Article updated September 6, 2019 by Dave Read
Bob Dylan’s song from the Basement Tapes, Too Much of Nothing, comes to mind while reflecting on my last visit to the Koussevitsky Music Shed at Tanglewood during the 2019 season, ironically, because both headliners that day delivered an evening’s worth of entertainment, and I could’ve gone home a happy man with my musical appetite fully sated at the conclusion of Trombone Shorty’s set.
Nothing but good music tonight – but was too much squeezed into one program? I think separate programs of more typical two set shows would have been better, allowing us to stretch out and savor the music, and allow the enjoyment to linger, rather than having to rinse the auditory palate and gear up right away for another hullabaloo.
If I had split after Shorty’s set, it would have been the dumbest decision I’d made since that time I wore my white bucks after Labor Day! Ben Harpur and the Innocent Criminals are that good. Just two nights earlier, we split the scene at the conclusion of the Mavericks rousing set, 100% incurious to hang around to find out what Squeeze sounds like. (We had taken a pass during the 1970s on the Second British invasion, which the advance publicity listed Squeeze as being in the vanguard of.)
I really was a little tired after the first set, because I’d got caught up front in the aisle where I’d gone to see what all the fuss was about and got trapped by aisle-clogging dancers, and eventually got caught up in the fun – the sort of infectious fun, with a pronounced aerobic aspect, that may be common in the Big Easy, but sure ain’t hereabouts! And speaking of dancing in the aisles, one could dust off the “cut a rug” cliche if you’re talking about the aisle in the Shed where the big green benches used to be, because they replaced the benches with beige carpeting!
But seriously folks, this was a real treat – two musicians with mastery of their instruments, no small feat in itself, but also two musicians sufficiently tuned in to what an audience wants that they assemble the right cohort of equally great players into bands for the performance of skillfully paced shows. One example from each set: Dan Oestreicher’s solo on baritone sax was out of this world as was the bit of business by percussionist Leon Mobley, a student of Babatundi Olatunji, namechecked in I Shall Be Free (1963) by the only musician who could bookend this report, Bob Dylan.