Review: Together Through Life: My Never Ending Tour With Bob Dylan

Disclosure: The author, Matthew Ingate generously sent me a copy of his book for the purposes of a review. Thank you so much, Matthew!

This book is by Matthew Ingate, a British Bob Dylan fan who is a fellow 1994 baby. He’s been a fan of Bob Dylan since the age of 11 thanks to his uncle playing oldies: Motown and Stax records, and blues, but nothing captured his attention like Bob Dylan. His uncle warned him that he might laugh at his voice, but that’s not how Matthew felt. It was a magical experience, listening to a classic album for the first time, it was like being in a blank colouring book and then suddenly everything is colourful. The good news is that Bob Dylan kept releasing new music and touring so Matthew could experience new Bob Dylan music as it was coming out and see him multiple times in concert. While I’ve never seen Bob Dylan live, he certainly makes a great sales pitch for why you need to see him live and generally why it’s important to see these rock legends live while they’re still around. Plus, if you find Bob Dylan intimidating, you certainly won’t find him intimidating by the end of the book.

The first chapter tells the story of Matthew crossing the pond and going to a Bob Dylan concert in Philadelphia after spending days following in the footsteps of Dylan in New York, something every Bob Dylan fan must do. He mixes some Bob Dylan history with his personal stories of seeing Bob Dylan. The story ends with him talking about current events and how they relate to Bob Dylan such as his 2020 album Rough and Rowdy Ways, which was released just after the killing of George Floyd – which happened in Bob Dylan’s birth state and the musical Girl From The North Country, which debuted on Broadway just before lockdown. The last chapter is a flashback to Matthew seeing Bob Dylan in concert for the first time in 2011, you could maybe say he’s Bringing It All Back Home. But wait… there’s more, as the infomercials like to say. Matthew cleverly structures the book like a rock concert and there’s an encore that takes us a decade forward into 2021, he gets to see Bob Dylan again, this time at the Beacon Theatre in New York.

Some people might wonder why people keep coming back to see Bob Dylan? While his voice isn’t the same as it used to be and he’s not someone with an extroverted stage presence, he keeps fans on their toes by surprising them with curveballs: rare performances of songs, surprises in the setlist, and him always evolving and changing. No two Dylan concerts are alike and that’s what keeps people coming back and trying to predict what Bob Dylan will play at the next concert. There’s something special about Bob Dylan compared to the other classic rock greats who still have busy touring schedules playing stadiums like Paul McCartney, The Who, and The Rolling Stones. The new stuff is stuff fans want to hear too and part of the appeal because they come alive on stage. Meanwhile with the others, you mainly come for the classics and because of their energy – big respect for them because I’ll complain about something hurting even though I’ve done nothing all day.

Matthew’s love of Bob Dylan has taken him all over the world, with him going to an open air concert in Sweden, at a historic venue in Italy, to Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York, to the picturesque Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Tennessee, and the Grand Rex in Paris. As someone who loves travelling as much as I love classic rock, I really enjoyed this aspect of the book and I think it’s something my readers will love if they like reading my travel posts because the author combines the two topics very well. Classic rock can really take you places!

I really like this one quote about Bob Dylan in the chapter about seeing him in Rome because it sums up what my blog is really all about, cultural exchange and appreciation for music from around the world:

“He is the quintessential American musician and yet his roots, influences, and impact are global”

You can easily see a lot of passion and knowledge in Matthew’s writing and you can tell that Bob Dylan really made a positive impact on his life. He’s a great storyteller with his vivid descriptions of the concerts and because he loves what he’s writing about, even if you’re not a Dylan superfan, you enjoy it because you can tell he had a great time writing the book and experiencing all these concerts. It’s a nice companion to all the other Dylan books I’ve reviewed on this blog. It’s also a pretty quick read at under 200 pages.

As a millennial classic rock fan, I’m always happy to read the perspectives of fellow millennials who love classic rock. I know that many of us millennial classic rock fans have had feelings of jealousy towards boomers because they got to see all our favourites in their prime, listen to the music and buy the records as they were coming out, something that we’ll never get. If you focus only on that, you’ll find yourself to be really sad. Boomers certainly have a great firsthand perspective and it’s great to read their stories of living through the classic rock era, hearing the music in its heyday and having a community of fans, and hearing what the real 60s, 70s, and 80s were like, but millennials have a unique advantage and perspective. We have the internet and so the classic rock world is our oyster. Whenever I talk to classic rock fans who lived through the era, they often say they learn so much from younger fans and say we’re more knowledgable because you can more easily find information about bands on the internet – it’s like a huge book full of information on everything and easily searchable, back then you really couldn’t find as much information about your favourite bands and if you wanted to hear something more obscure, it would be harder to get ahold of it, but with the internet you can find all sorts of music. Older bands certainly have taken advantage of newfound popularity and revivals of interest in their music, and love seeing millennial and zoomer fans alongside boomer and generation x fans. When young people listen to your music and cherish it more than anything, it means a lot to older musicians because it keeps their music alive. Our favourites who are still around will die at some point, but in a way they never really die because they created something that will live forever and we all have memories of them and how their music makes us feel. We need to appreciate all these classic rock greats while they’re still around.

We are now a good bit into the 2020s and near the point where the decade will find itself, or rather I think it found itself in 2020 because we began it in a pandemic with us constantly hearing phrases like “these are unprecedented times”, “social distancing”, “wear a mask”, “the new normal”, “the great reset”. That’s not our only concern: there’s a war, there’s climate change. No matter what your feelings are on current events, no doubt are we in different times than 2019. One of the sad things about this point in time is that we’re reaching an end of an era with classic rockers passing away. I guess I know how all the Old Hollywood fans feel. To think of it in a more positive light, the classic rockers had their turn and it’s the younger generation’s turn now – let’s honour these great musicians by talking and writing about their work and if you’re musically talented, make music inspired by their work.

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