Friday, October 7, 2016

Blowing in the Wind and Dylan's 1981 Concert in Avignon

Last weekend I was listening to Bob Dylan's 25 July 1981 concert in Avignon, France while painting in my studio. It was the last show from his summer European tour during which he was riding the energy of his Gospel period to an appreciative audience, no longer being booed for his "latest change of direction."

From the end of March to somewhere near his 40th birthday in late May Dylan recorded the third album from his Gospel period, Shot Of Love. In June he took his show back on the road, first in the U.S. with a handful of concerts and then to Europe, beginning and ending in France, with concerts in England, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Austria and Switzerland in between. This last concert at the Palace des Sports was to be recorded for an album from this tour.

The concerts that summer were packed with great songs both from that period in his life and from his early portfolio. On average he performed 25 to near 30 songs a gig. In Avignon he had a 26 song setlist with three additional songs in the encore, which began with Blowin' in the Wind.

According to notes from the concert was interrupted at one point by a tragic accident when someone in the crowd fell into the electric cables which resulted in two deaths and a total power loss during the song Saved. Dylan and the band improvised “unplugged” until the power was restored. After the unplugged interlude Saved was started again from the beginning. In the accident two people were killed, but the show was completed in spite of this.

Blowing in the Wind, first cut on The Freewheeling Bob Dylan, is a timeless song that continues to speak directly and profoundly to our time. It's a song Dylan has performed nearly 1400 times in concert, and that has appeared on 16 of his albums in various permutations.

Though delivered with quiet simplicity on Freewheelin', there is nothing quiet about the questions it asks and nothing simple about the issues it addresses.

Dylan first performed the song on April 16, 1962. Most recently he performed it live in July this summer, though it would not surprise me if he sang it tonight at this weekend's Desert Trip.

The song is a meditation. Will we never learn?

Blowin’ In The Wind
Written by: Bob Dylan

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, ’n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ’n’ how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ’n’ 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

Copyright © 1962 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1990 by Special Rider Music

Here's the setlist from the Avignon concert.
Here's information on the Second Shot of Love Tour, Europe 1981.

* * * *
Duluth 2016
Next weekend, October 15, we're gathering to celebrate 25 years of the KUMD radio program Highway 61 Revisited, hosted by John Bushey, listened to worldwide through streaming media, Here are details and 7 reasons for you to join us.  

 Here are 9 more reasons for Dylan fans and music fans to join us next weekend.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Dig it.


Anonymous said...

I was at this show. I read in the papers later on that 1 person was killed by electrocution, and that the other was killed because of fighting (outside of the arena) (this was Avignon, where in summer lots of people gather for the festival, at that time quite some con-men, junkies and other assorted vagabonds). But it is a long time ago. And yes, it was a good show. It was also bloody cold. And I still think it is the most memorable Dylan show I have attended. It was my 3rd.


Ed Newman said...

Thank you for these details that help bring additional light, or rather, more accuracy to the retelling.

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