September 2, 2012
Review by David Godlis
I wasn't even going to bother to contribute a review of this Bethel NY show. On
this lazy summer night, I was perched almost too comfortably uphill from the
stage in my $30 lawn seat. From that distance I couldn't really attest to anything
specific that was going on onstage - what Bob & the band were wearing or who
was playing what instrument type was beyond my point of view. Usually I'm up
close & personal, but no notebook in hand tonight, I was ready for just a summer
dose of Bob. But jeez, I've waited 48 hours now for someone to post a review,
and nothing was delivered. So…somebody's got to reach for the rising star, and
I guess it must be Up to Me.
It couldn't have been a more perfect end of summer September night in Bethel,
NY. Full moon rising over the hills as Bob Dylan and his band took the stage
shortly around 9:15. Talk around the Bethel Woods site had been about what
tracks from Tempest anyone had already heard, and whether he was going to
open with Leopard Skin or River Flow, which he'd changed up the night before,
and whether he was going to play guitar much. But really it was a very, almost
too very laid back crowd. Lot of wandering tie-die types. Some were
mathematicians and some were carpenters wives to be sure, but there seemed
to be no real sense of urgency to this crowd. Well hey I hadn't seen Dylan since
that outdoor Brooklyn show a few years ago. Hadn't seen the current state of
this touring band in a while, so I guess I can offer a fresh perspective. Bob was
about to come onstage and I was ready for a lethal dose.
First things first, the sound at Bethel Woods was impeccable. Ben Harper had gone
on for an hour with just an acoustic guitar and you could hear each string perfectly.
These people had their sound system installed like a charm, even from where I was
sitting up on the hill. So when Bob came out and began with - River Flow - yes! - I
could pick right through any gruffness in his voice and hear every word. The main
thing I can say about this performance is that he was "spot on" all the way through
the show. No flubs, no slow spots, no lazy verses. He got every word of every song
near as I could tell (yes I heard the improvised Tangled verse). And he wasn't
rushing anything (maybe because he had the next night off before Portchester).
It was a great long set with a lot of my "wish for" songs on the set list.
Right away we got an excellent "Baby Blue" in the # 2 slot. My 19 year old daughter
nodded & smiled to me when she recognized it. I'd been following the live set lists
and boblinks, so I knew where the changes would be, and tonight they were almost
all pleasant surprises. I hadn't heard these new versions of "Things Have Changed" or
the decidedly non-acoustic "Tangled", or Dylan's grand piano style, so it was all fun &
new. And then came the #5 slot - "Levee". My daughter said "from Modern Times"
and she & my wife boogied in their seats.
But the real killer moment was upon us - "Blind Willie McTell". Bob center stage with
harmonica doesn't really describe it, because this was the moment you come to
these shows for. Stepped up a notch, singing every verse in the moment, and
topping it off with great harmonica. Literally reaching out to the audience. Took my
breath away. Talk about "arrow on the doorpost".
At this point the train was out of the station. "Tweedle Dee" was one that I was
hoping for, having listened to Love & Theft all summer. Lots of that grand piano
with Bob jumping out of his seat as the song ended. "Trying to Get to Heaven"
was unexpected and had more harp. I don't know, but there was a lot of
harmonica tonight straight thru and all of it good. As he slipped into "Highwater"
my daughter remarked on the "hurricane season" set list, and yes more harmonica.
And then as we approached the 10 slot I sat silently hoping for "Visions" to stay in
the set list one more night. And yes! He did one of the clearest versions I've heard
him do live - all the verses except "little boy lost" and all the words of all those
verses, as I said earlier "spot on". Right down to the "fish truck that loads as my
Now with "Highway 61" we were in the final stretch. This band tends to be a bit
layered and jazzy and I was ready for a bit more rock & roll. So I was ready for the
Highway - Thunder - Rolling Stone - Watchtower part of the set. And here let me
just say that my only disappointment with the show was the audience. Did they
not get that they were listening to Bob Dylan playing his most amazing songs?
The three of us sat there wondering if we were watching the same show as
everyone else. People even seemed to have a hard time even putting their hands
together to clap. At least the geriatric mosh pit, as my wife called it, was standing.
But I gotta say, Dylan was in his own world on that stage and drove the whole
enterprise ahead without a care.
Now I haven't seen him do "Thin Man" in a while and I don't know how long he's
been doing that with echo, but boy was that a fantastic version. Bob singing with
his own echo was an astounding live performance trick and he was surely enjoying
it. "Something happening…something happening…something happening." He
was Howling at the Moon.! And more harmonica there too as he headed from
"center stage" to the piano. He was moving around the stage all night like that.
Restless hungry feeling.
And then came "Rolling Stone" - all four verses. Has he been doing that too lately?
Last few times I saw him he was leaving oui the "jugglers & the clowns" verse and
only doing "miss lonely". But all four were there tonight. And let me just say this
about the chorus - my kid looked at me after the first chorus and said asked if he
just said "How Does it Feel to be Without a Phone?" I can't attest to anything
there, but it sure sounded funny and not out of the realm of possibility at the
Oh I left out my one disappointment - "Spirit on the Water' is not my favorite
track and I was hoping for "Simple Twist of Fate". But I gotta say this was a
credible, not lazy, version and we got more harmonica. So I'll let that slip. This
is why we keep coming back, because you can't always get what you want. It's
Bobs show and he's the phantom engineer on this train.
Well if you watch these set lists you know how it all ends. "Watchtower" and
"Blowin in the Wind". And again, I'll say this was not a rushed show. I imagine
Dylan coulda been heading for the tour bus while the band played the song off.
I've seen that before. But nope. There he was again, jumping up from the piano
and heading upstage to play us some more splendid harmonica right up to the
bitter end, taking in the applause.. And then, just like that, it was time to get
outa this all night café. We found our car, and I played the original "Willie Mc Tell"
for my daughter - "wow that sounds so different" - and we bugged outa there.
Review by Howard Weiner
I wondered if Bob Dylan was slowing down at all since I'd
last seen him in Atlantic City on Thanksgiving weekend 2010. After seeing
The Great One at Bethel Woods, I'm pleased to report that Mr. Dylan was
Over the hills and through the woods from New Paltz to
Bethel Woods we drove, passing forsaken towns and wondrous reservoirs.
It's as if places like Swan Lake and White Lake existed just for the sake
of rock history. My posse arrived at the scared site of Woodstock, and
basked in the sunset of a summer day in September.
Inside the magnificent venue, I bumped into an old comrade
who introduced me to a fifth row seat. My senses locked in on Dylan as he
moved to the grand piano for song two, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue."
Awesome. The kid was born to play the grand piano. His playing fully
showcased his versatility and virtuosity as a musician. It's a fallacy to
think of Dylan as merely the greatest songwriter. Bob grabbed an electric
guitar during "Things Have Changed," and delighted us with loud twangs and
spunky solos accompanied by nifty knee lifts. He had that mischievous grin
that suggested we were in for a helluva night.
"Tangled Up in Blue" was a bit ragged, but the adventurous intent was there.
Bob hammered a serious groove during a brilliantly conceived, and lengthy,
"When the Levee Breaks" jam. Call and response. That was the motif all night
between Dylan and his bad-ass band. And then Dylan blessed us with "Blind
Willie McTell." Ah, Grateful Ghosts from Bethel 2007, except this rendition
was twice as swift, and Dylan was on the prowl, strolling and singing center
stage, blasting harp solos. Ah Whooo! Bob had his mojo working. It seemed
like the maestro wanted to stage dive into the faithful. Just observing
Dylan's mannerisms put a smile on my face all night long. Seventy-one
year-old Bob Dylan spryly pranced around the stage like a young man on a
We all experience and interpret shows in our own space, but
New Orleans seemed to be on Dylan's mind as he sang of levees and Blind
Willie, and followed with "Tryin' to Get to Heaven," "High Water," and
"Highway 61 Revisited." Blues/ infused jazz. By the time Bob served-up
"Visions of Joanna," the night was overwhelming to the point of
incredulity. Bob and his band explored every nook and cranny of Thunder on
the Mountain's last instrumental passage. Fast and slow, loud and soft,
the musicians extended the night, nobody want to go home. Bob's vocal
phrasing on :Thunder" was tenacious, an old-timey talkin' blues groove.
"Ballad of a Thin Man" was hilarious thanks to the echo: "Do-ya-do
ya-do-ya, Mr. Jones." Dylan gave us everything and more, that's for sure.
And his band was better than ever.
Thank-ya Thank-ya Thank-ya, Mr. Dylan. And keep on keepin'
Review by Boosingh
Compared to the previous night, this was a more subdued show. The venue
at Bethel as beautiful as always. Nice size crowd. He has drawn better
crowds here before. The sound was clearer, his singing more gentle, his
piano playing more delicate. Instead of guitar we got the tinkling of ivory
during the instrumental breaks. I'm not really sure what Stu and Charlie
are there for, certainly not to cut loose. They seem to tip toe around his
piano, not sure what he is going to do and fraid to upset the boss. Things
Have Changed, High Water, Willie McTell, Trying To Get To Heaven and
Visions made this an extraordinary set list and were the high points of
the show. Convinced more than ever that the growl in Bob's voice is
intentional and not just the result of wear and tear. Not the way it comes
and goes. Still channeling Charlie Patton? All in all, an enjoyable two
nights, but dare I say it, time for a new band and sound?
Review by Mo Ritz
End of Summer in Bethelwoods:
New York sure is pretty in the summertime. We had an amusing trip down
picturesque Rt. 17 to Bethel for one last summer night under the stars
with Dylan and his cowboy band and Ben Harper! Bethelwoods is a well
maintained venue with IMO not a bad seat in the house as far as sound
goes. With both amphitheater seating and lawn seating you can have a
decent view ( from the back it's better to have video screen on) thank you
Ben Harper! For this show we opted for the cheap seats on the lawn as we
hadn't planned on attending the show until noontime. It appears that
Bethelwoods has morphed from its early days (1969, 2006) of peace & love &
(sing Richie) Freedom, Freedom! What's with all the SIGNS blocking up the
scene? I witnessed many people being told not to smoke here, not to stand
here, not to sit here, not to go there and yada, yada, yada... It's the
lawn folks, it's outdoors, it's the sight of Woodstock 1969! The Times
truly have changed in Bethel. Kind of a drag, anyway... A good size crowd
of old, middle, and young turned out for the show. Ben Harper gave a good
show and scolded himself for plugging his new record on Bob's stage. I
don't think anyone minds. Enjoyed every minute of his performance! Bob
and the boys filed out and at first you thought you might have heard them
playing some chords of LSPBH but no, Watching The River Flow kicked it off
again tonight, which had some lyrics changes...something about yesterday
seeing someone whose goose was cooked. WTRF was followed by a clearly
sung It's All Over Now Baby Blue. Tonight's rendition of TUIB was played
well and also included some lyrics changes which elude me now. I rather
enjoy the latest version of Things Have Changed. Nice to hear Blind
Willie McTell, but I liked last summers arrangement better than this
evenings, but to each his own. There really wasn't anything in the set
list I didn't enjoy hearing. But if I ever get to take some dancing
lessons I know just the song I want to dance to: Thunder On The Mountain!
TOTM brought many ladies down off the hill to the sidewalk to dance, only
to be told to move along. I felt so badly for them. The encore brought
the usual Like ARolling Stone with Bob at the piano, followed by the bands
introduction, All Along The Watch Tower rocked! As we took our leave to
beat the long lines of traffic on the country roads Blowin In The Wind
blew us to the parking lot for our 2 1/2 hour drive home. Overall it was
a good performance! Bobo's voice is in good form better than i remember
it over the last say three years. Also, I 'm not all that fond of the
Tweedle song, however, this uptempo version seems to work and I found
myself rather liking it than not. If you haven't signed up for one of
these shows you don't know what your missing! Bob and his band are hot,
delivering something for everyone. What a great summer it has been!
Thanks for the shows loved them all! Perhaps we'll make it out for a fall
show, until then Happy Trails! :-)
Review by Jean from Maine
I began my Dylan Odyssey vacation last Tuesday by driving from ME to PA on
the first day of my first paid vacation in something like 7 years. What
better way to spend a week than to take in 3 Dylan concerts. I became
glued to him about 18 months ago when my boyfriend of 18 years, a huge
Dylan follower, passed away from cancer. It seems my inheritance comes in
the form of his obsession. Saw him twice last summer but had not yet
acclimated to the new sound. After that I became glued to youtube and
studied every feed that came in from the Fall European Tour. He was on
fire. Never mind I’m a big fan of Mark Knofler and when he began to join
him on stage with the Les Paul I almost spent all the winter heat money to
join them in Florence on 11-11-11. Sadly it all stopped after Nov 21, and
like the rest I waited on the edge of my seat for news of the next set of
dates. Finally after studying him throughout South America came the
Europe sets. The Grand Piano rolled out with such elegance and when I ever
showed up in Johnstown standing 3rd row center for most of the show I was
in Nirvana for real. True Reality entered the room in his black suit
jacket with a gaucho style bandana tie, tan pants and those black and
white boots. He opened with Pill Box Hat and from that minute on I was
lost in the beat. Of course Man in the Long Black Coat was a huge treat,
then a stomping THC, Tangled up in Blue, the crowd was warming their
heels to the beat, when out of nowhere comes the colossal Jolene. I
could have fallen down right then and there and been satisfied to spend
the rest of my days on the copper mountain in the memory of his presence!
But wait, what song is this, my new friend Matt gave me the name, a song
from Saved that wasn’t anywhere on my radar. “He hasn’t played this for
years, it’s Saving Grace.”
The heart felt rendition sang so sweetly and accompanied by his piano and
his master musician companions was something of miracle truly happening
before our eyes. After that he took us back down to earth with the
powerful but a little less personally charged High Water. As great as he
is he’ll never be greater than himself singing Saving Grace. Or so I
thought. A fantastic rendition Desolation Row, and me with my hands in my
back pockets. Followed by that awesome Summer Days, can’t repeat the past?
Of course you can, Go ahead and Break my heart one more time just for
goooood luck! And he set fire to the place as a parting gift when he sat
down and took out that incredible new dirge of a Can’t Wait, on the grand
piano. It almost stopped my heart.
At this point I was just all done, it just can’t get any better than
this. No not so fast woman, He’s not done pleasing you yet. A typical
Highway 61, and then here it comes the minstrel King of blues Blind Willie
himself steps up to the stage. True to form they brought the house down
with the finale, a predictable crescendo of Thunder on the Mountain, Thin
Man, Rolling Stone and Watchtower, followed by the encore of late, a
beautifully presented version of Blowing in the Wind. I floated out onto
the street, I looked at my watch and it was only 9:20. Clearly he had
made time stand still.
I’ll skip quickly through the highlights for Big Flats, a great set with
memorable moments being To Ramona, a beautiful Spirit on the Water, and
the completely sublime Every Grain of Sand. Every time I pass that way I
hear Bob call my name. Folks were a little too lazy with their enthusiasm
In the audience in my opinion. There is just something about his current
persona that commands me to stand and move my body in a kind of gospel
release of my joyous expression of true happiness. It seems like the way
to experience Dylan is to throw yourself all the way in, and some folks
are there just to relax and experience some kind of reminiscence of days
gone by. All I can say is Mr Dylan is completely present.
Flash forward to Bethel Woods NY. I found my seat in section 4 row P.
Looks like I’ll have a good view of the back of his head but certainly a
close enough view of him standing stage center with harp. I was actually
pretty wound up at the prospects of Ben Harper in person. Although I
wasn’t all over him for a year on youtube, I had seen him in a few videos
covering Bob and Led Zep among others. I knew he was coming solo with
acoustics and just couldn’t wait for him to sit down and pull out that
Slide mandolin or whatever it is. But what completely blew my mind were
the tears that came streaming down my face as he played songs like We
Can’t End this Way, and Loving You is My Masterpiece. He has clearly
been inspired and moved by the spirit of love and the divine, like his
He spoke to the audience with a humble nature, as if he wasn’t huge in his
own right. I paraphrase with a loose quote “I just finished a new album”
I can’t remember the name of his collaborate partner on the album he
mentions. “…But plugging an album on Dylan’s stage is the lamest thing
I’ve ever done!” The woman next to me turned to me, she had been
unfamiliar with Ben, “I’ve been crying through the last three songs.” So
it wasn’t just me and my grieving mind that could be moved to tears by
Well as if that wasn’t enough religion for one night, shortly after Ben
jogged off the stage, out comes the band that would knock my socks off. I
don’t know how to explain in words what happened in that Arena last night.
All I can say is we had entered a state of grace. Dylan and his band were
in perfect form. He began center stage with guitar opening the show with
Watch the River Flow, then went right into It’s All Over Now Baby Blue. I
was perfectly positioned to stand a seat behind my own with no one behind
me so I couldn’t be asked to sit. The elevated seating format made it
easy for everyone to see well from their seats, but I wasn’t going to be
able to contain the enthusiasm. Even when I sat for a few songs to rest
the percussion and rocking piano matched by fantastic dueling guitars
kept my body bouncing. I really believe my departed friend was
inhabiting my body, pounding his hands against my thighs tapping his toes
and moving as though we were at a Quaker Meeting House. This went on
throughout the night, and the band only got more and more wound tight, the
only thing I can say is that the jazz style improvisational jamming that
was going on between Charlie and Bob on piano was off the charts, I’m
pretty sure it was Thunder on the Mountain but it might actually have been
during The Levees Gonna Break when Bob literally flew backwards off the
piano bench and landed on his two cowboy feet, legs apart and stood there
stunned himself after completing the last perfectly timed note. It’s no
exaggeration, I would pay a small fortune for a clip of that on
It was as if he really had been conjuring up those long dead souls from
their crumbling tombs and had burned up those keys so hot he literally was
launched by the explosion. You know the set list doesn’t describe what
went on in that theatre, even the older folks next to me who hadn’t seen
him in forty years were so enthralled by the beautiful rendition of Spirit
on the Water, they made a point of asking me which album it was. “So
creative” was the comment.
Well it’s a full 24 hours later and I’m still in that state of grace. I
left walking through the crowd breathing deep the aroma of herbal therapy
misting through the moving procession of young and old. High on nothing
but pure creative expression in sound. Carrying my little black $5 Dylan
tote bag, I’m finally gonna give up plastic!
Review by Larry K.
A beautiful moonlit night at Bethel Woods...drove down from New Paltz with
my son-in-law Tim and my grandson Hawke (his first rock concert)...Ben
Harper's opening set had some fine moments; perhaps a bit heavy on slow
tunes, and also just too long. Bob and the band came on with a rather
mellow "Watching the River Flow" - no baby grand, Bob on keyboards - a
nice easy groove. "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" followed, with Bob's
electric piano out front, and the band surprisingly subdued...but they
started to cook on "Things Have Changed" with a sped-up tempo...other
highlights were "the Levee's Gonna Break" - good vocals, tight groove,
good piano..."Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum" - a tune I usually dislike, was
freshened up and hot..."Visions of Johanna" was just sweet and
lovely...random comments: I still don't get Stu Kimball's (somewhat rare)
guitar solos...when Bob tries to play harmonica and keyboards
simultaneously, both suffer...nice jam at the
end of "Highway 61"...when Bob lets the band rock on its own as in "High
Water", their excellence shines out...overall Bob's vocals were strong
and clear...long may he run.
Review by Lin Stevens
My husband and I are now over 60 years old, and he's a Vietnam Vet. We
were totally blown away by the Dylan concert at Bethel Woods (2012).
We are part of the 60's generation and although we always loved and
respected Bob Dylan, as he was part of the fabric of our lives, we had
never seen him live.
His tenacity, drive , obvious love of the music and willingness to show
his vunerability touched our hearts. The energy we felt coming from band
was hypnotic and contagious. They took us for a real emotional ride and
we felt a very intimate closeness with the experience.
It is hard for us to believe we were sharing this magical experience with
the same man who is such a living legend. The man who all the so called
"greats" emulate and try to follow and copy. We felt he was warm,
gracious and thrilled with the enthusiasm of the crowd. People near us
(section 6, inside the roofed area) all seemed physically and emotionally
moved , as were we. I actually felt my heart jump as he began "Blowin in
the Wind". My dad was a professionall musician who continued to play
into his 80's....he had a "fire" in him for the "music"....it was so
touching for me to see the same "fire" in Bob.
We live 3 miles from Pete Seeger and Bob is also a monumental legend in
our Hudson Valley. At this concert. he lived up to his legendary
Thanks for a forever memorable and moving evening Bob and Band. You make
our world a little more bearable. Best wishes with the new Album.
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