I had a heretical thought last night.
After work, I drove to Nashville to attend a Dylan concert at the Ryman. Over the 41 years that I’ve been attending these regular rituals of aging, I’ve learned the one constant is there is no constant. One night is awful and the next night is incredible.
Last night was magical. Amos Lee opened and then Elvis Costello surprised the crowd by contributing a 40-minute set. When Dylan and band finally made it to the stage, they were in a groove, made even more electric when Jack White of the White Stripes strolled on stage to play a blistering guitar and sing an impassioned “Meet Me In The Morning.”
It was about then that I became aware that the packed house was rewarding some impressive guitar licks, cheering slight changes in lyrics and applauding the subtlety of some reworked arrangements. Notably, no one left early, all in stark contrast to a similar concert a year or so ago in the Orpheum here.
It was at that moment that it occurred to me that Nashville audiences are simply more music-savvy. They appreciate the subtleties, they know the players, they are plugged into the performance and they feel the music.
It’s not the first time I’ve been to concerts at the Ryman, but it was the first time that this thought crossed my mind. I just hope someone can talk me out of it.