It was a night of biblical proportions at Tanglewood, a concert by Bob Dylan that was a revelation, following a set by Mavis Staples that was a revival. The revelation is that some 55 years into his career, by remaining true and not wavering from his original vision, Bob Dylan was able to belt out a genre-skimming array of 20 songs, imbuing each one of them with just the right degree of scorn or glee, humor or haughtiness, bile, blasphemy, or belligerence.
Dylan’s constancy was demonstrated by She Belongs To Me, the second song tonight, which he also performed the first time I saw him, on the Rolling Thunder Revue tour. Tonight’s set started with Things Have Changed, his trophy-winning song from 2000, which was performed with more ardor and vehemence than an opening number usually gets, as if he’d been singing along backstage to old girlfriend Maris Staples!
Bob Dylan sings the Great American Songbook
Tonight’s setlist also demonstrated that Mr. Dylan’s perusal of the Great American Songbook is no passing fancy; besides doing five songs from the 2 new “Sinatra” albums, Fallen Angels and Shadows in the Night, he also sang How Deep is the Ocean and I Could Have Told You, brand new entries on Bob Dylan’s setlist. While it’s hard to imagine that his own lyrics have overlooked any nuance of emotion or condition of life, nontheless he seems all fired up to be singing this material, making a fresh wind blow through Tin Pan Alley.
Those seven songs were distributed evenly among his own, five of which hail from Tempest, which took the world by storm upon release in 2012, when Dylan-wags reminded us that The Tempest is the name of Shakespeare’s last play. Turns out not to mark the end of the line for the bard of Hibbing, at all! Tempest is a great album, and tonight Bob Dylan delivered five songs from it with a high degree of fidelity to the recorded versions: Pay in Blood, Duquesne Whistle, Early Roman Kings, Scarlet Town, Long and Wasted Years.
Duquesne Whistle gets your attention
Duquesne Whistle, in the 7tyh spot tonight but 1st on the album, reminds me of Like A Rolling Stone, the opening number on Highway 61 Revisted. Whereas the latter shocks the listener with the loud crack of a snare drum right up front, Duquesne Whistle lollygags for more than half a minute before slapping you awake. Bob Dylan is an artist who doesn’t put much effort into promotion, but every now and then he takes the measure of our attention.
And tonight, he even addressed the audience, after the first 9 songs, telling us the band would be leaving the stage but would return in a few minutes. For years, he spoke only to introduce the band and maybe say thank you at the end of the set and before the encore, but hadn’t even been doing that much talking lately. This encore alone was worth the price of admission: Blowin’ in the Wind, with Dylan’s vocals and piano assiduously accented by violin, and a rollicking reading given to Love Sick, off the immense 1997 album Time Out of Mind.
Mavis Staples rouses the audience
Mavis Staples had the audience in the palm of her hand by the time her opening set wound up, and on their feet, singing along and testifying! She doesn’t share Dylan’s reticence, rather is as chatty as your sister, eager to tell you what’s been happening. We couldn’t sit still during her set, which left us revived with the fervor of the Sixties. Her band is awesome and they mix up an intoxicating blend of gospel, soul, funk, blues, and rock ‘ roll.
About Tanglewood: box office, tickets, getting there, nearby hotels
Tickets for the 2016 Tanglewood season, $12-$124, go on sale January 24 starting at 10 a.m. through Tanglewood’s website, www.tanglewood.org, SymphonyCharge at 888-266-1200, and at the Symphony Hall Box Office at 301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston MA. Tanglewood brochures with complete programs and information on how to order tickets will be available in early February by calling 617-638-9467. For further information, please call the Boston Symphony Orchestra at 617-266-1492 or visit www.tanglewood.org. 2016 Tanglewood schedule – PDF.
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