his newer songs that I didn't recognize. While he played, I spent a lot of time thinking about his life, what it's been, what it's meant to people, and how even though he sounds like shit now, he is still up and out there, full of more energy than most people half his age. I'm happy to have shared a room with him for a few hours, and would suggest that anyone who has the chance to, do the same. When the day comes around that Bob Dylan slips from this life and into whatever the hell happens next, people will cry for a million years and want to kill themselves. When he dies he'll be immediately remembered as he was in his prime. He'll be young again, forever, on the cover of a shit ton of magazines. That to me is the true sign of a life's success. People thinking of you as your best, even when your best stopped happening a long time ago.