August 12, 2011
Review by Willy Gissen
Dylan Finally Plays Woodstock
Bob Dylan and Woodstock seem to have a love-hate relationship. Dylan
never attended the famous concert even though he lived in the town.
However, he created some of the best music of his career while living
here, holding jam sessions at his home with top recording artists.
Thus, Dylan's engagement at the Bethel Woods arena, within walking
distance of the legendary site promised to be something special. And
it was. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The first thing that surprised me as I planned my trip was how close
Woodstock was to my home in Westchester County. I had thought it
was far away in upstate New York, but it was within two hours driving
distance, more to the west than the north. That is, two hours driving
distance under normal conditions.
I failed to realize that Fridays at rush time during the summer might
not be the best time to venture across the Tappan Zee bridge. Add
45 minutes to the trip right off the bat.
Thanks to leaving plenty of time, however, I arrived at the concert
area with about 20 minutes to spare. It's a beautiful, green spacious
expanse, with vendors under billowing white tents, and I would have
liked more time to walk around, but the warm-up act was mercifully
short, and Bob took the stage in typical fashion, waiting until after
sunset so he could nix the lights and make his usual dramatic
Dylan was rocking tonight, and he was happy, flashing a rare smile
several times during the performance. Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat was
the lead, and it set the tone for the entire show as fast and slow
songs were expertly mixed together in an unusually cogent whole.
Never heard Bob play Blind Willie McTell in concert before, and it was
arranged with a rocking blues tempo that helped to bring out the
lyrics of the piece. Also, a particularly good version of Highway 61
tonight with the band and Dylan capturing some real synergy and
coordinating with each other very well.
Dylan was doing his semi-dancing thing tonight, too, not bad for a
70-year-old man in the middle of a two-hour show.
However, almost every Dylan concert I've attended in the past couple
of years has had a stand-out moment. A time when you just gape in
wonder at the beauty, arrangement or playing of a particular song.
Tonight, it was Simple Twist of Fate.
The song was played poignantly with the stage bathed in purple. You
could feel the pathos, the tragedy, and somehow all the rough edges
seemed to leave Dylan's voice as he crooned the lyrics. It was like Dylan
telling the audience, we've all experienced this twist of fate at one
point or another during our lives -- don't worry, it will be okay.
The song was so stunningly beautiful, I was unable to clap or holler like
I did at the other pieces; it wouldn't have been appropriate anyway.
In fact, the whole audience seemed to listen in wonder, to just absorb
And isn't that what a Dylan concert is all about? There's always some
sort of message to take away from the event, some revelation of
truth. Tonight, it wasn't political, and even though he was playing
at Woodstock, that was perfectly okay.
Review by Oscar Montes
Great to meet Dennis Hengeveld before the show! We both
shared front row with Denise S. and that was fantastic! Also great to say hi to
Al though I didn’t see Susan. In fact today, August 12th is Dennis’ birthday so
he had a great one after listening “Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood..” on
Desolation Row! Also good to meet Ben Taylor just a few minutes before Bob
appeared on stage.
The Bethel Woods Center For The Performing Arts is a so
beautiful venue, just next to the legendary 1969 Woodstock Festival Field. The
weather was really good, shiny and green fields all around.
There’s a Museum at The Bethel Woods Center For The
Performing Arts which tells The Story of the Sixties and Woodstock and has a
special exhibition at the Corridor Gallery, “Bob Dylan and The Band: From
Woodstock to California”, 1973–1975 Photographs by William G. Scheele. Really
worth to visit!
Bob started with a good Leopard-Skin and then a sweet To
Ramona, Things Have Changed again excellent, one of my favorites of this tour!
Bob enjoyed again playing harp on TUIB, Cold Irons Bound and especially in
Willie McTell and Mr. Jones.
Highway 61 as usual, so powerful and Thunder on the Mountain
really great at the end, everybody felt the energy of Rock n’ roll in this one!
The encore, Rolling Stone made everyone go crazy and Watchtower
as well, a really good one! Tomorrow we’ll be traveling to Wantagh, New York for
our 4th show of the season!
See you guys there!
Review by Roland Pabst
Hi first a note to Willi. You were right when you wrote "I thought Woodstock was
upstate New York". Bethel Woods is the original place where the Woodstock
concert was, but the town of Woodstock is probably 1 1/2 hours north. And it was
there where Dylan lived and did the basement tapes.
Anyways the night was just beautiful, "full" moon, temperature since a long time
really pleasant. I had a "Hendrix" Burger at a table with 2 couples both at the
age of 55 to 60. Both couples never saw Dylan before. I am pretty sure they
enjoyed the concert a lot. The burger was the worst burger I ever had. I was
standing at the front of the line and still had to wait more than 15 minutes for
a luke warm burger. The girls behind the counter didn't care at all that people
Leon Russel opened his set sharp at 8pm. It was okay. All songs sounded pretty
much the same to me and he did not even move his head during his whole set.
Then Dylan came and from the first moment on I knew that this will be a great
concert. I saw him last time in NYC last fall twice in a row. Those concerts
were great. This one was AGAIN different and even better. His voice was very
strong, he moved around from the keyboard to center- stage with his harp then
with his guitar. Sound was excellent. The band the best. Song choices wonderful.
Always love to hear Desolation Row.
My highlights? ALL songs. :) I don't think I ever heard To Ramona in all my
concerts since 1986. What a nice song and version. Haha this song was dedicated
to Ramona, the daughter of my Swiss friend. She spent a great time in NYC now
she is on her way home.
Comments by Jeff Perry
We are at a low point here - it seems like Bob is finally throwing in the towel
on his live act. Anyone who isn't disappointed with the quality of this show
just doesn't know what he is capable of. Or chooses to look the other way. It
doesn't swing, it doesn't rock, and if you didn't already know the words you
wouldn't have any idea what is going on in these songs.
Probably he pays no attention at all to audience response but I suggest we do
Bob a disservice when we whoop and holler on a night like this as though he were
actually delivering the goods. Maybe it adds to the surreal texture of the
evening, but is that our role? We might ask ourselves if he were in the audience
with us, what would be his reaction to this performance? At Bethel Woods the
crowd were cheering the child-like stabs at lead guitar, the harmonica
brinksmanship, *as though these are the actual point of the act*. Come on
people. That's not how he got famous.
His records are still frequently great and maybe next year will be different.
The first thing he needs is a new band with a real
musical personality. These guys are just trying to follow where they think he
is going, but unfortunately for them and us he isn't going anywhere in
particular except to the last verse and out. They are good musicians but
there's no musical point or direction. Bob is not an arranger or bandleader.
What do I want? Bob Dylan's talent is amazing, and I've seen him play many times
over 35 years. I don't need him to play it like it is on the record but I do
need it to be musical and for him to sing like he means it. He's got the goods.
If he wants to do his songs in Italian and accompany himself on accordion I'll
give it a chance. But this just doesn't cut it. Let's bring our ears to the show
and be honest about what we've heard.
Review by Steinar Daler
As I came in to the beautyful venue, a glowing sun was setting in the west and a
full moon were coming up in the east and Leon Russel started playing Delta Lady,
I felt this will be a special night. Leon was good. I have never seen him
before, but I used to buy his records at the beginning of the 70's, and allways
wanted to see him. I have to admit that I dont know what he has done since the
70's up til now, but for sure he still have something to share. I liked his set
a lot and then I was ready for Bob. After seeing him at 4 concerts in Europe in
June, my expectations were high, and I was not let down. Bob was 100% on from
start til end and even more animated than when I saw him in Europe. His singing
was maybe the best I have heard for 10 years, at least on some of the songs.
Lots of highlights to night; To Ramona - just beautyful, Things have changed -
not one of my favourite Dylan-songs, but I'm started liking it better after
hearing the arrangement he used in Europe in June - and today he nailed it. He
was center stage and I looked at him with my binoculars and could not take my
eyes of him. This kept for most of the songs this evening and at the end I felt
that for the first time on a Dylan concert I was focused on Bob the whole
concert through and forgot to look at the guys in the band. I never experienced
that before. Tangled up in blue followed Things have changed and were another
highlight from center stage. He kept that spot for Beyond here lies nothing -
and at that song he played guitar as well. Next up were Mississippi. I have only
heard this song live once before (some years ago in the House of blues in
Dallas) and it was good to hear such a great song once more, even if to my ears
this arrangement did not worked 100%. But good anyway. Desolation Row is
something special this year. I still had the fantastic version he did in Bergen,
Norway in june in my mind, and he managed to repeat it. And I have to repeat
what I said in Bergen; Brilliant and hillarious at the sime time. Then Bob moved
back to center stage and sang Cold Irons bound and Blind Willie McTell in a
row. I saw some people around me allmost crying. I can't find words - I can only
say that I could not get my eyes of Bob. After a normal H 61 Bob took his guitar
once more and played a tender and heartfelt Simple twist of fate. The woman next
to me had her tears running. Ballad of a thin man were of course one more
highligt as it has been for allmost two years now and LARS and Watchtower were
solid as well. What a concert, what more can I say, yes, I can say something; it
was a very good audience as well. I had a fourth row seat a bit to the left of
center stage, and every one stood up from the moment Bob and his band entered
the stage, and they kept staying trough the whole concert. I could not hear one
person asking others to sit down and I could not se one person not smiling after
the concert. On to Jones Beach - I can't wait!
Review by Stephen Goldberg
This was a show with a great set list that still lacked that special
something. Having seen many shows at Bethel, this was by far the
smallest crowd by far. There was plenty of open space on the lawn.
Maybe not good for Bob and the band but good for me and any other
concert goer who doesn't enjoy cell phones and idle conversations
competing with the music. Also, a surprisingly older crowd, not the
usual mix of generations. Leon Russell was a major disappointment,
doing the usual set list that has been reported. Sorry to say, but
nothing more then a lounge act at this point in his career. Having
remembered Leon from Bangla Desh, Mad Dogs & Englishmen and as the
writer of This Diamond Ring, Delta Lady, Tightrope, This Song For You,
it was sad to listen to a rushed through medley of cover versions done
a hundred times better by countless cover bands on any given night. On
to Bob. His voice was in much better shape than in recent years past.
I'm still convinced the hoarse growl is not from wear and tear but
rather a matter of choice, maybe he's been channeling Charlie Patton.
It's there on some songs and lines, not others. Why he persists in
playing the organ is beyond me. It's kinda repetitive and choppy and
seems to hold his vocals hostage, word for word sometimes matching
note for note resulting in that sing song thing he slips in and out
of. The outstanding parts of the show are when he puts it aside and
stands front and center. His harmonica playing hasn't been this good
since those nightly solos on What Can I Do For You during the Gospel
Shows. Having seen over 100 shows, I never heard Willie McTell or
Mississippi live and I wasn't disappointed. McTell had an arrangement
going all the way back to Louis Armstrong's take on St. James
Infirmary. Tangled, Rolling Stone and Desolation lost quite a few
verses on the way, though the former has a wonderful new arrangement.
Can someone tell me what Stu does? Now don't get mad, but except for a
few solos, I have no idea why Charlie Sexton is there either. Why have
a world renowned guitarist in your band if you don't showcase his
talents? All in all, a good show, not a great one.
Comments by Mark Woytovich
I was there with my son (age 17... I am 54) and I have a couple of comments -
not a review of Dylan but of the sound.
I have seen dozens of live music concerts, in venues large and small and I have
never had the experience I had last night. We sat in the first row just behind
the light/sound booth just to its left. We had a straight sightline to the
stage. I figured if ANYONE was going to have a good aural experience it would be
Boy was I wrong. In discussions during and after my son and I agreed that the
sound was way to hot on the high end and pushed to distortion. Not feedback or
anything, just too much sound (I don't want to say too LOUD exactly) A solution
was to plug our ears with a finger... this took off that upper end and let us
hear the middle tones, including Bob's voice. Without doing that all we could
hear from him was when he pushed the middle of a word, as is his style.
I SO much wanted to hear his voice. I know it is not his 20 year old voice - and
it shouldn't be.
We were disappointed to say the least. We wanted to hear Dylan and all we got
was a BIG wall of sound.
I wonder if this is specific to Bethel Woods or the tour in general... (By the
way Leon Russell suffered a similar fate at the hand of the sound guys.)
Comments by Larry K.
Bob and his band delivered a focused, powerful evening performance at Bethel
Woods last night. Opening with "Leopardskin Pillbox Hat", the boys warmed up
quickly and it was apparent that Mr. Dylan was intent on crafting clear and
innovative vocals. A delightful "To Ramona" followed - precise vocals with
tight ensemble playing: all night the six played as one. "Things Have Changed"
had wonderful vocals and a nice harmonica solo at the end..."Tangled Up in Blue"
got the crowd into it (although the audience was disappointingly reserved for
most of the night); the band is so good now at reacting with Bob that it seems
all of a piece rather than a "back-up"..."Beyond Here Lies Nothing" featured a
fierce groove with Bob on guitar...."Mississippi" had an uptempo swing with
great, cogent vocals, but I have to say that the slower version allows the
incredible lyrics more space..."Desolation Row" was a highlight - once again,
six men playing as one and
clear, expressive vocals..."Cold Irons Bound" was simply the best version I've
heard, with forceful vocals and a new, tight arrangement that brought out the
basic blues foundation of the song; I was blown away when Bob let out "guess
what - I was wrong". "Blind Willie McTell" was also reworked into a swingy
arrangement, with Don on banjo; the band and Bob sounded great, but once again,
it seems to me that the slower version fits the lyrics better..."Highway 61"
was a bit rough at the start, but the band found the groove, albeit a bit too
loud, out-balancing the vocal...and the full moon rose over Bethel Woods as Bob
played an organ solo (not bad!) and Charlie Sexton got to let it rip a
bit..."Simple Twist of Fate" showed Bob singing almost sweetly and
close to the melody - and playing some good lead guitar..."Thunder on the
Mountain" was played very fast, with a joyful noise that all but obliterated the
vocal..."Ballad of a Thin Man" was another highlight - great vocals with an echo
effect and fantastic playing by the band. The encores - "Like a Rolling Stone"
and "All Along the Watchtower" (new, faster tempo) - were quite pleasing, but
the main business of the night had already been conducted...all in all, a most
satisfying performance at a wonderful venue...drove home to New Paltz on the
back roads with Gary and Angela (7 more shows for her!) real glad we made the
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