Reviews

Highland Park, Illinois

Ravinia
Pavilion

June 24, 2016


[Dave Moyer], [Laurette Maillet], [Don Ely], [Bob Shiel]

Review by Dave Moyer



On a beautiful evening for a show, an unbelievable band backed a legend, who 
came out in very strong voice and delivered a solid and steady, if not spectacular 
show.

"She Belongs to Me," the second number of the night, and a terrific "Tangled 
Up in Blue," the final song before intermission, were by far the highlights, with 
"Duquesne Whistle" and "High Water (for Charlie Patton)" not too far behind.
In what has become a standard set list, original Dylan tunes came from the 
years 2000, 1965, 2009, 2012, 2012, 1975, 2001, 2012, 2006, 2012, 2012 
1963, and 1997, meaning that seven of the 13 were from the last decade and 
five were from his latest album of original songs, Tempest.  Only three songs 
from the "classic" catalogue, "She Belongs to Me," "Tangled Up in Blue," and 
"Blowin' in the Wind" are a part of the current festivities.

This isn't a necessarily bad thing.  The "Sinatra" covers, for lack of a better 
word, really sounded nice.  Better than some might have presumed going in.  
But, the question is, when the band is this good, and Dylan is in such good 
form, is it really necessary for a guy with over 500 original songs, some of 
them among the best ever written (and performed live), to include seven 
covers?  This equates to 35% of the set list.  A few less would have sufficed, 
with less redundancy and more variety the result.

Bob has always done exactly what he wants, which is why he is Bob.  
Certainly, he will continue to do so.  However, when a stellar "Tangled" 
arrived on the scene, concert-goers rushed the amphitheater from their 
grass seats, singing and skipping with arms flailing, to catch glimpse of the 
man, as he offered up a religious experience, revised lyrics and all.  
(Note:  at Ravinia, most people with lawn seats do not have a view of the 
stage.)  People continued to dance (you can dance to Dylan!) as the song 
re-challenged our imagination with scene, after scene, as it has done for 
41 years.  

Then, Bob actually spoke announcing a rather extended intermission.  
When he came back out, the second half of the concert resumed with 
"High Water," but things began to fizzle.  A Muddy Waters sounding "Early 
Roman Kings" was decent, and "Spirit on the Water" is a fine song that was 
delivered well.  But with three covers and an unnecessary "Scarlet Town" 
mixed in, people began leaving Ravinia in droves.  By the time "Long and 
Wasted Years," a great song from Tempest came around, roughly half of the 
crowd had left.  Anybody who was a first-timer who grew weary would have 
been out the door without having heard Bob Dylan sing "Blowin' in the Wind" 
as his first encore.  Their own fault, perhaps, but also unnecessary.

Based on this experience, I will make a 38th trip to hear and see this man and 
his band, but not if this is the set list for the next tour.  Time to mix it up.
Additional notes:  Mavis Staples was fabulous!  George Recile might be the 
most underrated drummer in the land.  And, with no disrespect to Tony, Stu, 
or Donnie, I can't get enough of Charlie Sexton's guitar playing.

Dave Moyer
lifeandlifeonly22@gmail.com

[TOP]

Review by Laurette Maillet



Chicago 24th of June 2016.
I arrived at 9 a.m.† with AMTRACK,† the american train company. 
From Pittsburgh PA , it took 9 hours overnight. The train is a lot more
comfortable to sleep in than any bus. My AirBandB had been cancelled. The
plan B is to find a Youth Hostel. I found one, right downtown,† walking
distance from train station and bus stops. The Ravinia Park is far away
out of town. Thanks to the development of Chicago on their train
transportation,† there is a little train going there and ... back. I have
4 hours to spend before checking in. I take a chance to see Chicago by
feet. And I am surprised. Happily surprised! I have been in Chicago before
but I never truly liked the City. Maybe because of my state of mind at the
times. Today I am on my own and free, free as a bird. I discover a city of
high scrapers of all kind of structures and forms : stones or glasses. The
river is covered with red iron bridges of complicated conceptions. The
bright lights of the sun sparkles all ; stones, iron and glass. People are
thronging in the streets going to work or to leasure, dressed in summer
clothes, drinking cold to refresh. Chicago might be harsh in winter, but
in summer it is a pleasant city. At 5 p.m. I decide to move on to the
Ravinia Park. I know there is a Metra train going there but I donít know
where to take it. I have different informations from different 'helpful'
persons but it get me more confused. At 5.45 p.m. I am still running from
one station to the other when a man (coming from Paradise I believe) take
me all the way to the station,† help me to buy a ticket and put me in the
right train at 6 p.m. Thank you sweet Angel. Shortly before 7 p.m. I reach
the Park. And I can't believe my eyes. Hundreds of people are slowly
entering the Park loaded with lawn chairs, blankets, coolers, pillows! A
Picnic? Again? This is not my cup of tea as a Picnic is distracting the
attention from what is happening on stage.† The show is just a background
attraction. I guess it is what it is for most of the Fans now a days. I
have no problem finding a lawn ticket. The pit is covered with numbered
chairs, for the privileged. Few hundreds protected by security and
surrounded by rails. I find myself a spot on the rail, on the right,† but
the stage is far and the piano invisible. The rest of the crowd is on the
lawn , picnicking. Chatting about their lives and eventually remembering
Bob Dylan and his Band are on stage! Mavis is on. Delivering exactly the
same speech, night after night. I am so happy Bobby doesnít play that
game. It could be seriously annoying! Nonetheless she puts on an inspiring
short show. Mavis is projected on 2 big screens, each side of the stage. I
doubt Bob will agree with his face on a screen. But what do I know? The
night is getting dark and Stu's guitar can be heard. To my big surprise,
the 2 screens are on, and a camera crew is shooting and projecting the
stage. Oh my! Bobby is on screen. But his face is shadowed by his hat. He
is wearing again black. Those dark pants with the white stripes. His
assistant forgot his beautiful embroidered suits? Is he in his dark mood?
"Things have changed" . The sound is muffled, and metalic. It will get
better with "Duquesne whistle " and on. "Duquesne whistle " is my
favourite tonight. The folks around me donít recognize most of the songs
and start chatting on the Sinatra ones. A large part of the public will
move away after "Scarlet town" , the pit included. Again , I could do
without "Tangled up in blue", unfortunately the only one bringing reaction
from the audience. And "I could have told you" the least successfully
interpreted by Bob. No surprise tonight. This audience doesnít deserve
it. Moving out I hear ; "we want the old songs" from people rolling out
the lawn chairs, the coolers, the blankets, the pillows, the trash plastic
bags and their... drunkeness. Why oh why, do they want to hear "a hard
rainís a-gonna fall" or "the Masters of war". What consciousness? What
feelings? As for "like a rolling stone" ?? I seem to be the only Stone
rolling back to my Youth Hostel tonight. Thank you Bobby. I hope YOU had a
great time in Chicago. I did.

[TOP]

Review by Don Ely



And the air was thick with the aroma of potato salad.....


The June 24, 2016 event at Ravinia Festival was one of the more unusual
Dylan experiences I've had. Reaching my hotel after a tedious crawl
through Chicagoland along I-94, I drove the ten miles down U.S. 41 to
Ravinia Park. Their website stated there was parking for only 1800
vehicles, and as tonight was a sellout advised attendees to get there
early. Well, by the time of my arrival that ship had sailed the Great
Lakes. Ravinia Park is an older facility tucked neatly into a residential
area and nearby botanic gardens, so they supply overflow parking two miles
away in downtown Highland Park. Patrons are then loaded onto shuttle buses
and dropped off at the festival. Hailing from the Motor City and not the
Windy City, " This is not good ", I thought, to be at the mercy of public
transportation. But this being the Windy City and not the Motor City,
Chicago has it down to an art form. From the north gate the walkway opened
up to reveal a vast sea of picnickers. Every available inch of grass was
filled with lawn chairs and blankets, beer coolers and wine glasses,
portable grills and styrofoam plates, and of course food to be eaten and
the folks to consume it. They came in all ages, sizes, and ethnicities,
even more than at a " regular " Dylan gig, because this was a summer
dinner party! There were also places where food could be purchased,
ranging from the upscale to the usual dogs 'n' sausages, and an
establishment where frozen treats could be had to cool down on this warm
Friday night. Other buildings including a small theater were set
throughout the grounds, making for an interesting walking experience. The
stage was located within a small pavilion, and outside it's parameters
people stood several deep, so sightlines were not ideal except for video
screens mounted on either side of the stage. But that doesn't count, does
it? In fact the majority of attendees probably never even caught sight of
hometown girl Mavis Staples or Bob Dylan and His Band! The music was
excellent, however, as it was piped throughout the festival and served as
a soundtrack to folks' culinary activities. Bob's set was conducive to the
setting, and I'm sure the elders in the house appreciated the Shadows In
The Night/Fallen Angels selections, of which there six new additions since
I visited Bob last. A fine evening, I left a little bit early to grab the
shuttle and get outta Dodge, which worked out just fine. Gotta stay a step
ahead of Picnic Army!

[TOP]

Review by Bob Shiel



The band seems entirely committed to the intention of letting the audience
hear Bob's voice.  I don't think Tony turned his bass up to more that 5,
possibly even 4, all night long.  This was most apparent on High Water on
which Donnie's banjo and Bob high register vocal carried the day...and the
Tempest songs Pay In Blood and Scarlet Town.

Loved how Stu opened both sets with terrific solo guitar introductions to
Things Have Changed (acoustic) and High Water (electric), although the
High Water one was a disconnected, stand alone R and B mostly B groove
that I would have loved to hear the rest of the band jump in on.

Ravinia Music Theater in Highland Park has a weather-protected pavilion
that might hold a couple thousand seats or so from which the stage can
actually be seen.  All of these were sold out in advance to donors, many
of whom are perennial, long term benefactors that are given preferential
treatment.  Three or four times that many lawn tickets merely hold grassy
space for some mighty country club picnicking and chatty attendees, some
of whom could not have cared less about what they were hearing.  Two
"non-jumbo" big screens are partially visible from closer up lawn spaces,
and speakers attached to poles and trees route stage sound throughout the
facility.  Thus, being a lowly non-donor lawn ticket holder, I cannot say
that I "saw" Bob Dylan tonight.

Nonetheless, on 3 occasions during the first set I felt chills run down my
spine, specifically during Things Have Changed, She Belongs To Me, and
Tangled Up In Blue.  It sort of hit me that this was the first time I had
been to a concert of our friend Bob since my book on his LPs came out last
September.  And that the last time I saw Bob at the Cadillac Palace in
downtown Chicago in Nov. 2014 I was about halfway through the rough first
draft.  I guess what hit me was how much work I put into said book and
that I went to the effort because Bob Dylan is SOMEBODY if ever somebody
was anybody.  What I felt was a sense of love for the man.  And the
feeling was how worth it the book efforts were just because Bob is a
musical artistic giant in so, so many ways and has touched my heart and
life in a beautiful way, inspiring me to be the artist I am today.  How
does a guy thank a guy for THAT ?  Well, what I realized tonight is that I
thanked Bob when I wrote the book.  I had never figured that out until
tonight when those chills ran down my spine.  Funny how a Bob Dylan
concert affects me in inexplicable ways known only to the heart - not the
head !!

Sharing this evening with 8 Dylan concert virgins is probably what I will
remember most about tonight, which will remain in the fabric of these
friendship into the future.  I cherish my rapport with so many Bobcats !! 


Finally, I concur wholeheartedly that the 7 so-called American standards
sound outstanding live and better than in the studio.  The "soul" in these
terrific songs lends itself to spontaneous interpretation with each/every
performance !!

And I sort understand now why I have not been hearing much about Mavis'
set, as it is composed of unremarkable, simple guitar/bass/drum kit
arrangements that (much like Bob's act) appear intended to allow Mavis'
aging voice to be clearly audible.  I did very much enjoy the fuzz and
tremolo guitar work mimicking Pop's signature sound back in the day.  And
Mavis gave me a couple chills as well.  She is clearly respecting the
giant she is warming up for, and I applaud her for that.  After reading
Greg Kot's book about the Staple singers, I couldn't wait to see Mavis do
her thing.  Not up there with Bob IMHO, yet she did not disappoint at all
!!

So there you have it - my immediate post-concert thoughts before calling
it a night.  Surely this will all evolve as I sleep on it, as is always
(58 shows now) the case !

[TOP]

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