Anyone who’s attended a Bob Dylan concert knows he is far from a gregarious stage presence. After attending several of his concerts, my wife and I remarked to each other at a show in Minneapolis that he’d actually spoken to the audience other than announcing a song title or saying “Thanks.”
But if you think you’ve just happened to catch Dylan on a day he’s out of sorts, an appearance at the White House shows he doesn’t change much, regardless of the audience. Here’s what President Obama said about Dylan’s performance in a lengthy interview with Rolling Stone:
Here’s what I love about Dylan: He was exactly as you’d expect he would be. He wouldn’t come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practicing before the set in the evening. He didn’t want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn’t show up to that. He came in and played “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely different. Finishes the song, steps off the stage — I’m sitting right in the front row — comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a little grin, and then leaves. And that was it — then he left. That was our only interaction with him. And I thought: That’s how you want Bob Dylan, right? You don’t want him to be all cheesin’ and grinnin’ with you. You want him to be a little skeptical about the whole enterprise. So that was a real treat.
Hey, at least he shook Obama’s hand.
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked
“It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home