Canandaigua, New York

Constellation Brands–Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center (CMAC)

July 12, 2016

[David N. DeVries]

Review by David N. DeVries

"He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."  We had seen, well, heard Dylan
and Mavis Staples at Tanglewood two weeks ago (on the lawn which,
perversely, slopes down away from the stage area so seeing is impossible
and the sound wasn't great).  Last night Mavis Staples added to her
wondrous show a song that reflected what has happened in this country in
the two weeks since-the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and
the murders in Dallas-"For What It's Worth," and the audience of mostly
gray heads was heartily singing along.  Both her set and Dylan's presented
two possible reactions to the state of our nation and world.  Mavis
Staples invoked the long history and tradition of which she and her family
have been an integral part for, as she reminded us, 66 years.  Explicitly
invoking Dr. King and Selma to Montgomery at one point and repeatedly
imploring love and togetherness in the face of hatred and despair.  There
was much 'call-and-response' style interaction with the audience during
her set.  And the stage was bright with the summer sun and full lights.
Dylan's set began after the sun had set and the stage was dark, shadowed,
ominous.  As all have commented, Dylan's set is virtually unchanged night
to night.  And it begins the same each night with Stu Kimball entering in
darkness from stage right strumming an amplified acoustic guitar as the
other band members emerge and slowly "Things Have Changed" also emerges. 
The band is spectacular.  Dylan's voice is as strong as I've heard it
since the 1970s.  And the set list carries the sense of dark, shadowed,
ominousness through.  Even the upbeat songs contain enough menace and
anxiety to make you shudder.  Of course one can never know what motivates
an artist's decisions, but it did seem that Mavis Staples and Bob Dylan
are confronting their own aging and the fraying of the national fabric in
their own thoroughly honest and clear-eyed ways. An amazing night of music
and witness in what feel like very dark days.

David N. DeVries 


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