Vienna, Virginia

Wolf Trap
Filene Center

July 6, 2016

[Roger Catlin], [Alexander Leik], [David Mendick], [JerryThePro], [James Mahoney],

Review by Roger Catlin

I went to the second of two stops by Bob Dylan and his band at Wolf Trap
in Virginia Wednesday, thinking maybe that he’d change up the set a bit
from opening night. That was the case for decades, of course, when he’d
switch roughly a third of the show with more unusual offerings on
subsequent nights at a venue.

But as he informed me in the very first song of a set that hadn't altered
a whit from the night before, or the night before that, “Things Have

That Dylan at 75 is playing pretty much the exact same set at every stop
in the last couple of years is just as noteworthy as him mixing it up for
all those years. Are we to believe he’s arrived at last at the perfect
arrangement of songs in his shows?

At least it is one that has at last fully caught up to his recorded
output, with a good portion of the titles drawn from his dreamy,
unexpectedly compelling reading of old love songs on the albums “Shadows
in the Night” and “Fallen Angels,” in which he clears up his voice
enough to croon the old melodies, fraught with heartbreak and regret.

Indeed, a couple of songs were ones that weren’t even on “Shadows in
the Night” or “Fallen Angels” — “I Could Have Told You” and
“That Old Feeling” (which replaced a third unreleased song on the
tour, “How Deep is the Ocean?”) — indicating that his hankering for
the past may result in a third album in the trilogy (unless you count the
album of Christmas standards as his first such foray).

Those who worry about this wholesale move to songs Sinatra once did are
discounting how well they’re adapted by his longtime electric string
band that relies largely on the crying melodicism of Donnie Herron’s
pedal steel guitar, which also provides a bridge to the other songs of the
set — the big chunk of rockers from his last album of his own songs,
“Tempest,” and the now-handful of older songs that are sprinkled in.

Actually, they all fit in pretty well — the wistfulness of short elegies
“The Night We Called It A Day,” “Melancholy Mood,” Why Try to
Change Me Now,” “All or Nothing at All” serve as good balance to the
more biting, cynical grit of his own “Tempest” output, with songs like
“Pay in Blood,” “Long and Wasted Years,” and “Scarlet Town.”

The “Tempest” songs, unfairly dismissed when that album was released,
have really proven themselves on tour, where “Early Roman Kings,” with
its “Hoochie Coochie Man” riffs, is easily on par with “Highway
61” as a blues stomper. Those are all played along the lines of the
recordings which is more than you can say about, say, “Tangled Up in
Blue,” whose musical architecture is so different it might as well just
be a reading of the (somewhat changed) lyrics.

Still it had a bit of his harmonica playing, as did an early “She
Belongs to Me.” Other than when he occasionally sat at the piano for
some songs; he stood before a microphone center stage. Still perplexing to
me after a decade is how he completely abandoned the guitar after basing a
career on it.

His reading of “Blowin’ in the Wind” in the encore, with the band,
and him on piano, was somewhat reverent though it hardly conveyed the
compounded weight of its lyrics, which, over time, have not had any of its
essential questions answered.

The gulf between recent Dylan and old American standards isn’t large;
indeed, he’s as much a part of Americana as anyone. But some of his own
tunes, such as the sprightly “Duquesne Whistle” or carefree “Spirit
on the Water” might be stringband workouts from one of the 1930’s
bands he so admires and collects. Herron’s banjo on “High Water (For
Charley Patton)” brought it closer to the era of the bluesman in the

Dylan evokes the past as well in his stance on stage — a wide one, his
hip cocked, hand in pocket, in cowboy boots and gaucho attire, all black
but for the white belt, white stripe in his pants, the silver of a watch
fob on his chest and of course the white, wide brimmed flat hat on his

With some of the lowest lighting of any show on tour, using only
footlights and backlighting by big low-watt Hollywood-style klieg lights
to go with the Oscar, it’s sometimes hard to discern the black clad
figures on stage at all sometimes. But that white brim catches the
footlights and seems to be floating on its own on stage as the music

When songs end, particularly the standards, Dylan directs the songs’
ends or shoots finger points on each side as if he’s a reincarnated Lash

The great Mavis Staples, who should not be forgotten in this strong double
bill, said she liked hearing “Bobby” as she called him. “But I also
like to watch him walk - he’s got that swagger.” And she got that

Staples, 76, who reveals in her recent bio film that Dylan once proposed
marriage to her and has recorded with him at least once, was chattier than
the headliner (though she kept mixing up the name of the venue as Trap

Bookended by Staples Singers classics (“If You’re Ready (Come Go with
Me)” and “I’ll Take You There”), the set mixed optimistic new
songs (“Love and Trust” “Dedicated,” “Love and Trust”) with
old covers (Talking Heads’ “Slippery People,” Buffalo
Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”) and reserved some time for
vamping, especially when she capped the the Staples’ epic “Freedom
Highway” from a half century ago.

“I’m a soldier! I was there!” Staples declared. As was Dylan, who
sang at a voter registration rally in Mississippi and the 1963 March on
Washington. But while the headliner swallowed the line “How many years
can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?” in his
encore, Staples would not be stopped: “I won’t turn around! I’ve
come too far!”


Review by Alexander Leik

Night 2 at Wolf Trap just outside of DC had a very different feel from
the first night. While the heat had not subsided (in fact, I think it was
hotter than night 1), it was quickly apparent that the crowd was a bit
more lively from where I took my seat in the 2nd row of the pit. This
seemed to spill over to the Bob and the boys, as there was some sort of
classroom humor or inside joke that had them all smiles from the get go.
I noticed after 'Things Have Changed', Bob turned to Charlie & Donnie and
all 3 had huge grins that slowly broke into silly laughter, the kind that
we would all suppress in the classroom at one point or another. Something
was happening here, and it definitely gave our hero and his band some
much needed extra "umph" in the blazing heat. This continued throughout
the night, at times Stu & George suppressing giggles around the drum kit.
My gut tells me it may have been a cute lady in center of my row who was
eager to stand and dance throughout, but as the alcohol and the heat
combined, the standing became harder and she was often held upright by
her male companion. At least it seemed that every time I noticed this, it
was almost without fail the same time the laughter was making its way
around the musicians.

No change in set list from the previous night, but a little more pop. I
had a great view of Donnie all night, and what a musician he is. One thing
that caught me is how focused he remains on Bob, even after all these
years. When Bob would sit down at the ivories, Donnie watched his hands
very closely, no doubt making sure he is on point with the notes and keys
his boss is playing. Im surprised at how much I am enjoying the
"standards"...'Melancholy Mood' is about as perfect as it gets, great work
from Charlie, gotta love those brushes from George, and perfect vocal.
'Why Try to Change Me Now?' might be a good name for this tour. And I
still love 'Autumn Leaves' as much as the  first time I heard it in
Houston last year. I used to think 'Long & Wasted Years' was the perfect
closer for this show, but now the 1-2 punch of that and 'AL' leaves 'em
wanting more. I just wish we were treated to a run through of 'That Old
Black Magic' at one of these 2 shows. Tonight was also a really strong
'TUIB', again I think perhaps aided by a bit more lively and responsive
crowd on this hot night. I should also note that the stretching I
mentioned in my night 1 review continued in night 2, although it did seem
less. But clearly Bob is bothered, tight, fit to be tied, restless, etc in
the legs/back/neck....Somehow though he musters up and puts it all
together for 90-120 minutes each night, still, on the road. Indeed, why
try and change him now?


Comments by David Mendick

Two magical evenings at Wolf Trap. I would like to thank the wonderful
audience who appreciated the shows. I saw very few people leaving but
plenty who were knowledgable and get what's going on. I always used to
tell my Dylan  buddy Howard X that as Dylan gets older he will return to
his solo folk roots. How wrong was I. Please just see these shows because
the likes of this will Never be seen again. Side note. The sound from the
lawn is so much better than the pavilion. My other 30 year Dylan buddies
Gloria and Gabi agree. I'm lovesick. Sick of love. God bless Bob Dylan
during these difficult times. 

David Mendick


Review by JerryThePro

I’ll keep this brief…Great opening gig by Mavis Staples. Shecan still
bring it and set the table for Bob. Actually found her to be quiteengaging
and funny. She commented on how cool it is for her to tour with Boband
watch him perform on stage. In particular she told the crowd she loves
watchinghim do his Dylan “strut”…”Aw Mavis cut it out”, is what
Bob’s response was….Anyway onto Bob and the band. Went in knowing what
to expect from the set list. A fewsubtle wrinkles, but those of the
Sinatra crooning genre. I could live with afew of these songs sprinkled
in, but find it a bit over the top with 7 or 8. I mean, with acatalog of
500+ songs, why not go into your own archives? The band remains sosolid
and focused…although Bob keeps the reigns on them to not stray too far.
George Recile is a pure joy to watch. Enjoyed She Belongs to Me, Duquesne
Whistle, and Spirit on the Water. Thoughthe set limits on exploring
Tangled a bit more and Love Sick was a bit bland for the finale.....but
hey, he remains the master and to see him at such a ripe age perform so
well isa true delight. I’ll continue to chase him whenever I can, with
hopes that hepulls out a few stops along the way. The legend lives on.



Comments by James Mahoney

I've waited to hear someone else say what I didn't want to try to, but
here it is.  Yes, those of us who have seen Bob Dylan, from so many ages,
times and perspectives, have seen that - Gemini as he is -  he's always
being as radically honest as he functions - creatively - as a trickster, a
wearer and remover of masks.  Sure, these Old Songs are uncoverings, and
I've cried at first hearings of both albums, since I grew up with "Some
Enchanted Evening," and "Autumn Leaves."  They're certainly as deep - or
farther - in Bob's heart as they are in mine.  Not going into the setilist
at all - it is what it almost invariably is, these years.   But  "Things
Have Changed" has fundamentally replaced "Like a Rolling Stone," for
socio-cultural and aesthetic reasons, I'm dead sure.  And his audience,
that evening at Wolf Trap, were - mostly - passively being entertained, or
going off for more beer.  Not looking for messages, revelations, or
warnings.  At all.  

I so wish that people wiser or smarter than me were treating Bob as the
artist that he is - which means trying to INTERPRET what his newest work's
about , no matter that such interpretation may totally  fall short, but
that his music's taken seriously.  Erwin Panofsky's essay on Albrecht
Durer's "Melancholia" print, from about 1516,  carefully examined, however
imperfectly, was a wildly symbolic image, of a woman surrounded by
symbols.  Bob's current work deserves far more respect, inquiry, and
curiosity than I've seen, at all.  This is dark work he does.  Not
entertainment.   I wasn't entertained at all, just saying.  Sorry, but. 
Overwhelmed, for sure.  Stay alive, man.


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