I am going to admit that I am petty and mean person. When people started sending me links to the story in November that Bob Dylan had played a concert for “one lucky fan” in Philadelphia I shrugged it off as no big deal. Sure, Fredrik Wilkingsson got a solo performance as part of the Swedish television program Experiment Ensam (in which people are asked to do things alone that are usually done in groups – like go to an amusement park – as a way of gauging the psychological impact of aloneness), but it wasn’t really a concert concert. He got to watch the sound check (Dylan did his regular concert in the same venue a couple of hours later). No big deal. I listened to Dylan’s soundcheck just about ten days before (admittedly, I did so from outside the venue, through a series of doors and I have no idea what I heard). Whatever. Just a sound check, dude. I’m not jealous. I wouldn’t even want to see Dylan by myself.
So, yeah, no, it’s all a lie.
As soon as the episode was released online I watched it and I have to say: I felt so happy for this guy. Watch it here:
Let’s be clear – this guy really wants this. I know that he’s a genuine Swedish television personality and so he’s used to performing on camera, but this is no act. He looks alternately terrified and over-awed. I think he clearly has an anxiety attack at one point, and when he tells the crew that he has injured his cheeks from over-smiling my jealousy meter went into overdrive. Lucky bastard.
What Wilkingsson is watching is, in fact, Dylan’s soundcheck. I wouldn’t stake my life on it, but I am all but certain I heard Dylan play “Key to the Highway” (the final, unidentified, song here) through those doors in Cleveland. Given that he didn’t vary his set list on the fall US tour, it is possible that he also played the same sound check every day. The songs here are “Heartbeat” by Buddy Holly, “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino (and totally unlike Domino’s version), “It’s too Late” by Chuck Willis, and “Key to the Highway” by Big Bill Bronzy. I try to hold onto the fact that “it’s just the soundcheck – lots of people watch the soundcheck every day”. Can’t do it. Lucky bastard.
It’s the whole Dylan spoke to him thing that makes it so hard to take. I can so easily put myself into this man’s shoes. I’m not certain that I would have been brave enough to say anything. Like Wilkingsson, I’m not sure whether or not I would have clapped or not. This is a great portrait of what Dylan fandom does to some people. It’s a portrait of what it might have done to me. I almost teared up in November when Dylan played “Long and Wasted Years” in Cleveland because I could imagine for a moment that I was the only person there. To have been the only person actually there? Well, Wilkingsson handles it really well.