Friday, July 15, 2016

Boring Bob and Magic Mavis

It seems a shame you have to buy a ticket to Bob Dylan this summer to see Mavis
Staples but at least she is worth it.

Dylan’s never ending tour stopped at our nearby national park, Wolftrap, to show us  he is still up to his old tricks. Despite his opening number, “Things Have Changed,” he is still doing what he’s done for the couple of decades since I last saw him live. 

His band is tight and provides a wall of sound to which he adds his idea of barely intelligible narration.  It is as if he has become such a towering figure that all he needs to do is show up on set and read his lines, sounding more like Marlon Brando than the Frank Sinatra he is currently showcasing. One of the five Sinatra covers he essayed pretty much sums it up:

So let people wonder, let ‘em laugh, let ‘em frown
You know I’ll love you till the  moon’s upside down
Don’t you remember I was always your clown?
Why try to change me now.

It was Dylan’s old girlfriend, Mavis Staples who stole the show and our hearts with her smokey singing, her family anecdotes and wise-cracking with the audience. She began with a Staples Singers' call out, “If You’re Ready (Come and Go With Me).” We were and we did. After a cover of Talking Heads' “Slippery People,” she offered a brief mission statement:

 “I’m here to bring you some joy, some happiness, some inspiration and some positive vibrations.”  To do that she started with “Love and Trust,” which seemed painfully relevant to the week’s news.

The judge and the criminal, the sinner and the priest
Got something in common, bring ‘em all to their knees
Do what you can, do what you must
Everybody’s trying to find some love and trust.

Mopping her brow with a towel, she told us the next song was written by her father, Pop Staples for Selma in 1962.  Then she  had the audience side by side with her marching up Freedom’s Highway as she declared herself  “a soldier in this army of love marching for peace.” Her topical series wrapped with a richly nostalgic take on Buffalo Springfield’s  “For What It’s Worth.”

She closed with a rousing, extended version of the Staples Singers # l hit, “I’ll Take You There” which brought us to our feet clapping for the woman who proclaimed: “My Family has been “taking” you there for sixty-six years and I am not tired yet.”


  1. You nailed it! For as powerful an historic and cultural figure Bob Dylan is, his live appearances are reservoirs of disappointment. Many performers with at least his longevity still seem pleased to be in front of an audience and take a moment to relate. Not him. And Mavis is a wonder! We've seen her a couple of times and she is a gem! Good review.

  2. Thanks. It was disappointing to see him ignoring his fans and their loyalty. But Mavis restores our faith in music

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  4. I've heard many times about Dylan's live performances. Other than the music, always a disappointment. On the other hand, maybe he feels all he has to give is his music.