I have posted before about my great admiration for the music of Mark Knopfler, the former Dire Straits front man who has continued to release solo albums, compose movie soundtracks, and collaborate with an incredibly diverse group of artists across a wide range of musical genres.  He is a master of the guitar.  His unique variation of the “clawhammer” fingerpicking style and his signature tone are immediately recognizable.  As a lyricist, he is a gifted musical storyteller.  Kim and I had the opportunity to see Knopfler perform in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium in 2005 and at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis in 2010 on an anniversary trip.

I was thrilled to learn earlier in the year that Knopfler would be touring North America with Bob Dylan this fall, just as they had done in Europe late last year.  The musical relationship between the two dates back over 30 years, with Knopfler playing lead guitar on Dylan’s 1979 album, Slow Train Coming, and producing another Dylan album in the early ’80s.

When the tour dates were announced on Knopfler’s website a few months ago, my eyes lit up when I saw Tulsa on the itinerary.  Then, my heart sank like a rock when I saw that the T-Town concert would be on November 2, the night that I was to attend a wedding rehearsal dinner in Plano, Texas.  The wedding date had been booked since March, and I felt extremely honored to be asked to perform the ceremony for Taylor Grow, whom I have known since she was 10 years old.  There was no way that I was not going to be there for Taylor and Eric on that Friday night.

What are the odds that, on the only night in my life that Knopfler was going to perform in the city where I live, I would be out of town?

HOWEVER… my spirits skyrocketed when I noticed that on Thursday night, November 1, Dylan and Knopfler were playing at the Verizon Theater in Grand Prairie, just a stone’s throw (in Texas distance, anyway) from where we were going to be on Friday.  Incredible!  All we had to do was extend the trip by one day on the front end for a concert on Thursday night, rehearsal dinner on Friday night, and wedding on Saturday night.

My interest in the concert was purely to hear Mark Knopfler play again, but I was rather intrigued by the prospect of seeing Bob Dylan.  Along the same lines of my recent post about A&M Records being founded in the year of my birth, Dylan’s first studio album was released in 1962.  With this year’s release of Tempest, Dylan has issued 35 studio albums over the last 50 years.  When you add in live albums, compilations, etc., his catalog includes a mind-boggling 71 titles.  Dylan fan or not, you’ve got to respect that kind of longevity and his unquestioned influence on the American music scene over the last half century.  I never followed him closely, but I particularly remember his Christian-influenced phase in the late ’70s and his collaboration with George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, and Roy Orbison as a member of the Traveling Wilburys in the late ’80s.  Among my favorite Dylan lyrics is a line from “Subterranean Homesick Blues”: “You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.”

One of the biggest knocks on Bob Dylan over the last several years has been that his performances are highly unpredictable.  He tends to remain ambivalently detached and aloof from the audience and almost never plays a song in an arrangement similar to its studio version.  And his voice?  Music critics have described Dylan’s voice in recent years as a “zombie bullfrog holler,” “a hoarse Fred Sanford after an all-night fight with Lamont,” and “sounds as if he’s been gargling with gravel for the last several decades.”  After reading reviews of earlier tour stops in Canada and on the West Coast, I wasn’t expecting a lot.  But, I was pleasantly surprised.  Kim particularly enjoyed his set.  Despite his general unintelligibility and my unfamiliarity with all but four or five of the songs that he played, it was nice to see this musical living legend.  At 71 years of age, he’s still at it.  I’m 50 and haven’t even managed to crank out my first book yet, so who am I to criticize anyone?

Of course, the night belonged to Knopfler, despite the fact that he and his band of world-class musicians were technically the opening act.  Their 70-minute set was a masterful performance.  I could have listened all night.  While I paid more for our 14th row, center section seats than I typically would, it was well worth it and served as my 50th birthday present to myself and Kim.

As I mentioned in my last post, it has always “taken a village” with our son Coleman.  Kim and I couldn’t have enjoyed the concert if it hadn’t been for Mark and Laura Bryson, our dear friends and former co-workers at the McDermott Road church.  They let Coleman hang out with them at home, just as they did on Friday night while we attended the rehearsal dinner.  They are like family to us.  On Saturday night, other friends who are extremely near and dear to our hearts, Russell and Vicki Selman, kept him while we were at the wedding.  Coleman just couldn’t stop smiling and jumping when he saw Ms. Vicki.

After sharing in the joy of Taylor and Eric’s wedding, we picked up Coleman at the Selman’s house, then made the four-hour drive back to Tulsa.  We were home by 1:00 a.m., which actually amounted to midnight because of the shift back to Standard Time that night.  I was grateful for the bonus of another hour’s sleep.

Music, marriage, the fellowship of friends, and a getaway with my family.  November got off to a great start!

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