Bob Dylan & Mavis Staples Give Forest Hills Stadium a Night to Remember (SHOW REVIEW)

In 2002 Bob Dylan returned to the Newport Folk Festival, the famous locale where he “went electric” in 1965, and the playful bard showed up incognito wearing a blondish beard. On Friday night in Queens he historically returned to Forest Hills Stadium which, back in August ‘65, hosted the second “electric show” from Dylan, finding a hip hometown crowd divided. This time there were no silly costumes or statements just a solid performance from the 75 year old focusing on his recent releases of standards while still mining his amazing back catalog of songs in his constantly reinventive style.

Before Dylan however another legend, Mavis Staples and her young funky band delivered an excellent short opening set. A few songs from her recent Livin’ On  A High Note were featured such as  “Love and Trust” and the easy grooving “Take Us Back” which allowed Mavis to show off her pipes in the light rain. It was her unique and timely cover choices that really delivered above and beyond as both her energetic take on the Talking Heads “Slippery People” and her heartfelt delivery of “For What It’s Worth” originally by Buffalo Springfield were pleas to focus on love during trying times. Ending with her mighty Staples Singers track “I’ll Take You There,” Mavis seemed as excited for Dylan’s set as the sold out crowd was.

The rain ended and Dylan strolled on stage minus any introduction and easily spun out “Things Have Changed”. They certainly have since he last played Forest Hills; his voice has gotten raspier, his band is tighter and they are all on the Never Ending Tour together which has seen Dylan become the consummate blues showman he always really was. His five piece backing band (Tony Garnier – bass, George Recile – drums, Stu Kimball – rhythm guitar, maracas, Charlie Sexton on lead guitar, Donnie Herron – violin, banjo, electric mandolin, pedal steel, lap steel) has been the same for a few years now and fluidly follow their front-man.

For this show the first set was more energetic with classics like “She Belongs To Me” mixing wonderfully with even older classics (if more recently recorded by Dylan) like “The Night We Called It A Day”. The swinging “Duquesne Whistle” got some older fannies off the seats to shimmy while the folk-rock-with-a-sharp-edge from “Pay In Blood” felt ominous and powerful. The show highlight closed the first set, a reconstructed take on “Tangled Up In Blue” with Dylan contributing not only his timeless lyrics but descending runs on both harmonica and baby grand piano.

The second set was more relaxed after opening with the bluegrass banjo of “High Water (For Charley Patton)”. The band then dipped down for easy offerings from his last two albums (Shadows In The Night & Fallen Angels) that deal with the American Songbook, “Why Try To Change Me Now” “All Or Nothing At All” and set closer “Autumn Leaves”. All were fine, but the mellow mood established became drowsy and it took a pair of all-time Dylan originals, one from the ‘60’s and one from the 90’s, to seal the deal in the encore.

“Blowin’ In The Wind” never gets old, especially when Dylan and company play around with its presentation as they did on this night. The spectacularly eerie “Love Sick” closed and did so with violins and determined finality. Dylan didn’t make a reference to that long gone show, he didn’t have to. He is confident in his playing, performance and songs; there has never been anyone better at crafting those than Bob Dylan.

Mavis Staples Setlist Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, New York, NY, USA 2016

Bob Dylan Setlist Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, New York, NY, USA 2016, Never Ending Tour

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5 Responses

  1. I’ve been a fan of Bob’s since the beginning but I wish he would actually sing at his concerts again, something which he hasn’t done in *years.* There is no entertainment value in these unlistenable squawks that he indulges in, so many of us refuse to even consider seeing him live any more. I’m sure the record companies insist that he sing better on his recordings (and he can, obviously), because *nobody* would buy these awful live atrocities!

  2. Hate to sound supercilious, but I think you’re missing the point. He’s singing, all right, the way he’s able to these days. His command (for me) is so sure, even when he misses notes, that I find his singing very moving on the old standards. He really is reminiscing about lost loves, or such is the illusion he creates. And his voice is much more melodic these days than it’s been in decades, at least in concert. There’s enormous entertainment value in those squawks — at least for me — he plays with them the way he plays his harmonica. Dylan’s a compulsive creator — if he didn’t play his own old classics differently every time he’d die of boredom. Going to a Dylan concert is just different from going to most pop concerts. It’s more like going to hear someone who thinks differently from nearly all of us, think outloud — musically. He’s always trying stuff; some of it works, some of it doesn’t. But I’m with him (and I wasn’t always): I know his music so well, who wants to hear him do it the same way live? I want to hear him experiment. I’m reminded of going to a talk by an Indian philosopher once many years ago, who just started talking when he was ready, and stopped when he was finished. Improvising. That’s how he entertains, and I love it.

  3. Jeff….He DOES sing at all of His concerts!!! You simply have lost your way in the Dylanite world….and I doubt you were ever truly a Dylan fan….but…..keep on keepin’ on! from an all time devoted fan so so glad Bob Dylan still gives us His Masterpiece!

  4. Bob is Bob. Just Bob Dylan. He sings just like a Bob Dylan. I only saw him perform twice; both were stellar concerts. In 1977 during the Street Legal Tour, Universal Theater in Hollywood. In 2007, at Carver Arena in Iowa City. (With opening solo act, Elvis Costello!) Sometimes you just have to put his singing familiar Bob songs as if it were in an enigma code. I worked backstage at a 1992 Santana-Dylan concert at the Hollywood Blvd. Could not understand one word he sang. Of familiar songs. I could hear and understand Carlos perfectly. I guess what I am saying, to know, know, know Bob, is to love love love him. I perform, sing, play guitar, of several Bob Dylan songs. Sounds nothing like him. That is why he is Bob Dylan.

  5. I’ve recently ran across a Website for the Illuminati,with a Ribbon Banner across the top of the Page showing various famous Faces of well known People.
    Bob Dylan’s image was amongst them.Is He a Member of this??

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