Boxing Bob Dylan

Nothing’s free in this world. Especially when it’s offered by a corporation. Is it worth it to accept freebies from the Man when he seemingly expects nothing in return? Not when it’s box seats to a concert. You’re better off watching it at home with relatives you hate. At least you can kick them out…or kill them. This Glono feature looks at the sick world of corporate boxes and how they can kill your favorite rock stars.

Boxing Bob Dylan

The evils of corporate boxes uncovered.

November 2001

We do some corporate bashing here and why not? They don’t seem to be too concerned with things like arsenic in the water, ecoli in your burger, or signing good artists. Corporations are inherently anti-people but knowing the rules of the game makes it easier to play. Glono team member Sab suggests we stick it to the Man at every opportunity. So, when a pair of corporate box seats to see Bob Dylan came my way, I jumped at ’em. What better way to sock it to ’em than to see Dylan on their dime?

It’s easy to get caught in the trappings of the corporate world. They lull you into submission with free t-shirts and dinners. Hey, free is free, right? But nothing’s free in this world, sonny. Nothing.

I motored down to the United Center in Chicago’s west loop instead of taking a $20 cab. I had a VIP parking pass that allowed me to park right up front. I couldn’t help but grin as I passed the poor saps waving their flashlights outside of the pay lots. “Up yours!” I yelled as I drove by. “You won’t be getting twelve bucks from me, you dogs!”

I pulled my ’88 Jeep, Grand Wagoneer, a true MONSTER of a truck, up to the gate where we were greeted by security.

“Got yer pass?” a yellow-jacket attendant asked.

“My pass? Oh, yeah. Hold on…” I dug around looking for the pass as cars lined up behind me. As the seconds ticked by, my yellow friend got more impatient.

“You got a pass?” he asked again.

“Yeah, hold on, it’s right here.” Suddenly a horn sounds. I knew it was coming. You can’t be stopped ANYWHERE in Chicago for more than one second without some nitwit laying on the horn. I shot up and peered in my rearview mirror at the graying man behind the wheel of a Lincoln Navigator. I hate those things. They’re not trucks. They’re luxury cars hopped up on steroids. Just try taking one down a washed out mountain road and see.

“Ok, I just fucking had it,” I say to Old Yeller.

“Well, come on. I got people waiting.” He said looking at the growing line of luxury SUVs.

Finally I found the window pass and handed it to him, but not before the Navigator could get one more honk in.

“Fuck you!” I screamed out my open window. “Not you,” I said to Old Yeller as he jerked his head up to my scream. “It’s that Navigator.”

“Oh,” he replied. “Yeah, that is a nice truck though.”

“You call that a truck?” I grabbed my pass back and stepped on the gas. Another yellow man directed me to me parking spot.

Now, I wasn’t alone. Mick, guitarist for the Blue Ribbon Brothers, was there too and he hates Navigators with a passion that matches mine. He can’t even look at ’em. See, Mick is anti-rich. He hates everything about wealth and wealthy people, whereas I just hate obnoxious pseudo-trucks and some of the hair-brains who drive them. Mick is also a top-notch drinker and I should have considered that before asking him to come to the show with me. It was going to be a long night.

We parked the Beast and walked up to the gate. After showing our tickets three times, we were hustled into a suite on the first tier of boxes at the United Center. The mood was somber. It felt like we were being escorted to Lincoln’s box and the Old Boy was just about to take one in the melon. Right away we knew we were in the wrong place and so did everyone inside.

The box is a dingy little apartment decorated like a suburban Rent-A-Center. Tacky paintings and tweed couches feel more like the living room of the Roseanne show than a luxury suite. But we weren’t there for the décor. We were there for the show-and the free food and booze.

Corporate boxes are really only for schmoozing clients and other assorted VIPs a company may have. It is a palace of ass kissing and if you’re ass isn’t pretty, powerful or rich, you might as well back it the hell out.

Mick and I stood in the doorway for a full five minutes. People looked up from time to time but nobody said a word to us. This was good and bad. Good because I didn’t want to talk to anyone about ad space or marketing promotions, but bad because I felt like they were going to call security and get us thrown out of there. Who needs a couple of stoned dirtballs hanging around when you’re closing a six-month, three-quarter-page deal?

Finally, I just pushed my way through the crowd. The box has four rows of seats in front of it and out in the stadium itself. I wanted to be sure we had our pick of the best and didn’t want to waste any more time. I’d never seen Dylan before and I wasn’t about to let some paunchy sales man in his Wednesday night best Dockers bump me out of a good seat, no siree.

Well, I was worked up over nothing. Though the BobFather was mere minutes from taking the stage, there was no mad rush for the good seats. In fact, the dimming of the lights that signals the coming of Him was met with minor interest at best and deranged heckling at worst.

Bob took the stage dressed in the country gentleman fare he’s taken a shine to in recent years. He had a four-man backing band and they launched into the folk standard “Wait for the Light” to the cheers of the floor and the rising din of the boxes. The chatter from the various ad-hucksters and their “guests” grew to an alarming decibel. Four mooks in particular really raised my dander when their leader stumbled to his seat during the fourth song and wittily exclaimed, “This guy’s been at it for forty years and he still can’t fucking sing.” All this as he assumed the obligatory air guitar stance.

This kind of tomfoolery continued throughout the first half of the set. My head was aching and I needed something to keep me grounded while the goon squad to our left continued to heckle and ogle 19-year-old hippie chicks in the seats ahead of us.

“I need a drink,” I said to Mick who was sweating and obviously suffering the DTs.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” he said.

We slowly shuffled between the rows of seats toward the aisle. We didn’t have to bother with the customary apologies because nobody was sitting there. Here was Bob Dylan putting on an education in folk balladry and the fat heads in the box were trying to squeeze the last drops of Chardonnay out of the Box O’ Wine provided by their guests.

Mick and I looked around the suite trying to pinpoint where all the beer was. Our eyes darted from one hand to another filled with the plastic cups still wet with wine and a few cans of Miller Genuine Draft. Nobody was giving up the location. It wasn’t anywhere we could see. We opened the fridge and looked under the table for a cooler but it was nowhere.

“God damn it, where is all the beer?” I hissed at Mick, now pale and surly.

“How the fuck should I know? This is your gig.” I got us the tickets but it was NOT my gig. We were turning on each other. All we could think of was the beer. The mindless yammering of the corporate heads was hypnotizing us into a stupor.

We fumbled around some more and eventually wandered back to our seats empty-handed. The four buffoons had gone back into the suite and we were left to watch the show in relative peace. Until a cell phone rang behind me. A piercing scream of a ring went on and on as the ditz who owned the phone giggled nervously and dug around in her bag for the damned thing.

“C’mon already,” I mumbled. “Answer it.” Be careful what you ask for.

She finally answered it and proceeded to talk for the next ten minutes about where they were, who was there and, more importantly, what they were doing after the show.

“What? I can’t hear you.” She yelped into the phone.

“No, I think we’re going to Cubby Bear.”

“No, Dan wants to see some other band there.”

“Yeah, he Loooves music.”

“What? It’s ok. His voice isn’t all that great and I haven’t recognized one song yet.”

“What? No, I think that’s a Jimmy Hendrix song. No, really. What?”

To Dan, her music expert friend.

“Dan. Dan. Aaron wants to know if he’s played the Jimi Hendrix song.”

“All along the Watch Tower?” Dan inquires knowingly. He’s a cheeky devil.

“Yeah. That’s a Hendrix song isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but Dylan wrote it.”

“He did?”

And on and on and on like this. My brain was swelling and my mouth was dry. I was actually praying the show would end soon. It did, too soon…too late.

From what I could concentrate on, Dylan really seemed to put on a good show. His backing band was fantastic and Dylan played a great variety of songs spanning his career and the timeline of American folk music. Unfortunately, my hatred for every other soul in the corporate box distracted me to the point of ignoring the concert. I stand before you now and swear to never accept a ticket to a corporate box again…unless beer and guns are readily accessible.

Have you had the misfortune of attending a show in a “luxury” box?

Let us know!

We want to hear about it.

14 thoughts on “Boxing Bob Dylan”

  1. My man Scott and I saw several shows in G-Rap in the Coca Cola box, and I always had a blast. Phil, you’ve got to focus, baby. Focus on the music. The boxes at the Van Andel have inside and outside compartments, though, and the talking people usually stayed inside while Scott and I drank our free beer and ate our free pizza outside.

  2. I agree with Phil – there’s a big difference between people who show up to the box because it’s free, and fans of the artist who actually want to see a show.

  3. Tell it like it is Phil! Corporate boxes suck. I’ve gone to enough Red Wings games and Tiger games on somebody else’s Sacagawea to learn that you can never have as good of a time in a box–even with free beer–as you can down in the stands.

  4. The United Center also has inside and outside seats in their boxes and it SUCKED through and through. Everthing about it sucked. We were about as removed from the interaction as we would have been watching it on VH1. Corporate boxes are the worst possible way to see a show.

  5. I saw the Family Values Tour from a corp box. I also saw Neil Diamond, Cher, Marilyn Manson, Aerosmith, Sabbath, Chilly Peppers, etc. Plus many sporting events. It is always funny for my 50 year old sales reps to have to sit through a Manson concert with me just to kiss my arse. Almost every one I’ve been to included a spread of appetizers and a fridge full of ‘premium’ long necks. When you sit in a corp box you have to act like THEY owe YOU something. Don’t see something you want? Find out who’s in charge or pick up the in-house phone and order it! My favorite corporate tickets, though, had to be from back in 1999 when I got free tix to every Michigan home football game, plus their away game against State. No corp boxes in the Big House, at least not yet.All those concerts from big boxes don’t compare to having my name on the guest list at St Andrews hall or The State Theater in Kalamazoo! Those are the shows that are worth going to.PeaceScotty

  6. These trying times coupled with my not being a rep or a corporate huckster meant I couldn’t order anything. To make matters worse, I just got hit up to pay an additional $40 to cover the beer and food I didn’t get because fatties who got there first sucked it all down. Fat chance they’ll be collecting that bill.

  7. Ha! I wish. I was put on notice that I’d have to fork over the dough to help balance the cost of the “refreshments.” NONE OF WHICH I had. Those dogs will see me in Hell before they see that dough!

  8. I’ve never seen a show from a box but I related to Derek’s experience of feeling distracted and distanced by the distinterested attitudes around him. I, too, suck up that kind of crowd vibe and it can wreck things for me. But I have seen Dylan three times and must say he can be a distant performer, his own self. Saw him once in Toronto from seats so far away we felt remote and lost. Bob seemed businesslike but not to care. Near the end of the night someone cried out: “Speak to us, Bob!” He didn’t. It was painful. Seeing shows in Canada was often like that. Even Neil Young, a Canuck, played the Gardens in total silence. This is far from corporate boxes, but goes to the issue of immediacy — those giant stadium gigs almost always suck.

  9. My one and only time seeing Bob (fall 1990) was one of the biggest disappointments of my life: worse than Scott Morgan, worse than Lou Reed, worse even than Eric Clapton. Dylan played the Fox in Detroit and his set was one long rambling incoherent jumble of crap. I was not then the biggest Dylan fan in the world, but I knew enough Dylan to recognize the songs he was playing and realize that the performance could have been phoned in. He displayed little emotion; his lack of interest was appalling. Perhaps my naivete is responsible for thinking him technically deficient, but I swear I’ve heard better guitar playing in coffee houses. G.E. Smith (as if he hadn’t yet annoyed us enough on SNL to deserve being shot in the kneecaps and left to die somewhere in the vicinity of the Chrysler Jefferson Ave. plant) did not help matters as Dylan’s lead guitarist. If I were to see this same show today, no doubt I would heckle Dylan mercilessly until security came and threw my ass out. I have had the opportunity to see Dylan for free since then and turned it down in favor of watching TV by myself.

  10. Yeah I hear what your saying. I saw him last summer and got really frustrated by the way he reinterprets the songs. It almost feels like a betrayal.I feel as though I’ve listened to those songs and adored them so the LEAST he could’ve done was play em with some fucking enthusiasm.It was in a big stadium which didnt help but being an insipid bastard I roared every lyric at Bob THE WAY THEY WERE ORIGINALLY DELIVERED just to piss him off.Christ I am a petty man. Besides there were 30,000 other people there, it wasnt as if he was gonna hear me…

  11. I have no interest in seeing a show where the performer presents every song as it was “originally delivered.” I can listen to the records at home if I want that. Dylan’s certainly entitled to rework his own songs, some of which he’s been playing for nearly 40 years.

  12. While I have never sat in the “box” I recieved 2nd row center tickets for Dylan’s 1999 summer tour…with the pleasure of rolling into the vip parking and finally being allowed into the highly disappointing “VIP tent” once inside, one of the greatest thrills of my life was actually being able to see those crazy cowboy boots up close…I”ve seen Dylan 5 times and at each show i’m that “hippie chick” attempting to hear the golden dancing tune flowing from the stage through the hissing and wispering of the disapproving middle-class 50 yearolds who once got it, but lost it somewhere…perhaps they’re there to recapture their missing fandom…thier lack of understanding the brillance that stands before them casually singing everything they need to know…While Fall 2000 at the Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor MI was by far the best Dylan show i’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing (my bootleg is nearly worn out!) Fall 2001 in Detroit was not far behind…a very different show, a very different atmosphere created by the melody and consciousness of Mr. Tamborine Man…sitting next to me were two middle-aged women dressed in the “Love and Theft” t-shirts they had just purchased, piss-drunk off overly-priced miller light. Chattering about not understanding a word coming from stage, ripping on Dylan’s threads, and just being rude throughout the first set, I finally hear the inevitable “Psst…Hey you…hippie” They were asking me to pass them the shwag joint the man below was puffing on…ignoring them did not work, so finally i stood up and turned to them, rhetorically asking the entire section “Is there NO Hippie smoking etiquette left in the World!” The two women finally got the hint and left…I didn’t hear another negative word out of the section for the rest of the night…perhaps they were silenced by the voice of generations or perhaps they were finally seeing what was happening before them…Yes, a sixty year-old man still singing with his guitar…but how many forty some year vetrens of the music world are still trucking along AND creating better music than all those who came before?

  13. Joni,Great telling of your own live Bob experience. I wonder why people like that go to shows? Is it just to SAY they’ve seen Dylan? Do they only pay attention when “Everybody Must Get Stoned” or “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” comes on? I have another pet peeve with those who want to hear the live perfrmance JUST as it is on the record (CD). What?! Go home and listen to the original recording. I want a new experience and THAT is the essence of a live perfromance.

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