Bob Dylan & Mavis Staples Tanglewood, Lenox MA Saturday July 2, 2016
When you’re working on your bucket list of artists to see it’s inevitable you roll back the clock to the ‘classics’. Rock’s big heroes, the legends the pioneers and by doing so you’re going to smack dab hit.. Bob Dylan.
Now as a child of the 70s I missed Dylan’s rise. The voice of protest in theory sounds bad ass, in hearing sounds weak. If he’s fighting for change why the hell is he whimpering or mumbling? I equate fighting with yelling and banging not nasal honking drivel.
But it’s 2016 and Dylan is currently on his “Never Ending” Tour with gospel legend Mavis Staples. The pairing seemed odd to me but that was simply out of ignorance. Since I am not that familiar with either artist, I let my stereotypical knowledge take over- and it didn’t mesh.
Nestled in the Berkshire Mountains is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood. A gorgeous campus of trees and clouds. You feel like a fucking Von Trap up there and I swear I had to stifle a rousing spiked version of “Do Re Mi”, as a member of the ‘Lawn’ crowd, it would have been totally acceptable.
See, Tanglewood is the great class divide. The seated “shed” area and the festival picnicking ground of the “Lawn”. Its us vs them in this case and the suited guards make sure no lawn dweller gets too close to the seated privileged.
Mavis Staples at age 76 has a set of pipes that will blow your toupee off. With an incredibly few numbers of songs, she chunked up a 45 min set with anecdotes of Selma and her father’s fight for equal rights,. Timely yes, and in this crowd of have and have nots, a strange dynamic. Considering there is a chalk line sprayed on the grass so that ‘my people’ can’t cross it was actually quite ironic. I’ll be writing a song of freedom on the Tanglewood Oppression, look for it in 2018.
Staples and her band provided a pleasant funky prelude to the main attraction and in retrospect, she was the highlight of the night.
Roll back the night to our arrival when my pal and I huffed the large expanse of parking to the stage area and were thrust upon not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4 but 5 tour buses and a semi. Who the hell needs that maBd was beyond tight, and hot damn there’s like a million members (which may explain the buses). It takes a lot to back up a legend and not overshadow. They reminded me of bridesmaids, look and sound good but don’t upstage the bride.
Problem is, these bridesmaids not only upstaged they saved the bride. Bob is 75, and as the butt of many a nasal voiced mockery he is famous for his stumble mumble of sound. More stand up skits more and impersonations use his trademark sound that you expect incoherence.
What you don’t expect is an absolute point blank, full stop, what the fuck.. garble of vocal chords. I could not comprehend one word the man said. I could not identify one song he sung based upon his singing as you jacked up the tempo on every one performed. The band flowed like the lazy river behind a man in a giant hat who basically sounded like he was doing an impersonation of Don Corleone with a mouth full of marshmallows.
I saw Bob Dylan live, I can tick the box.