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  en fuego.

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 mission.

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’ on.


It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
Things Have Changed
Tangled Up in Blue
The Levee’s Gonna Break
Blind Willie McTell
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
Tryin’ to Get to Heaven
High Water (For Charley Patton)
Visions of Johanna
Highway 61 Revisited
Spirit on the Water
Thunder on the Mountain
Ballad of a Thin Man
Like a Rolling Stone
All Along the Watchtower
Blowin’ in the Wind