I haven’t written any concert reviews yet this summer. I should have written one about the Summerland tour that was excellent. But that one got away from me. And as a normal human, it’s the disappointment that brings out the urge to write a review. I was so looking forward to this Bob Dylan concert at Bethel Woods as the close to the summer of 2012 and a present for my 18-year-old before she starts college. As usual, no good deed goes unpunished.
Okay, maybe that’s too harsh. There were some bright spots to the weekend. Watching my daughter go through the Woodstock museum at Bethel was heart warming. We wandered the Alpaca festival in the hot sun eating roasted corn and taking photos. There was an exquisite lunch at The Dancing Cat in Bethel just a few yards from the entrance of the performing arts center on 17B.
We rested in the room at the Fosterdale Motor Lodge for a few hours and Kira truly believed it was the same motel in the Woodstock movie -- and it hadn’t changed a bit since 1969.
Once back in the parking lot for the concert, we took a tour of the “Peacemaker” bus that had come up from New Hampshire for the concert. It is a beautiful piece of machinery, carpentry and artistry I have ever seen. A mobile commune of peace, love and assistance that gets six miles to the gallon.
We spoke with two young women who had back-packed all the way from Canada. They never had intentions of ending up in Bethel for Labor Day weekend, but they said they stuck their thumb out and there they were. Brave (and stupid) young women. If my daughter ever had that idea, I’d smack her.
The parking lot was packed with an magnificent array of humanity. There were aging hippies, younger hippies, grandparents with walkers and more tie-dye than I have ever seen in one place -- ever. When I noticed a man at least 15 years older than I am with grey dreadlocks down his back, I had to shake my head. I just had my hair cut to be more age appropriate, this old white dude was still living in 1970.
The New York Times had a table set up with a special promotion. Buy a six month subscription at half price and get a concert tee shirt free.
We had already received the email stating that Bob Dylan requested no cameras and the big screen monitors on each side of the stage would remain dark. I found that odd and annoying, but of course had to comply. Ben Harper opened up the show that was supposed to start “promptly” at 8 pm. While a proficient guitarist, Harper is more suited to play in a local bar than to an open field of thousands. He was dinner music at best. Toby Walker, who used to play at my bar, was better.
When Bob Dylan and his band arrived on the stage after 9 pm, I wasn’t even sure which blur on the stage was Dylan. I was totally shocked when I finally realized he was the blur in the white pants playing the piano - poorly. Dylan’s voice is inconsistent. One moment he sounded the way he did 50 years ago, the next he sounded like Cookie Monster.
I expected none of the words to be intelligible, I didn’t expect musical inadequacy from an icon of modern music. His band mates didn’t help his performance at all and my daughter, who is going to college for music business called it “sloppy."
“You could hear he was hitting two keys at once. The piano didn’t even sound as if it meant to be with the song and he was out of rhythm with the rest of the band.” My daughter has a good ear and when we couldn't even recognize "Tangled up in Blue," my heart sank.
For me the worst part of it was his failure to engage the audience. These thousands of people paid a premium to see this man that has been part of their history and he never once addressed the audience. He never welcomed us, thanked us or even recognized we were there. Adding insult to injury -- neither did any one else from the band. If he didn’t want to speak, in order to save what little voice he had left, give the responsibility to someone else in the band that has at least a shred of entertainment value.
You would think that a man who has lived so long and seen so much would have at least a FEW things to say about his music. Tell us about the new songs you wrote, why you did, where you did. Something, anything! TALK DAMNNIT!!
We left before the concert ended along with many other disappointed fans. I think it’s time for Dylan to hang it up when it comes to playing live.
I have tickets to see Peter Gabriel at the beach in October. I am assuming he will be far more engaging and entertaining than Dylan. Hopefully that is not an incorrect assumption.