Stockholm, Sweden

May 15, 2000


[Tobias], [Anders Tidström], [Thomas Taylor], [Eric Wishart]

Review by Tobias

Polar Price Awards Stockholm May 15th:
Well I saw this weird thing on TV and all they were talking about was that
Dylan really did show up. But our man looked all but happy, uncomfortable
is the word that comes to mind. The only real smile came was when he was
to be handed the award from the King (no not Elvis, the Swedish King) they
were to hand it over to the King first who was to hand it over to Dylan.
But since Dylan stood inbetween the the guy with the award and the King,
he was picking it up as it was reached to the King! Embarrassing indead!
The King however grabbed it with a firm grip and then handed it over to
Dylan. Before then Louise Hoffsten played a nice version of "What Good Am
I" and Bryan Ferry played an awful version of "Hard Rain" - he played it
in some strange up tempo beat, with a happy smiling and dancing choir like
if it was a song of happiness. Dylan looked amused. Of cause Dylan didn't
show up for the evening reception dinner and I don't know who really
believed he would perform! Well, then ! all they talked about was that he
didn't show up...


Review by Anders Tidström

   Dylan certainly was a kind of sophisticated winner May 15 when he
   received the Polar Music Prize in the Berwald Hall in Stockholm,
   Sweden. He had a careful approach to it all. For a while sitting in the
   audience on the left side of Carl XVI Gustaf, the King of Sweden,
   listening to presentations and declarations of most expected kind from
   the stage was no thrill for anyone. As violinist Isaac Stern was the
   classical winner this year naturally half of the time concerned that
   matter. Through the whole ceremony Stern was the smiling and Dylan the
   wondering one. A strange phenomenon is that everything was directed to
   Stern in the first place. Actually one could get the idea that Dylan
   was a second prize winner. But that isnīt the case as each of the
   winners is presented with a million Swedish crowns. The popular and
   classical branch is supposed to be equally valued. Wonderful music was
   played as a tribute to the winners. It looked like Dylan raised his
   eyebrows when Swedish singer Louise Hoffsten sang a most beautiful
   version of "What Good am I". A thin and sculptured voice from a tall
   blond good-looking woman all dressed in a tight pink robe. That was
   indeed the highlight of the ceremony! When Bryan Ferry also honored
   Dylan later there was no space for it as it was delivered more as Ferry
   and less as tribute. The whole thing didnīt take more than about an
   hour. Still a lot of small funny things connected to Dylan happened all
   the time. To sit there in the audience watching it flow was most
   entertaining. I was thinking of when I first saw Dylan on his debute
   1966 in Sweden. He kneeled on the stage floor in the Concert House in
   Stockholm excusing for tuning "as the guitar had been in Australia
   recently". That Chaplin side of Dylan might still be there. He
   definitely acted in a clowny manner in the very end of this event.
   Stern and Dylan had there prize documents and also the most enormous
   set of flowers. Back on his seat Dylan had a bright idea and executed
   it rapidly. The blond lady two steps to his left was the victim! Dylan
   presented her the flowers and she was unable to do anything but
   unwillingly fight with the seemingly heavy, brushy, thing when the next
   moment every honored guest was parading out of the hall. Probably Dylan
   doesnīt know that he was making this joke to the Swedish minister of
   culture Marita Ulvskog. An other episode of fun was when Princess
   Christina was too slow to lend over the prize certificate to her
   brother King Carl Gustaf. She said something like "would you please, Mr
   Dylan, take this prize..." as she stretched it in front of Dylan for
   the King on the other side. The following words like "... from His
   majesty ..." was to come when Dylan grabbed the prize, the King looked
   confused and took it from Dylan just to be able to give it to him.
   Really funny! A nice collective smile was released in the audience in
   that moment. I wished that Carsten from Pittsburgh and other avid
   Bob-friends of the world could have participated in that seriously odd
   happening. Finally, though the Swedish King probably has other music
   preferences than Dylan (Beach Boys when driving his Italian sportscar
   too fast?) he tried to be a little social now and then. When a sequence
   of a young Dylan singing "Blowinīin the Wind" was monitored on a wide
   screen His highness recognized it and tried happily to communicate his
   feelings to the Music King beside. There was not a sign of a lucky
   strike, though. Something has happened since Dylan got the answer in
   Greenwhich Village, New York, that his voice was worth a dollar a day.
   Now he made 120 000 bucks in an hour. But as we know "money doesnīt
   talk - it swears"!

   Anders Tidström


Review by Thomas Taylor

  The prize ceremony was delayed 30 minutes because Bob Dylan
  hadnīt arrived yet.  Dylan was supposed to be there at
  16:00, but he didnīt show up until 16:20, as I heard. King Carl
  Gustav entered Berwaldhallen a few minutes before Bob and Isaac. There
  was a lot of guitarplaying children playing as the award winners entered
  the stage. 

   Dylan really did look uncomfortable as the audience applauded,
   but Mr Stern smiled and waved to the audience.  Then
   they stepped down from the stage and the orchestra began
   playing some great classic music, very good indeed. After that a man
   with grey hair begun reading from a paper how great Mr Dylan and
   maestro Stern was. He spoke about Dylan as a 20 year old kid, what he
   did say back then, and he talked about "Blowing in the Wind", for each
   word the nail inside my breast got bigger, I thought that Dylan would
   get up and leave. But he sat down, looking straigt ahead.
   Louise Hoffstein played a great version of "What good am I", bluesy very
   bluesy. At Grand Hotel later on in the evening she said in a
   TV-interview that she didnīt dare look at Dylan, she was afraid that he
   would look angry or that he had fallen asleep. Then she answered the
   question if Dylan could sing (in sweden Louise is one of the greatest
   singers) and she said that all those who says that he canīt sing are
   liers and that you mustnīt masturbate your instrument to prove you can
   play it as a answer to if he can play the harmonica (Louise is known in
   Sweden to be the best harmonica player), of course he can play the

   Then Bryan Ferry entered the stage and made a super version of "A Hard
   Rain", with violins and it sounded like The Rolling Thunder Revue. When
   I heard it on TV I was very dissapointed, it didnīt sound at all at it
   did in Berwaldhallen, you couldnīt hear the violins at all, the guitars
   didnīt sound as nasty as they did earlier that day. He smiled softly
   when Louise sang her song, but when Ferry played he looked at him
   almost all the time and sometimes you could see some sunshine in his

   He looked very happy when he recieved the award, but he was very nervous.
   He didnīt know where to keep his hands, they walked up and down his sides,
   in his pockets, in his other hand and so on.
   He left the place as fast as he could, went out to Arlanda (Stockholm
   International Airport) and took a flight over to Helsinki, Finland.

  But most important, all the time in Berwaldhallen, he held his sunglasses
  in his right hand. All the time!
 Thomas Taylor


Review by Eric Wishart

Bob Dylan sitting through an Abba medley? Don't believe it? Well, it
happened at the Polar Music prize ceremony -- a kind of music version of
the Nobel Prize awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Music -- in
Stockholm. The organisers had been trying to get Dylan to accept this
award for years, and finally managed to pin him down during a tour of
northern Europe. To receive the framed certificate and the 120,000 dollars
you have to show up, which Dylan did after causing the organisers some
anxious moments in the final hours. Violin virtuoso and co-recipient Isaac
Stern arrived the day before and granted interviews. Dylan was unavailable
for any press. The black-tie prize giving ceremony was in a modern
theatre, the Berwaldhallen, in Stockholm. A small crowd watched as a
stream of Sweden's beauitful people and moves and shakers swept up in
their limos, posing for photos and doing tv interviews in the bright
sunshine outside the hall as those inside sipped champagne ahead of the 4
p.m. ceremony. The ceremony began with the arrival of King Carl XVI
Gustaf, who took up his place in the front row. Then a row of guitar
toting youngsters took up position all along one aisle, the music struck
up and in walked Dylan from the back of the theatre. I was sitting in an
aisle seat and he walked straightowards and then past me. It was a bit of
a shock. He was well turned out in a black frock coat and a white tie but
he looked awful -- his eyes looked watery, he was not a great colour and
he seemed to be almost shaking as he made his way slowly and with a grim
expression towards the stage. Was he ill, or tired, or nervous, or all
three? Apparently there had been a lot of negotiation to get him to sit
through the ceremony -- he had wanted to just come on stage Grammy-style
for the award and then leave, but had finally accepted to sit through the
hour-long programme. So there was Bobby, dutifully listening to John Adams
'Short Ride in a Fast Machine' played by the Swedish Radio Symphony
orchestra, a 'Tribute to Isaac Stern' of Leonard Bernstein music, then
that Abba medley sung acapella by the Swedish Radio Choir. As they
launched into 'Thank you for the music...' I thought, well, I've seen it
all now. Louise Hoffsten, a Swedish rock singer who three years ago went
down with multiple sclerosis and has written a book about her experiences,
sang a poignant 'What Good Am I?" Bryan Ferry then bounded on stage, 54
going on 30, and sang "Falling in Love Again" (why? to plug his new
record?) and a rocky "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall," identically to the
single version he did years ago. The short video presentation on Dylan's
career comprised snippets of 'Blowin' in the Wind' from the Concert for
Bangladesh, film of his arrival in Stockholm in 1966, a barbed answer to a
reporter's question in what looked like 1978, 'Love Sick' from the Grammy
Awards performance and the 'Thing's Have Changed' video. It only lasted a
couple of minutes. When time came for the presentation he trod onto the
stage and stood, pretty glumly but patiently, as the citations were read
out and first Stern then he received their framed award certicates from
the king. There was one light moment when he tried to grab the award as an
assistant passed it in front of him to give to the king to present to him.
Maybe he just wasn't paying much attention to it all... He and Stern were
then presented with bouquets and that was it. No songs, no speeches. The
King and Stern and entourage walked briskly up the aisle to the exit past
me. I asked a colleague to try to take a quick picture as Dylan walked
back past me..... but he had already gone, ducking out the side stage
exit, and was never seen again. Back at the Grand Hotel where the Gala
Dinner was to be held it quickly became apparent that we'd seen the last
of him. As Stern attended the pre-dinner cocktail party and gave another
Swedish radio interview, word started to creep around that Dylan was
already at the airport. It was confirmed at the start of the dinner when
the compere announced that 'one of our guests of honour, Mr Dylan, is
indiposed' and would not be attending. Dylan was 'very sorry' .Stern took
a swipe at Dylan in  a brief speech, sarcastically describing him as his
'happy, ebullient, enthusiastic colleague.' Stern played two wonderful
violin pieces. Dylan fans were treated to a pretty grim version of 'Most
of the Time' by a Swedish girl singer and some kind of rambling tribute
from a pretentious avant garde Swedish poet. It was a pity, even if Dylan
doesn't sit through three hour gala dinners even with a King and Queen,
the audience could have been given a better idea of why he is regarded as
one of the greatest songwriters  (and maybe a reclusive genius, rather
than a cranky antisocial buggar.). Regulars at the Polar Awards talked
about how Bruce Springsteen had attended the gala, gave a rousing
performance on stage then hung around afterwards to sign autographs.
Stevie Wonder too got up and sang at last year's dinner. But not Dylan,
who was lambasted in the Swedish press the following day for spoling the
party. It was a pity for the organisers, who are hoping that the award
enjoys global recognition lilke the Nobel Prize and spared nothing to make
it a real gala occasion. At least their award is now associated with the
Dylan mystique, confirmed by the fact he looked on another planet from
everybody else during the whole thing -- one of the Polar Prize people who
met him politely described him as being 'very reserved.' And what was it
like to sing a Bob Dylan song to Bob Dylan during an award ceremony? 
Louise Hoffsten told me afterwards -- 'He didn't look at me. But somebody
said they thought he smiled." But then again, nobody was quite sure....

PS A report on a concert he gave in Finland the next night said he was in
a good mood. He must have been happy to get away from the Abba songs.


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