Saturday, March 15, 2008

I'll need an official invitation, a visa, some Baltika, and a bottle of Russian Standard!

St. Petersburg is widely considered to be Russia's most beautiful city. This show will be just a little over two weeks before the longest day of the year, during the season when St. Petersburg enjoys "White Nights", and the sun never sets. 

I want to go to this show. I really want to go to this show. 

From the St. Petersburg Times (Russia):

Bob Dylan will perform a one-off concert in Russia, and it will be in St. Petersburg, the local promoter Planeta Plus revealed this week. The legend, who is now on tour in South America, is due to play the Ice Palace on June 3.

There is a long and difficult relationship between the singer and this country. When Bob Dylan was a star in the West, his status in the Soviet Union was strangely ambivalent — due to the country’s insularity and poor knowledge of English that came with it.

Dylan received wide coverage in the Soviet press which developed his image as a protest singer and oponent of the Vietnam war, but the music itself was never really available either on Soviet records or on the radio. One 30-minute program which accidentally broadcast on local Leningrad radio in the late 1970s was an exception.

On top of that, rock fans tended to despise whatever was praised in the official Soviet press, so the articles hardly brought Dylan many new followers.

“You know you need a whole new beginning / Don’t have to go to Russia or Iran / Just surrender to God and He’ll move you right here where you stand, and Ye shall be changed, ye shall be changed,” sang Dylan in “Ye Shall Be Changed,” the song that he wrote in 1979 when he was exploring his new-born Christianity.

He did come to Russia in 1985, when it was still the Soviet Union, and Mikhail Gorbachev had been leader for just two months. Little information is available, but the reports have it that he came to Moscow’s First International Poetry Festival following an invitation from Andrei Voznesensky.

According to reports, Dylan did perform but the concert was not advertised (of course) and the public was a selected bunch brought in on buses. Allegedly, the room was half-empty, the public was indifferent, and Dylan stopped after 30 minutes, deeply upset. He could be glimpsed on television news reports, however.

The second coming was advertised by posters all around the city in 1988, when perestroika was approaching its height, but, closer to the date, the show scheduled at the Sports and Concert Complex was canceled, with no explanation provided. Reportedly, it was due to low ticket sales. The Novosibirsk-based rock magazine ENsk even reported the number of tickets sold as 4.

The Ice Palace is an indoor stadium that can hold up to 11,700 fans. Whether Dylan’s popularity in Russia soared in the past nine years remains a big question.

The upcoming concert is shrouded in mystery. The promoter’s press officer has not given any additional details about the concert, except for the date and place, while a tour schedule on Dylan’s official site does not beyond Thursday, when he is due to perform in Punta Del Este, Uruguay.

— Sergey Chernov


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