Bob Dylan and Beck on the same stage for one night -- fan Vinod Shankar can't even believe it.
If he didn't have tickets to the show, that is.
"Beck opening for Dylan is a wonderful thing, if only that it will hopefully make him aware to those music lovers who don't necessarily listen to stuff like 'Where It's At,' " said Shankar, who describes himself as an equal-opportunity Beck/Dylan fan, and who will be attending the Dec. 16 Los Angeles show featuring Beck opening for the folk-rock legend.
Despite his being called "The Dylan of the '90s" by some, Beck and the folk-rock giant bare no resemblance musically, Shankar added. "They're both creative lyricists, diverse musicians, with a solid background in the early country and blues that is oh-so-influential. I'm excited for the concert. It's a dream-pairing, and a once-in-a-lifetime show."
Dylan is lining-up an impressive list of opening acts for an upcoming stint of dates at L.A.'s 900-capacity El Rey Theater; only techno-rock wonder Beck has been confirmed. Beck will share the stage with Dylan on the opening night of Dylan's five-night stand, according to Renee Pfeffer of Dylan's label, Columbia.
The rest of the acts, however, are being kept hush-hush.
"I've heard all kinds of rumors," said Rodney Nardi, manager of the intimate theater, which was formerly a movie house. "People calling up have said they've heard everyone from Sheryl Crow to Jewel, Van Morrison and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, but nobody has even told me yet who the other ones will be."
The setting is a familiar one for Beck who played a Nov. 19 date at the club with the same country-leaning band he appeared with at this year's Farm Aid concert in Illinois, but who will take the stage solo for this gig. The five shows are part of a series of rare club dates by Dylan, who also will be playing some intimate shows in Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C., topped off by five dates in January at New York's Madison Square Garden with Northern Ireland rock-legend Van Morrison.
Nardi said he'd heard from Dylan's advance team, who toured the venue in late October, that the folk legend's lighting director was impressed not only with the El Rey's clear site lines, but also because "his feet didn't stick to the floor when he walked around."
Lisa Cordero, sales manager at the Westwood Village Tower Records in L.A., said that even though Beck's appearance wasn't announced when tickets went on sale Nov. 15, "Beck was a huge attraction for fans. As soon as they knew, it was a big reason why tickets sold out."
Viewing the booking coup as a "real rubber stamp" for the year-old venue, which has also hosted shows by everybody from Guided by Voices to Tricky, the Cardigans and Spiritualized, Nardi said he was as psyched as fans were about the shows. "You know how you get excited about something and then you try and control it because it's not confirmed?" he said. "The last thing you want to do is jinx yourself. People who are calling up seem really psyched, though.
"There's the people who call in who've never been here who have tickets and want to know what the room is like and then there's the ones who call and are disappointed and keep asking 'Are you sure it's sold out? Are you sure?' Then there's a long silence and you feel like you want to reach out and help them, but you can't."
Not every Beck fan sees the inaugural El Rey date as a great meeting of the folk-rock minds though.
"I don't know that Dylan could be called one of Beck's 'idols' from what I've
heard," wrote the 43-year-old Deborah Gilmore, webmaster of the Beck fan site Slo-Jam Central. "I understand he respects the man's work. Many people have gone to great lengths to find comparisons between Beck and Dylan, but the only real thing they have in common is an understanding of folk music and how to freshen it up and adapt it to their times."
Beck's lyrics, she added, are more Dadaist than Dylan's, referring to the surreal art form. "The artists' brush strokes are not the same. In the future critics and fans alike will look back and say that Beck had as much or more of an impact on the history of music as Dylan did."
Dylan Tour Dates:
Dec. 4 -5; Washington, D.C.; 9:30 Club
Dec. 8; New York, N.Y.; Irving Plaza
Dec. 9; Boston, Mass.; Avalon
Dec. 10-11; Philadelphia, Pa.; Trocadero
Dec. 13-14; Chicago, Ill.; The Metro
Dec. 16-20; Los Angeles, Calif.; El Rey Theatre
Jan. 16-18, 20-21; New York, N.Y.; Madison Square Garden, with Van Morrison
Jan. 23-24; Boston, Mass.; Fleet Center with Van Morrison
[Fri., Dec. 5, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]