Herald's Bob Dylan review draws heated response

July 7, 2013 

If you write reviews for a living, you dream of weeks like this.

I've been called "heartless" and "doltish." I've been told I'm incapable of appreciating genius. I've been scolded for being cruel to the elderly. I have been accused of posing as someone else so I could praise myself.

I've also been told that I'm "awesome." I've been thanked by strangers and congratulated by colleagues.

Granted, the supportive comments are more fun than the others, but when you work as a critic you take perverse pride in the nasty ones.

What sparked all this was a review I wrote about Bob Dylan's recent Tampa concert. (You can read it at http://heraldbuzzworthy.blogspot.com; scroll down until you see the words "Dylan" and "disgrace.")

Yes, it was negative. Harsh, even.

I've been a Dylan fan since 1963, when I would rush home from school every day so I could listen to my older sister's copy of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" before she got home. (She probably wouldn't have minded that I played it, but I didn't want to ask, because of that slight chance she'd say no.) So this was maybe my sixth Dylan concert since 1966. Some have been great, others have not.

This one was off-the-charts bad.

I had been so excited about seeing Dylan I could barely enjoy the opening acts. But when I hated Dylan's set I had no choice but to say so in my review.

Within minutes, comments appeared, mostly from people angry at me for disliking the concert. (Even those who admitted they hadn't been there.)

I'm obviously not a Dylan fan so I just don't get it, one said. (Really? Let's sit down together and listen to the 350 or so Dylan songs on my iTunes.) Someone said I should have seen Dylan back in his day. (Remember, I went to my first Dylan concert in 1966.) Someone said I probably think Jackson Pollock couldn't paint. And someone said, sure, Dylan sucked, but he's a doddering old man in his early 70s so I should have praised him anyway.

Someone wrote supporting my review. One of the me-haters then wrote that the supportive comment must have come from me, pretending to be someone else.

There were dozens of comments, mostly from people who hated me, all from people who love Dylan.

Tuesday, I got a call from a Bradenton man who's 71 years old -- about Dylan's age -- and he said seeing a Dylan show had been on his bucket list. He paid a lot of money, drove to Tampa -- and left halfway through Dylan's set. He thanked me for my review and said "disgrace" was the right word.

I made some people mad, I made some people happy. Both are heartening things when you're in this line of work.

I hated the show. You liked it and I'm glad. I'm not right and you're not wrong. We have different opinions, that's all. If you think I'm an idiot, that's OK, because sometimes I think so, too.

But when I can post a little 500-word piece that moves people I've never met to write passionately about Bob Dylan, well, even if they insult me in the process, that's pretty wonderful.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martincclear.

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