July 8, 2016
Review by Willy Gissen
Dylan is Still Learning at 75
They say learning never ends. Dylan proved it last night at a sold-out concert
at Forest Hills, the old site of the U.S. tennis open before it moved to the
antiseptic site near Citi Field.
The possibility of inclement weather was hanging over the performance, and
the concertgoers who brought umbrellas were forced to hook them on a nearby
chain-link fence since they were not allowed to bring them into the venue. It
provided a comical backdrop for Dylan's long-time fans who know better - he
NEVER allows umbrellas into his concerts.
Mavis Staples provided a full-throated opening act, alluding to the tragedy of race
relations in the U.S. in a nevertheless cheerful, happy performance. She was
chatty in between songs something my friend and I were definitely not used to
given Bob's terse commentary.
Mavis avoided any overt gospel songs, but the role of faith was integrated into
her entire performance. For once, I was not looking at my watch wondering
how long we would have to wait for Dylan to take the stage.
Dylan bounced onto the stage and seemed to be in a good humor throughout
the performance, something far from guaranteed as most Dylan fans will tell you.
A light drizzle had stopped during Mavis Staples' set, with the side benefit of
cooling down the place as New York had been enduring a heat wave for the
past couple of days.
I'll avoid a song-by-song break down and provide some more general commentary.
The scuttlebutt on the street, always super critical of Bob, involves his introduction
of several Sinatra songs into his set. Some say he's only performing Sinatra now.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, he did play three or four chestnuts
from his two recent cover albums, but they are totally integrated into his overall
performance. The Sinatra songs are much shorter than his signature pieces, and
they were always followed by polite, respectful applause at Dylan's continuing
As usual, many of Dylan's other songs were reworked in terms of the rhythm and
delivery. Sometimes, this reworking seems a little forced but not last night. Dylan
gave an excellent version of High Water, for example, really emphasizing the word
"everywhere" in the refrain "high water e-e-verywhere."
Scarlet Town was performed in a particularly haunting manner; it was done so well,
I looked up the lyrics again when I got home. Dylan's band has become particularly
good at imbuing a sense of gravitas from the sound of the music itself, never mind
Of course, Dylan drove home the encore with Blowin' in the Wind. It was only
slightly modified, not forced, and people were swaying back and forth with the
lyrics. A violin accompaniment provided a nice backdrop to the pregnant meaning
of the words, especially with what's going on in the U.S. today.
Dylan also seems to be putting the intermission to good effect. His voice was clear
all night - that trademark Dylan twang really came through in "Duquesne Whistle."
All the faster music, and there's still plenty of it despite the Sinatra, was performed
with a light, breezy jazz touch, and Dylan seemed to give his band more leeway
Autumn Leaves, the final song before the encore, was brought to an abrupt halt
by a fade to black. Dylan was telling us, you may think you've got a lot of time left
at the end stages of your life, but death will surprise you, and you better be ready.
At least, that's my interpretation.
The set is totally reworked from Dylan's tour last year, and you can see his musical
progress in the interim. Dylan is still learning, and he's forcing his fans to do so, too.
Review by Nick Virga
My second time seeing Bob Dylan! Years ago I vowed to follow Mr
Dylan as best I could because I felt his music had been there for me in a
time when I needed something. The least I could do was support his
artistry! I'm sure many people have similar stories/experiences. The
first time I saw Bob was a few years back at the Beacon in NYC. It was an
amazing and atmospheric experience and I felt that perhaps nothing could
top the first time. I don't think this July 8th performance topped my
first experience but it was still very special to me. It was unique to
that winter night in the Beacon. But this, this is the renovated Forrest
Hills Stadium In Queens (which I was able to walk to since I only live 12
minutes away.) Anyway it's a nice neighborhood with fancily named
apartments. You make a few turns and walk a bit. Bang! It's a Tennis
Stadium. I got there with my significant other at around 6:15. We were
among the first 200 people in the seats. I was off to the left of the
stage and high up. I had a clear view of where the action would be. It was
Row LL,seat 21. It started to rain almost immediately and then more people
would arrive clad in Bob Dylan stylized logo ponchos! You know the Tribal
eye thing. I thought about buying one but after seeing $10 buttons and
keychains I figured I'd just stay seated. I guess it was right at
about 7 when Mavis was introduced and she came out with tons of energy and
charisma. She was funny and personable. She did a lot of her new stuff
too. Didn't care for her version of Buffalo Springfield's "for what it's
worth." Overall she was great. She spoke only briefly about Bob saying he
had a sort of "swag" to his walk. She says he told her that only she would
notice! 7:45ish when Bob came on with no introduction. Cool thing about
my seat was that it was to the left side of the stage meaning I could see
behind to a degree through a few branches of trees and I saw 2 of Bob's
bandmates walking around and drinking from red solo cups. Then, to my
delight I saw the white hat! The swag and all. He came out and greeted
Mavis after her set and gave her a sort of half hug and walked off with
her out of her view. Other people near my section also saw some version of
this. This was all behind the stage. They never were on stage together.
Anyway Bob came out and I was glued to him. He's a professional star no
matter what. Turns out I couldn't see any of the other band guys for the
entire show from my seats but I could clearly see the main man. The white
hat was on stage and I couldn't stop smiling. "Things Have Changed" opened
in a version similar to the original. Actually it seemed like a hybrid -
bridging version between the original and the way he had been performing
it for the last few years or so. He seems to be wearing a black and white
checkered shirt. White stripes down the black pants. Pretty cool looking.
"The night we called it a day" was a mess in my opinion. For some reason
Bob seemed to be rushing the words and I'd lose track of where the band
was. The ending was decent but the version performed on Letterman was far
better. "Duquesne Whistle" got a big reception at those familiar opening
notes. "Tangled" closed out the first set and got a huge hand of course. I
have heard similar versions of it all over the internet but since this was
the last song of the first set, I was eager to hear Bob give us his one
sentence of speaking words. He changed it up a bit. "Well thank you..."
then he said something I couldn't make out but ended with something akin
to "things are gonna get hot." I laughed although I'm not entirely sure
what was said. Great first set overall. Bob seemed like he was having
fun. Oh yeah and the rain stopped and a summer breeze worked it's way in.
I actually shivered a few times. Whaaddaygonnado? Second set. "Early
Roman Kings" and "Spirit on the water" were personal highlights. "Long and
wasted years" was strong and got one of the biggest ovations. This song
seems more powerful and meaningful live than it can on the album. It's
gotta be the over emphasized delivery I figure. "Autumn Leaves" happens
and it's the fake ending thing. Even though Bob has been doing the fake
ending for years,you still have to listen to the clueless people
ineveitably ask "so that's it?" Strong ovation and they were back on stage
for "Blowin' in the wind." Then "Love Sick." This "Love Sick" was ALSO
much more like the original version which to me,doesn't feel like a
fitting end to these concerts. It was a great version but the hard rock
"love sick" of recent years works far better in my humble opinion. Felt a
tad Anti Climactic. Overall, very strong and fun show. The slow songs
are sweet, the rockers rocked. It's kinda like you had a little taste of
everything. The mostly older crowd seemed to really love it- that's for
sure. I saw a MUCH older couple share a kiss when the house lights came
up. I read into it and it seemed it was a "thank you for taking me to see
Bob Dylan" kiss. Another guy behind me (who had a few drinks) suggested we
all "follow Bob" presumably to New Jersey. I mean I'd love to but I got
work. Whenever Bob and the band comes near my beloved home state of NY
again I will surely be there! I have to restart that saving up for Bob
Review by Charles Cicirella
"In the Wee Small Hours"
After the Ravinia show I was not really sure what to expect because for me
anyway the show really didn't work. Bob didn't appear in a very good mood
or present and the show truly lacked any energy. The Shadows/Fallen
Angels/etc. songs are tough because their tempos are all very similar. At
Ravinia "What'll I Do" was one I found myself thoroughly enjoying and at
Forest Hills "Why Try To Change Me Now" bolted my brains to the wall. I
also would like to say I love the last two records so I am most definitely
not in the camp of those who are either not thrilled or for whatever
reasons totally against these records. First off the production on both is
second to none and Dylan's singing is truly out of this world and the band
has never sounded better. Live though I'm not sure they are coming across
as well or maybe it's simply because two instead of six would serve the
show better. It's incredible with regards to Bob's own songs how different
they were at Forest Hills versus Ravinia. To be fair "Things Have Changed"
and "She Belongs To Me" at Ravinia were quite good, but after that
everything seemed to come to a screeching halt until "Long And Wasted
Years." At Forest Hills though the show just kept getting more and more
super charged. I also need to mention, before I forget, how interesting it
is that Bob seems to still be tinkering with the songs even this late in
the tour and how a number of the songs sound closer to their original
album arrangements than they perhaps ever have. "Things Have Changed"
and "Love Sick" to name just two.
Let's focus now on Forest Hills and how it was so completely and
absolutely a real treat for all of the senses. "Pay In Blood" has always
held a very special place in my Jewish-Sicilian heart and I was very
fortunate to be in Detroit for its live debut. A show that has yet to
surface in any actual listenable quality. I love when Bob delivers a song
like he is Father Mapple (Orson Welles) in Moby Dick. "Duquesne Whistle" a
song that can be hit or miss live really wracked my brains this time
around and left me not only wanting more, but also wondering about that
old oak tree and wishing that I could also climb it. It was a real mother
of our Lord version. What to say about the harp on "Tangled Up In Blue"
other than it spoke directly to my soul and, I swear, changed some of my
DNA molecules for all time. It was a revelation, a changing of the guard's
kind of moment that left me completely satisfied and spent all at the same
lonesome tolling time like only Bob can and so often does when he's firing
on all cylinders.
"High-Water" beginning the second act was one of the best "High Water's"
that I've heard in a very long time. It's another song I hold very close
to my multi chambered, duplicitous heart and this version really delivered
the danger and sense of foreboding that I feel the original album version
so well captures and then sets free. It burned down the barn after making
sure all of the animals were safe and accounted for. Noah would have been
proud of this version as would have Charley Patton (The Masked Marvel). As
previously stated "Why Try To Change Me Now" was so perfectly delivered
and with lyrics like "You know I'll love you / Till the moon's upside down
/ Don't you remember / I was always your clown / Why try to change me now"
how could one not be completely enraptured by this profound telling of a
true classic. "Early Roman Kings" was the very best version of this song I
have ever heard, experienced or witnessed live. First it was beyond
thrilling (as was the case with this entire concert) to get to not only
hear the band loud and in your face (the acoustics were spot on and
whoever is doing the live mix truly knows their stuff), but sometimes it
feels like Bob has the band on too tight a leash and at Forest Hills this
was most definitely not the case. They rocked on "Early Roman Kings" and
built such a truly solid and menacing foundation for Bob's bloody and
torrid vocals. He tore this song to shreds as the band shredded and the
whole Forest Hills Stadium knew that Bob Dylan and his band were here and
none of us (including Senor Bob) would ever be quite the same again. We
were in that Sicilian court and when he spat out the lyrics "I can strip
you of life / Strip you of breath / Ship you down / To the house of death"
he wasn't in the least little bit messing around so you best pay attention
or you might just go down in the flood.
A Bob Dylan concert is performance-noir at its very best. Its pulp fiction
without any Tarantino superfluities because Dylan needn't resort to over
the top antics to deliver his art and his life force. His memoirs are laid
out for anyone to see and hear if only they would put down their smart
(dumb) phones and stop discussing with the person next to them what they
had for dinner the night before. America has never been very good with
nuance at least not since the fifties breathed their last breath and
directors like Elia Kazan and Nicholas Ray were shown the door. Forest
Hills was not only a reminder of what was, but was a harbinger of what's
to come. It brought people closer together and showed us just what it
means to do one's chosen work without worrying that your Tweet is 140
characters or that your best friend is not in fact your worst enemy. It
raised the dead while also raising important questions without beating us
over the head with worthless foam from the mouth and made the circle whole
again if only for one night in The City That Never Sleeps. Thank you Bob
Dylan for showing us what is real and what is not and for revealing to us
just how full of it too many of us are. "Truer words have never been
spoken or broken" and you quite obviously get that as you continue to make
the rounds and leave us wanting more.
Comments by Stephen
My wife's first concert was Bob and Joan at Forest Hills way back when.
Might be why I married her. Took her back the other night after a trip to
Tanglewood. The difference between the two shows was the crowd.
Indifferent at Tanglewood, enthusiastic at Forest Hills. Not only did the
audience welcome and know the Tempest songs, they cheered the covers as
well. As always, we were surrounded by talkers but at least they cheered.
Then a funny thing happened during Spirit. Bob worked his magic seducing
the crowd to silence. It happened again during Years and Love Sick with
one drunk in front of us even telling his friend to be quiet. And Mavis,
poor Mavis, who couldn't figure out why she was booed. The Mets are from
Queens not the Yankees!
Review by Barry Gloffke
This was one of the great ones.
Bob and the Band put on a show that rocked, rolled, swang, swooned and
The setting was also one of the great ones... on a beautiful summer
night, we walked the 8 blocks from our home in the wonderful neighborhood
of Forest Hills, NYC, to Forest Hills Stadium. The stadium, which holds
close to 14,000 people, is located on the grounds of the historic West
Side Tennis Club and it reopened for concerts in 2013. Newly renovated,
it has now become one of the best venues, if not THE BEST venue in NYC to
see a show. Designed as an homage to the Roman Coliseum and approximately
100 years old, the stadium is an elegant and sturdy concrete structure.
Once you enter the grounds it has a festival feel to it with a bit of
open space, some trees and many concession stands. But when you enter the
stadium itself... you are in a cozy horseshoe shaped arena with great
sight lines from almost anywhere. The top of the stadium has great views
of the surrounding neighborhoods and the Manhattan skyline in the
distance. The sound is impeccable. The lighting just right.
The crowd was excited and varied in age range nicely. Mavis Staples put
on another great show with a bit of slapstick to keep things light. The
skies were still very light, the stadium packed, and the view from the
stage must have been exhilarating when Stu ambled out at 8:04. Bob and
the Band followed on to the stage and by 8:05 were charging through a hot
version of THINGS HAVE CHANGED. From moment one Bob sounded clear, sang
heartily and was full of energy... the Band was right there with him.
They marched proudly through SHE BELONGS TO ME and blistered through
BEYOND HERE LIES NOTHIN' with Bob doing a wonderful mad genius type of
smash piano taking the song to new heights. The band was filling spaces
and finding new places with this song which took it up, down and through
a crescendo of fierce sounds. A chance to catch my breath for a
spellbinding version of THE NIGHT WE CALLED IT A DAY. I was looking
forward to hearing the American songbook tunes outdoors tonight as I
thought they would match the feel of an outdoor summer evening... and
they did exactly that. As in Mashantucket, I was once again wondering
what the audience reaction would be to the many American songbook tunes
in the show. Happily, the audience seemed to love Bob's attempts to
reinterpret these songs his way. Nice to hear. The crowd itself, although
seemingly quiet at moments, was nevertheless as enthusiastic as I have
seen a Dylan crowd in a long time. Again, nice to see. PAY IN BLOOD was
next, menacing and fierce and was followed up by an exquisite version of
MELANCHOLY MOOD which I can't get enough of. Bob should add some of his
own verses and stretch this song a bit... it is that good to my ear!
DUQUESNE WHISTLE is an absolute rocker, starting off teasingly and
tantalizingly until bursting into full fury and ends by pulling into the
station to a standing ovation. Sit downs kids (not me, just all the older
folk) for a spellbinding performance of THAT OLD FEELING. The first half
ended with a scintillating TANGLED UP IN BLUE and a wonderful harmonica
burst from the Bob.
Second half starts with a scorching version of HIGH WATER (FOR CHARLEY
PATTON) and settles in with a beautiful WHY TRY TO CHANGE ME NOW. Dylan
now commands a bombastic version of EARLY ROMAN KINGS... a strong,
muscular interpretation of the world we live. Don't forget to wave that
handkerchief in the air when you see Bob taking down an Early Roman King
(after all, he ain't dead yet)! Now Bob and the Band give us a great
rendition of I COULD HAVE TOLD YOU, much better than the version last
Sunday in Mashantucket Ct. (Foxwoods). What I feel is a sped up, and more
inviting version of SPIRIT ON THE WATER follows with a great crowd
response of NO!, NO WAY!! to Bob's questions about being over the hill
and past his prime. Another take on the world we live in and what the
country has become... SCARLET TOWN snarls, sneers and moans into the
abyss. Back to the American songbook for a moving ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL
with Bob stretching to reach those high notes (and hitting them!). These
are the songs you wonder... will it all fall apart here, but no, BOB DOES
IT! He pulls off what the critics usually say he can't... but he does,
brilliantly and startlingly. Then an absolute visceral LONG AND WASTED
YEARS aches, breaks and shakes one to the core. The second half ends with
a hushed, heartfelt AUTUMN LEAVES. The crowd roars to it's feet,
screaming like kids on the last day of school. We stand cheering for two
minutes or so until Bob and the Band saunter back onstage for a
delightful version of BLOWIN' IN THE WIND. The aisles are now crammed
with fans trying to get as close to the stage as possible and like
lemmings they all feel the need to pull out their dumb phones to film. It
takes security a couple of minutes to clear the aisles of the debris (um,
people) and all the while Bob and the Band blow a beautiful wind. The
excitement is palpable. The show ends at 10:04 following a sinister LOVE
SICK, the Band hitting haunting notes behind Bob's vicious vocals of
found love, lost love and broken love. Wow! What a #%$*ing show!
I let the crowd slowly exit as I take in what just transpired. In my own
backyard, my hero gave one hell of a show. Probably a 9 out of 10. It
will be hard to beat this show. These are all great shows Bob and the
Band are putting together. Each one so good you think the next one can't
be any better. This was probably two notches up from the Mashantucket
show, which I thought was was a 7 out of 10. I don't know if the Atlantic
City show can match this, but Bob is hot now. Vocally strong. Delivering
like he has found new legs in the 11th round. The small and subtle
changes from show to show. The changed lines from song to song like this
from LOVE SICK:
Did I hear someone tell a lie?
Did I hear someone’s distant cry?
Well you thrilled me in the heart; then you ripped it all apart
You went through my pockets while I was sleepin'
These are the things that keep these shows so interesting... even
through a static set list. Dylan never stops reinventing. Never stops
reinterpreting. Don't look back. This tour is hot. Go see him tonight if
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