(Concert Review) Behind Every Beautiful Thing There’s Some Kind of Pain: Bob Dylan, Tanglewood, 7.2.16

(photo Lee Everett / finelinelenox.com)

(photo Lee Everett / finelinelenox.com)

Bob Dylan
Tanglewood
Stockbridge, Mass.
July 2, 2016

Review by Seth Rogovoy

Photography by Lee Everett / finelinelenox.com

 

(STOCKBRIDGE, Mass.) – While it undoubtedly mystified many who had come to hear the legendary Bob Dylan sing his greatest hits – not a necessarily unfair, if uninformed, expectation – Dylan’s concert at Tanglewood on Saturday night instead was a profound work of music-theatre that relied less on his setlist and more on the moods his particular song choices evoked.

That may have been small solace to those who came to hear “the voice of a generation” sing “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and “All Along the Watchtower,” as well as any other dozens of fan favorites from Dylan’s five-plus decade career. But those who simply opened themselves up to what was happening in the here-and-now were repaid with a concert that was as fierce and engaging as any a Dylan fan has ever likely witnessed.

The 75-year-old enigma who never caters to crowd expectations nor fulfills ordinary rock concert protocols was, however, fully present for an internal battle being fought within, across, and through the songs he played, most of which were 21st century original compositions alternating with pre-rock pop standards invested, explored, and arranged with and by a uniquely Dylanesque aesthetic that nearly rendered their provenance meaningless, if so much meaning hadn’t resulted in the transformation of songs associated with Frank Sinatra into Bob Dylan songs.

Dylan came out of the gates roaring with his band through a punched-up, revitalized version of “Things Have Changed,” the surprise 2000 hit that Dylan wrote and recorded for the soundtrack to the film “Wonder Boys,” which garnered him his first Academy Award for Best Original Song. He followed that up with “She Belongs to Me,” the first of only two songs from the 1960s he performed all night, with its admonition that has throughout his career served as a kind of creed both for the singer and his listeners: “Don’t look back.”

Indeed there was very little looking back in this concert, even when Dylan sang those pre-rock songs like “The Night We Called It a Day,” “Melancholy Mood,” and “How Deep Is the Ocean?” among a handful of others. Those songs, interspersed as they were for the most part in between original songs Dylan has recorded over the past decade and sung with surprising beauty and delicacy, served more as a bit of lightness and relief after the devastating blows, the prophetic raging, the accounts of apocalyptic violence and the musical thunder of tunes including “Pay in Blood,” “High Water,” “Early Roman Kings” and “Scarlet Town,” portraying a scarred battlefield of humanity betrayed, sung in a voice desolate and torn, and rendered with blistering ferocity by Dylan’s versatile road band, where guitarists Charlie Sexton and Stu Kimball and multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron fired shrapnel-like blasts of rootsy heavy-metal that punctuated, underlined, and emphasized the stakes laid out by Dylan.

(photo Lee Everett / finelinelenox.com)

(photo Lee Everett / finelinelenox.com)

Dylan himself took part in the creation of that mood-inducing sound with vibrant turns on grand piano and mouth harp, while longtime bassist Tony Garnier and drummer George Recile kept the numbers moving. Dylan spat and barked out his own songs like testimony from on high, while he mined the standard tunes for heretofore unexplored nuances of blood and betrayal. This was no mere Frank Sinatra tribute; if anything, it was the opposite, a tribute to the men who wrote the songs, and Dylan staking a claim for them as his own, as tunes written by men just like him, who find betrayal in every promise, who behind ever victory find deceit, who know that “behind every beautiful thing there’s some kind of pain.”

The precise lighting, itself moody and dark and mostly drenching the players in white from behind so that they were playing in the shadows, the steady formation of the players while Dylan crossed the stage from right to left like a restless general, and the juxtaposition of the old sweet melancholy melodies with the new torn and broken ones, lent the entire production an aura of theatricality, even suggesting a tesseract – a David Lynchian dream (or nightmare) in which the proceedings were happening simultaneously in four dimensions. Dylan conjured up a state of prophetic mysticism the likes of which I’ve rarely seen him accomplish so strongly, purposefully, and meaningfully.

In the end, the sum was much greater than any of the parts, which in themselves were as great as any parts whatsoever, such that to call this exercise of spiritual power a Bob Dylan concert diminishes and trivializes what was being played out both onstage and in the implied covenant between performer and audience.

The only question remaining is, “Did they know right then and there what that power was worth?”

 

Seth Rogovoy is the author of Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet (Scribner 2009).

 

  47 comments for “(Concert Review) Behind Every Beautiful Thing There’s Some Kind of Pain: Bob Dylan, Tanglewood, 7.2.16

  1. W
    July 4, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    Did you seem the same concert I did? It was terrible croaking in the dark….

    • W
      July 4, 2016 at 5:52 pm

      Mavis Staples was very good. Some of us were up and dancing by the end of her set. Tight, funky back-up band. And she still believes.

    • Todd
      July 5, 2016 at 9:34 pm

      Sorry you got lost in your own expectations. The night was strung together by many creative moments. I’ve seen Bobby over 15 times …..this was one of his best

  2. July 4, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    I agree. Seth was at a different concert than us. This was the worst performance I ever witnessed. Bad bob Dylan ballads. Seth—-didn’t you notice the crowds leaving early? Dylan is just a money making machine with no soul or wind in his pipes! That’s why blowin in the wind was unrecognizabe! Terrible and awful!

  3. Stephan Pickering / Chafetz Chayim benAvraham
    July 4, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    Shalom & Erev tov, Reb Seth…kol tuv uv’racha…may you be blessed with all that is good…I think it important to note that as he was doing in 1964-1966, the sequence of what Shabtai Zisel / ‘Bob Dylan’ is presenting is, as it were, a collection of chapters to stories…like R. Nachman of Breslov, he is telling a continuing story during these concerts…he does not randomly chose, but gives careful consideration to how they ‘fit together’…for me, it is irrelevant that Sinatra sang them. What is crucial is that most of these were written by earlier Yehu’dit song-poets, and what is provocative, is that if one closes one’s eyes and listens, it is as though he wrote them. What I am hoping is that, in time, he will present the material he has written, but withheld, rather than the 30 other songs he recorded 2014-2015.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    STEPHAN PICKERING / ??? ?”? ?? ?????
    Torah ????? Yehu’di Apikores / Philologia Kabbalistica Speculativa Researcher
    ????? ??? ?? ??????

    THE KABBALAH FRACTALS PROJECT

    • George in Brooklyn
      July 9, 2016 at 9:10 pm

      The rebbi took the words right outta my mouth!

  4. Mike
    July 4, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    This concert should be a shoe-in to make, if not top, the ‘Worst of the Summer’ list.

  5. Sharon
    July 4, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    I guess Seth is trying to goose up sales of his book. The only thing I recognize in this review of the show I attended was that Dylan spat and barked his songs. The Tanglewood audience sat in stunned silence – no dancing, little applause. Having seen the new album, I realized Dylan was trying to follow Rod Stewart and Willy Nelson into Frank Sinatra territory, and didn’t expect him to sing his own music, but this was painful and there was a significant exodus at intermission.

  6. MARIANN Magdalene
    July 4, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    I loved his surprising and brilliant set at Ravinia 6/24. Open yourself to the moment, leave expectations at the door. Then, no disappointment, only wonder!

  7. Angel
    July 5, 2016 at 1:59 am

    Bob needs to show us his progress with the bagpipes he bought in Scotland some time ago and who by now must surely know how to play.
    Then start a tour in India , a virgin territory for his bones,and once there buy a set of sitar learning kit.
    At least that would again bring him back to newfound lands.

  8. Martin Schaefer
    July 5, 2016 at 5:15 am

    “Did they know right then and there what that power was worth?”

    Obviously, not everyone. But great thanks to you, Seth, for recognizing what Dylan is trying to do.

    Martin Schaefer (Basel, Switzerland)

    • Roland
      July 5, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Wow Martin you were in Tanglewood? Wir haben seit Jahrzehnten ab und zu die Feder gekreuzt. In der Zwischenzeit wohne ich in der NY Gegend und werde in Queens am Konzert sein. Du ebenfalls?

      • Martin from Switzerland
        July 6, 2016 at 5:46 am

        Hi Roland,
        no, I was not in Tanglewood, but Seth’s impressions were very close to what I felt and heard last autumn in Basel. Would have been nice to meet in Queens, but I haven’t been in NY for over 20 years…

        Cheers, Martin

  9. Jim Zeller
    July 5, 2016 at 7:36 am

    Seen him 6-7 times. Not this one, but looking forward to next. Only time I was disappointed was in the 70s, when I knew not what to expect. Prepare. Listen to his current (past decade or so) stuff, a lot, before u go. If u are a fan/devotee/fanatic etc, u should be moved, as was the reviewer here. Some of us feel past the bark croak spit! Even appreciate it.

  10. C. Henry
    July 5, 2016 at 7:48 am

    Spot-on review by someone who understands what Bob is capable of. Unfortunately there is an unending supply of idiots who flock to his shows with some ridiculous expectations they have conjured up – with the help of pop culture – as to what a Bob Dylan concert should be. When will this supply of small minded “fans” dry up and stay home and watch more TV? Bob is on fire this tour. Oh yes.

    • July 5, 2016 at 1:11 pm

      really C. Henry. You got to be kidding. I had no expectations whatsoever, having been fully warned there would be little ‘oldies’ and if there were, they would not be recognizable. This was not a concert. This was a old man croaking out ballads his voice was certainly not designed to articulate. If he wants to experiment and act like he’s doing something great, play for free. This was a rip off. he’s just milking the money machine, he has very little to offer with this kind of stuff, others do it way better than he! in the shower, and that means you and me!

  11. John Lippmann
    July 5, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Seth as a long time viewer of Dylan shows, I think it was not the best or worst show. I have found that comparing whatever show with others is never a good idea. Every show he makes some happy and some leave disappointed having expected last years or last decades model Dylan. This one was unique and lovely, emotional and exciting. This was Dylan the crooner and Dylan the blues man. There is only one Dylan but many many different Dylan shows. This was one I was happy to share with 3 generations of my family.

  12. Andrew Steinhouse
    July 5, 2016 at 8:54 am

    Seth,
    30 times I’ve seen Dylan and this was amongst the top 3 performances for sure.
    Everything you say is spot on!
    The show had immense power and beauty….for all the reasons you state.

  13. Kevin
    July 5, 2016 at 9:00 am

    It’s a shame that most of the above people adding comments know very little about Bob Dylan, but were there to see a name, maybe to have a picnic, maybe to celebrate the holidays. Dylan’s performance at Tanglewood showed all the mystery and “mastery” that he presented in any one of his concerts from throughout his career, including the legendary 1966 concerts. The sound system was very well balanced and Dylan sang and enunciated every word clearly and with deep emotion. It is also too bad that many of his fans who still love his music and sound, have little understanding of the profound nature of the “American Songbook” standards that Dylan sings. His performance of “How Deep is the Ocean” was a masterpiece and he hit long bass notes that were very powerful. A woman behind me, who apparently has been to many dozens of Dylan shows, said after that song, “It is too bad that that song was such s*it!” Wow, she needed to discover her own soul.

  14. Kevin
    July 5, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Most people who leave Tanglewood early do that because they know it takes almost an hour to get out of the parking lot after the end of a show. They also tend to be the ones who either go to bed at 9PM, or were there just to say they saw a name artist. Anyway, they had finished all of their wine.

  15. Phil Coleman
    July 5, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Right on my friend! This is a living, breathing artist of the highest caliber. We have seen Dylan several times and each was a different experience. I was not at this concert as we had to work, but I know I would have really enjoyed it. To keep growing and staying vigorous at his age is a fantastic accomplishment. When Picasso left his Blue Period, he never went back to it, and who in their right mind would say he should have just kept painting the same thing over and over? Anyone who took five minutes to read and catch up on Dylan’s career would have known he was not going to do greatest hits of the 60’s. If there is ever a Mount Rushmore for music, Dylan is the George Washington!

    • Stan Spencer
      July 5, 2016 at 10:33 am

      At least George Washington knew when to pack it in.

  16. Manor Folsom
    July 5, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Damn it, Seth. Your writing just makes me envious of your talent. Great piece. Thank you for providing it to us.

  17. LarryK
    July 5, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Well,, some get it and some don’t…right on, Seth (if a tad overstated) but yes, this is theater, call it Americana noir or whatever, it was unique and one of my top ten Bob shows (and I go back to 1963 with him)…The sentimental “oldies” are there as a challenge to Bob and the band: much more difficult chord changes and dynamics, and for Bob, almost a completely different vocal language…the man knows exactly what he’s doing. “Pay in Blood” was stratospheric, revelatory, perfectly wonderfully nasty and pungent.

  18. Dan Cook
    July 5, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    I saw him in INDY. I’ve seen him 12 times over the past 35 years. You’re to be commended. A beautiful perspective of this particular tour.

  19. Sheila
    July 5, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    I was at the Shrine Auditorium for the 6/16/16 show. I found it to be mesmerizing. He sang the new Sinatra ballads mixed in with his older ones. His Sinatra songs couldn’t have been more romantic, as I hung on every word. I have been a fan for 50 years, Dylan is an artist and he is by far one of the best poets, and entertainers ever. You have to remember, at his age, he still plays, sings and he spends much of his time touring, which must be hard on him, we are lucky to have him. Maybe he will go home and record the songs he has never released. That would be awesome, I am sure they would be as great as the rest, after all, he is Bob Dylan, a legend and an icon in the best of times. To see him once or 30 times you are blessed and you will never see the same thing unless you go to the same show twice. The Shrine show was awesome, maybe he was a little tired after traveling across the country and doing so many performances by the time he got to Tanglewood.

    • Frank Vania
      July 5, 2016 at 6:41 pm

      Seth, what a brilliant piece of writing. Your comments about his powerful band were accurate and heartfelt. I didn’t get to Tanglewood on Saturday but will run with bells on to the Forest Hills Stadium,
      NY performance this Friday. All the Dylan tours are quite different and that’s their beauty and excitement. The folks who complain haven’t listened to 2012’s “Tempest” or the most recent “Fallen
      Angels”. It’s 2016 and why don’t they go to Setlist.com and see what songs will be performed before coming to the show? It’s Bob Dylan and he’s not going to be doing an oldies show.

  20. Judy Bodnar Scheck
    July 5, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    The show was moving, sweet, tearing, humorous, and had my rapt attention every minute, even out on the lawn. Listeners who embrace change have a key into music. What I heard in Dylan’s voice was sincerity.
    On another note, I was your guitar teacher during the summer of ’76 at Camp Emerson, I think.

  21. Eivind Schee
    July 5, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    But it was a beautiful report of a concert I did not attend. But I saw Dylan three nights in august 2015 in Oslo, and I feel that we’ve been to the same shows. I must remark that on the second night he did a wonderful Tangled Up In Blue.
    Eivind Schee

  22. Sad-eyed Lady
    July 5, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    To all those who think that we, who hated this performance, don’t have as great an appreciation of Dylan as do you, ask yourselves this: if that performance had been given by someone you had never heard of, would you be so entranced, or are you just imbuing it with profound meaning because of the messenger? Do you know what a cult is? This is not Dylan the iconoclast performing electric at Newport. The reason you, and we, revere Dylan is for his poetry, his originality, and yes his ability to shatter our expectations. But this performance, this tour, this Dylan is none of that. If Fallen Angels had been Bobby’s first recording, we would not be having this conversation and it would have been a loss for the world. Thankfully, he gave us more. But if he is challenging us now, it is to see how much (or little) he can get away with.

    • July 6, 2016 at 12:00 am

      “If that performance had been given by someone you had never heard of would you be so entranced?”

      I’ve heard this argument so many times… The simple fact is that context and history matter. A LOT. A grubby dandelion in the hand of your child means more than 300 hundred roses from the creepy guy down the street.

      • Sad-eyed Lady
        July 6, 2016 at 10:57 pm

        What context and history make Bob’s grubby dandelion so attractive to you? The child doesn’t know any better, but from an adult it demonstrates a lack of respect, appreciation, effort.

    • Johanna
      July 8, 2016 at 12:24 pm

      Fair enough to say that all of life is just a story inside a story and how we take that in, sometimes depends on how we choose to listen or hear it.

    • George in Brooklyn
      July 9, 2016 at 9:18 pm

      Sad-eyed Lady,

      You may not have cared for the performance and that’s your call–that’s why they have horse races.

      But you should not even hint at the cynical notion Bob is “(seeing) how much, or little, he can get away with.” That’s a very unfortunate suggestion and not at all supported by his current work product.

      George

    • Homeby5
      October 26, 2016 at 9:11 am

      Spot on!!!
      There are always those who think it’s cool to swim against the tide. Problem is that the tide of his music made his career and fans want to hear the songs they grew up on, connected with and love. As a musician who plays every week, I understand the absolute boredom that comes from playing the same songs over and over but the bottom line is that either you give the fans what they want or you play for yourself. Most artists choose the former and those that choose the latter should do just that….play for yourself, by yourself in your bedroom.

  23. Gaia
    July 5, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Please play in Memphis again – with Mavis Staples

  24. July 6, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Seth it was wonderful that you could be so profound in your review. I love Bob Dylan. The concert Saturday was a real treat.
    Bob certainly can evolve his music any way he wants he is a legend.

  25. kyle
    July 6, 2016 at 11:40 am

    My wife and I attended his concert in Santa Barbara, Mavis staples had the crowd on their feet with an amazing set of songs that most knew, Then Bob came on, It was the worst concert I have ever attended….so much for bragging rights that I had seen the legend live. Mavis should have been brought back for the encore, but instead even she got on her bus and got out of Dodge. Intermission looked like a cattle stampede. You think he would have sung more of the songs that made him wealthy due to fans purchasing his music ..but nooooooooooooo He growled songs that I couldn’t understand, never once playing his guitar, but the piano for a few of the songs. Then, only because I recognized the lyrics of the songs was I even able to figur out just what the great Bob Dylan was singing…I wish I could get my money back for this one, and thats the first time that has ever happened………..

  26. John Hassan
    July 6, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Extremely overwritten, the purplest of prose. I did sense that Seth enjoyed the show.

  27. Kevin
    July 6, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    You would think that people would try to learn about an artist and what he is doing, rather than just go so they can brag that they saw someone famous

  28. JA
    July 7, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Still has people talking at 75 and pressin on! It was a treat for me .

    • George in Brooklyn
      July 9, 2016 at 9:23 pm

      Exactly right, JA–Bob’s a hale and hearty 75 from what I saw, great stamina and purpose and (get ready) he’s in very good voice! And it would appear still driving people crazy…

  29. Brian Quinn
    July 8, 2016 at 8:45 am

    He has an uncanny mind and can be uncanny with words. Most of us don’t and can’t. Some of us admire his uniqueness; others fail to see it. It’s an old story.Brian

  30. Brian Quinn
    July 8, 2016 at 8:49 am

    He has an uncanny mind and can be uncanny with words. Most of us don’t and can’t. Some of his admire his uniqueness; others fail to see it. He’s 75. It’s an old story.

  31. George in Brooklyn
    July 9, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    The contrasting responses to the review are absolutely stunning!

    I’m writing on Saturday evening, July 9; last night I saw Bob and his band at Forest Hills and it was, as the critic suggests, possibly the most engaging, exciting and gripping show I’ve ever seen Bob perform…and I’ve been to at least 30 of ’em. The old tennis stadium was sold out, there wasn’t much dancing (his older crowd prefers to sit and see the stage) (I was sent to my seat a couple times by the guy behind me), and when he finished his encore with “Love Sick” the place blew up in applause and loud cheering. It was a singular night.

    Half the respondents above experienced the same show, and the other half found it miserable…and that must be the mystery of Bob.

  32. July 18, 2016 at 9:29 am

    >The contrasting responses to the review are absolutely stunning!

    and ‘Twas Ever Thus…

    EDLIS Café

    http://www.edlis.org/cafe

  33. Charlie
    July 19, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Saw him at Tanglewood on July 2nd Big disappointment Wish that Mavis was the headliner she had the crowd up and dancing and actually talked to the crowd Dylan was like he was doing a nine to five job no interaction with the crowd He didn’t seem to enjoy being there Just a paycheck So sad

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *