John French of Twisted Sister Reviews Bob Dylan’s Upper West Side Show: ‘Wish He Didn’t Have to Suck Live’

John French. Photograph by Frank Schwichtenberg.

John “Jay Jay” French is a founding member (1972) and remains the only original member and lead guitarist/manager of Twisted Sister, the heavy metal band. He is also a life-long Upper West Sider who told the WSR, in a 2016 interview, that “91st and Amsterdam is the epicenter of my life.” Last November, French saw Bob Dylan in concert for the first time, at the Beacon Theater. Caitlin Hawke also saw Dylan at the Beacon at that time, and wrote a glowing review for WSR. Here, French expresses a very different opinion.

Photograph by Caitlin Hawke.

Another Side of Bob Dylan

By John French

I have been a Dylan fan since I first heard the crack of the snare drum on “Like A Rolling Stone”.

The very first song I ever sang in a band was that song in a junior high school battle of the bands in 1966. I was in a band with a drummer named Paul Herman and another singer, a Chinese kid from the projects across the street from my house, named Bing Gong. We called ourselves John, Paul & Bingo. We were 13.

I recognize Dylan as a towering force in the history of American music. His lyrics were always beautifully mystifying, when they weren’t socially devastating. The masterful way other artists interpreted his songs, among them The Byrds, Peter, Paul & Mary and The Turtles, further exposed Dylan to the millions of people who maybe wouldn’t have paid much attention. I count “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” and “Positively 4th Street” as two of my personal favorites and ones that I listen to with startling regularity.

Now, I have seen just about every artist of any consequence since attending my first-ever concert, which was the Weavers reunion at Carnegie Hall in 1963. Well…not the Beatles (my mother wouldn’t let me go), but I have seen Sinatra, Elvis, The Stones, Lennon, McCartney, Ringo (as solo artists), Zeppelin, The Mothers of Invention, The Who, Pink Floyd, The Dead, Airplane, CSN&Y, Janis, Jimi, & Bowie, all during their respective golden years, 1966 -1972. I could go on with a list (I have one), but that would take way too long.

I’m also a fan of the Rutles, Firesign Theater, Monty Python and Spinal Tap, which means I get irony.

Suffice it to say I never had a chance to see Dylan. Frankly, as the years went by, I had been told by many friends that seeing Dylan live was a big disappointment. I was warned that if you are lucky enough to hear him play a song that you know, you mostly can’t understand what he’s singing, but you might be able to figure out what song he is playing. Over and over, I was told that not only was seeing Dylan live one of the worst concert experiences they had ever had, but that they would never, ever waste their money to see him again. I heard it from both musicians and non musicians. It hurt to hear it and I didn’t want to believe it.

Twisted Sister.

To be fair, these comments and warnings started about 20 years ago. I can’t speak of the touring years with The Band, although Dylan’s performance for the Last Waltz was great, as were his performances on the Rolling Thunder tour. Frankly, I found it hard to believe that any performer would take their fan base for granted in such a way. I mean, why? What’s the point? What kind of performer would squander that kind of goodwill? The warnings probably kept me away.

But now Dylan was playing at the Beacon Theater, just a 10-minute walk from my apartment, and my wife said, “Isn’t this a bucket list show for you?” Well, yes it is and so we went. I decided at the last minute to review it and not just go as a fan.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly…

The Good…

Dylan’s five-piece back-up band was sensational. Total pros who could play anything. The stage set was very low key, but dramatically lit. The sound was immaculate. Dylan’s voice, while not pronounced in the mix, was actually beautiful. Age has seasoned it like a fine whiskey. Smoky and richly nuanced.

The Bad…

You could barely hear his voice, The arrangements were not connected in any way (except for Ballad Of A Thin Man) to the originals. In fact, of the 18 songs played, those I could barely make out: A Simple Twist of Fate, Highway 61, It Ain’t Me Babe, Best of Me, Girl From The North Country, and To Serve Somebody, were only recognizable after several minutes in, and when I could understand one line through the mumbling.


I am a 47-year veteran of the music business and have performed live (with Twisted Sister) over 9,000 times in 39 countries, and learned through many tough nights what entertainment actually means.

The Ugly:

Before all those who want to give Dylan a pass on the grounds that he is such an incredible artist that it’s totally cool to not only respect but encourage such a cynical display of pathologically obtuse narcissism, here is a universal truth: 95% of any audience wants to hear a song exactly as it is played on the records they own. Period. Save your artistic interpretations and “respect for an artist’s choice.” I don’t buy it. Ever.

It’s all BS.

If you believe that the minions are just so happy that you came down from the mountain to exalt us in your new interpretation of a song, you are either delusional or you just don’t care. Yes, you can get away with a couple of these kinds of things probably, but why? Are you so bored as an artist that you have to do this crap just to get through another night? More BS. The responsibility of an artist is to give the audience what they want, not what you want.

I promise you, Bob, if you ever decided:

To perform at least 10 of your most famous songs;
Actually talk to the audience more than just once before the end of the show;
Play the songs close enough to the recorded versions;

You would make your fans really, really happy, not just grateful for the crumbs you threw, but, then again, you wouldn’t be Bob Dylan, the rebel who will refuse, until the day he dies apparently, to conform to any performance norms!

The arrogance Dylan exhibits by his lack of acknowledging basic performance principles sadly ensures that many of his fans who come to see him for the first time will never come again and they will tell their friends to stay away as well. No one I know who saw him at the Beacon for the first time will ever see him again. What a shame. What a waste.

I get no joy being this critical as I love Dylan’s music and I play it daily and will never stop, but in the end I did not get off at this concert at all. Just to be clear, if Dylan needs to play this kind of show, then do it in a small club and charge $20 with a warning that you will probably not understand anything he’s singing, but you will, at least for 90 minutes, share the same air as Dylan.

This review was written for all his fans who wish he just didn’t have to suck live.

At $180.00 per ticket, I’d rather have donated the money to a charity than watch a show that left my emotions “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

ART, NEWS | 105 comments | permalink
    1. ZoomZ says:

      I agree with this review – 100%.
      Saw Dylan a few years ago at Bethel Woods in Sullivan county, NY.
      Sat on the grass, like 90% of the others who did not buy the upper crust tickets.
      The night was warm, the stars were bright, the band was fine but Dylan really sucked.
      Mumbled his words throughout, with his back to the fans most of the show, never once made direct contact with his speaking voice, oh the horror, the horror.
      A great musician and poet, treating the fans AND himself so badly.

      The Nobel should have been given to Leonard Cohen, but then again – I regress……..

    2. gary carpenter says:

      Don’t criticize WHAT YOU CAN’T UNDERSTAND

      • UWSPoet says:

        Good one, Gary Carpenter!

      • Ron says:

        No the reviewer is right in that performance is meant to connect to an audience. I was disappointed when I saw Dylan in St Louis in the early 2000s. What can’t be understood is his skittish arrogance of pointlessly striving to be misunderstood.

    3. Richard Chused says:

      Agree. I saw last year’s show at the Beacon and walked out not just disappointed but angry. He acted like he didn’t care a bit about the audience–no chatter, bad sound system (or bad Dylan), no emotion, no audience interaction. I took the whole thing as an insult to my intelligence. Count me in that crowd that will never see him again. The whole thing ruined my long time like for his music.

    4. RM says:

      Oh grow up. And for heaven’s sake, don’t ever try listening to jazz, dude. #interpretation #realmusic

    5. Jerry says:

      John French may be a 47-year veteran of the music business who has performed live (with Twisted Sister) over 9,000 times in 39 countries, but that doesn’t mean he understands a single, solitary thing about who Bob Dylan is as an artist or performer! Dylan has always blazed his own trail and marched to the beat of his own drum. It is absolutely absurd for French to castigate Dylan for not doing something that he will NEVER, EVER do! Anyone who knows even the slightest amount about Dylan as a performer knows that Dylan does not replicate recordings made years earlier! Dylan live expresses his artistic creativity by exploring musical styles and new arrangements while backed by a spectacular (dare I say, virtuoso) band.

    6. jmg says:

      OK John, I get it, but anyone who has gone to a Dylan concert in the last ten or fifteen years has to know that he is not going to perform his music verbatim. He employs musicians with extraordinary gifts and when he plays live he seems to want to find new ways to express his work. This is what appears to keep him interested and interesting. Some nights are better than others, but overall he is still mesmerizing. Too bad you don’t agree, but you appear to be outnumbered by the millions all over the world who continue to buy tickets to his concerts.

    7. Dan Gutman says:

      I saw him a few years ago at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia, and I felt exactly the same way. What a disappointment.

    8. purely Patricia says:

      Bob Dylan should hang it up ….I saw him too at the Beacon and his voice the one we loved no longer exists….not to mention his awful on stage presence.

    9. Thomas Godfrey says:

      Thank you for confirming my exact thoughts after seeing him a few years ago at a Festival in Italy. It’s especially comforting coming from a professional like you. I accidentally stumbled on to his concert while touring around Europe. I thought i was so lucky and like you it was on my bucket list.Absolute rubbish concert for all the same reasons you mentioned, maybe the worst i have ever seen. If he doesn’t to want to entertain us then let him stay at home and sing his new interpretations to his pets and sycophants. Lucky for me, one of the best entertainers of her generation, Beth Hart was there to soothe the disappointment.

    10. Mark says:

      I saw Dylan headline with Van Morrison opening, at The Theater at MSG in January 1998. They were both TERRIBLE in exactly the way you describe. What a huge disappointment with exactly the effect on being a fan that you describe. So disappointing.

    11. Catherine says:

      My sentiments exactly! He performed a couple of years ago at Bethel Woods- site of Woodstock. We have a summer home near there and decided to go and sit in the “good seats” under the canopy as neither my husband nor I had ever seen him live. The venue has 2 large Jumbotrons for those sitting on the lawn to see the artist(s) perform from a distance. He refused to allow the use of these big screens. He was wearing black and had a hat on his head. Even sitting close it was hard to hear him or see him – he’s tiny. Never once spoke to the audience. He has NO appreciation for his fans – egomaniac. I would not cross the street to see him again!

    12. Clyde Frazier says:

      Agree 100%. This reviewer says what most people are afraid to say. I saw Dylan live twice. He was so bad the first time that (thinking he had had an off night) I went to see him again a year later. He was worse the second time! I swore I’d never see him live again. But he’s still – notwithstanding his awful live performances – the greatest singer/song-writer of all time in BOTH folk AND rock and roll history.

    13. LivesonUWS says:

      Dylan is having fun playing music. I have seen him play for the crowd, rehashing the record versions of his songs. Very boring IMO. I have also seen him have a great time playing with the music while touring with 3 other jam bands. He appreciated that the fans could follow along with the improvised arrangements and it shows in his performance.

      Bob Dylan has always been about playing for himself and if the audience gets it then: even better. Wasn’t that the whole thing about being booed after going electric in 64? Dylan being Dylan at the Beacon in 2019 and people are still disappointed that he wants to do it his way.

    14. Mick Snutz says:

      Spoken like a true follower rather than a visionary.
      Ya wanna sell records. Repeat yourself.
      Wanna inspire others. Try something new.

    15. Brian says:

      Sounds like John is not gonna take it anymore.

    16. Rich Sussman says:

      I could not agree more. I saw Dylan at the Greek Theater in Berkeley and left after about one hour. It was not music to my ears.

    17. GerryK says:

      I’m with you, John. Like you,encountering Dylan (and Zappa) as a teen set my life on a different trajectory, for better or worse, and like you, in a lifetime of concert-going I’d never seen him live. And count me among those who believe Dylan continued to write amazing music deep into his career. So usually penurious me plunked down $400 for my wife, 2 post-college kids and me to see him at the Beacon in fall ’18 and it was a fiasco: he spent half the time cradling a microphone stand croaking unilluminating interpretations of the Great American Songbook, and despite a crack band, his renditions of his own work seemed totally random. A terrific interpretation of Diary of a Tin Man at the end wasn’t nearly enough to redeem the evening. It’s not like I needed to get a payday loan to buy the tickets, so I’m OK with squandering the cash. What most disappoints me is that I’m quite sure my kids will never want to see him again, even in a free show, and may still be shaking their heads that this misguided old codger could have been the voice of a generation.

    18. Steven Michals says:

      Twisted sister sucks.

    19. Joe says:

      Sad to say…
      A lifelong fan saw bob recently and had the same bad experience.

    20. I’d rather hear Dylan’s reinterpretations of his songs from the 60’s or 70’s than attempting to sing them as he did with a younger, stronger voice. And the voice he has now is well-suited and certainly in tune with all the great work he’s produced over the past thirty years.

    21. West96th says:

      John points to Dylan’s arrogance, and yet I’m flabbergasted at the arrogant tone of this review. Throughout this piece there is a presumption that John French and Bob Dylan are somehow peers, and that the rules that apply to Twisted Sister’s relationship with its fan base should apply to Mr Dylan. Not in my world.

      • I have seen Bob probably 250 (two hundred and fifty) times since July 21st 1981. Not real sure as I lost count around 101.

        Couple things here.

        I understand everything Bob sings. Why? Because I know the song well before he starts singing.

        I don’t want to hear a song the same way as on the record or the same way twice. It is part of the experience and the genius of Bob Dylan to hear the new arrangements with new lyrics. It really thrills me how Bob does that and why I keep going.

        The two last shows I saw, last October in Lincoln and the October before that or so in Omaha were two of the best shows I have seen Bob do since 1981. Just outstanding. I swear the Omaha show 2017 I was 5th for and he looked over his piano starred at me and sang song after song to me. It was the highlight of my life.

        As another user commented. For John French to think he is anywhere qualified or anywhere close to the same level as Bob Dylan is laughable. Twisted Sister? They have been playing 13 year old bubble gum rock for the grade schoolers since the 70’s. He is not qualified to review KISS.

        You must be a real boring person to want to hear some song exactly like it is on the record when you go see a live act. Why would you go? Stay home and listen to the record.

        I goes to show 9000 shows with Twisted Sister and still has not learned a thing about being an artist or performer.

        • Wessie says:

          I’ll take ANYONE performing >9,000x live on stage over some random commenter who may have seen 250 concerts. Thank you Jay Jay for some true insider perspective!

    22. GG says:

      OMG! Who are all these people posting ridiculous comments who obviously have no clue about Bob Dylan?! C’mon people–it’s 2020! How do you go to a show without knowing a darn thing about who or what you are going to? Or your own level of musical sophistication (or lack thereof)? Dylan has been on a never-ending tour since June 1988! He has played in New York more than 200 times since then–and at the Beacon more than 40 times. He has always been a pioneer, a boundary-breaker, entirely unconventional, a leader and not a follower. These comments (and John French’s review) are an embarrassment to the West Side Rag and the UWS. Bob Dylan is not a Las Vegas lounge act or a greatest hits band! Yes, he’s a musical legend and icon, one of our greatest songwriters, but he is intentionally, purposely, constantly changing, evolving and re-inventing himself and his music. I feel sorry for (and yes, a bit disdainful toward) anyone who doesn’t know that. Please leave Dylan to the millions around the world who appreciate him for who and what he is and what he does. Hopefully none of you went to see Miles Davis in his heyday!

    23. Joss says:

      I agree with a caveat. I’ve seen Dylan twice. The first time was in the lat 80’sor early 90s at an open air venue. Three songs into the gig Dylan got off the stage, walked thru the audience — who thought this was part of the show — and left. Yes, left. He never came back.

      The second time was recently. The show sucks. He has zero rapport with the audience. He sits and plays the piano most of the time now, he stopped introducing the band and if anyone tries to take a phone video he stops the show. Adding insult to injury, he no longer has a voice. You can’t understand the lyrics because his throat is shot. And he doesn’t care.

    24. Tony Deitrich says:

      Everything you wrote is true and accurate, but it has been true and accurate for each of Dylan’s tours and performances since After The Flood. That’s going on 50 years. Those of us who attend these shows expect that. It is Dylan’s well known performance style. I’m only surprised that you were surprised.”
      “This ain’t the same old story
      Or the same old song and dance
      Don’t speak of faded glory
      ’cause you won’t get a second chance”

    25. DrM says:

      Frankly, I’m confused. Not about the review or the opposite opinions. That you will find anywhere over any topic. However, whether you are a die hard fan or not there is simply no getting around the fact that Bob Dylan and his sad, unintelligible mumblings – sung or spoken – have been fodder for mocking for decades. Have some fun and Google SNL’s ‘Dana Carvey as Bob Dylan’, a 1991 incarnation following Dylan’s Lifetime Achievement Grammy presentation. Worse yet, watch the actual performance and speech.
      The man’s been fried longer than he was relevant, has always been a terrible performer and cannot sing. If you’re skeptical view some live performances from his ’60s heyday. But credit must be given where credit is due: He’s a poet, a trail blazer, deserves his fans and his well earned spot in history. I personally loved the scene in Dangerous Minds where the question of one’s favorite poet emerged between 2 teachers: ‘Dylan. Dylan Thomas? No! Bob Dylan!’ (Edited). But please, please just admit it. No artist excels at all art. Bob Dylan is an exceptional artist, but an exceptionally poor performer. And that’s OK.

    26. Mike Rey says:

      He does this because he’s bored with his classics, so he sings them hurriedly,almost thrown away. He should skip Blowing in the Wind and sing a few from Modern Times or Tempest. Then he’d be better.

    27. Bill says:

      I walked out of a Dylan show 30 years ago, for the same exact reason. What befuddled me, even more, were the people acting as if they were hearing god read the 10 commandments. I really believe that most people thought it sucked but were too embarrassed to admit it and so they just went along.

      • Futzi says:

        I’ve seen Dylan live over 100 times since 1978, twice at his recent Beacon residency. He is by far the greatest live performer I have ever seen. Not every night, not even every tour. But there is something mesmerizing and inspiring about his stage presence. Does he sound like his records? Of course not he’s 78 years old! I don’t know about you but hearing Paul McCartney sing I Saw Her Standing There exactly like he did in 1964 gives me the creeps.

    28. chris says:

      every dead show is different, thankfully. are you railing against artist interpretation or just bad artist interpretation?

    29. Malitz says:

      You’re certainly entitled to your opinion but as an artist don’t you see the need, after a half a fucking century of playing the same songs, to vary the cords when you can’t alter the lyrics?

    30. Thomas Godfrey says:

      Oh and then there was the Dylan Nobel Prize fiasco. He’s a drama queen (yes a very talented one that i adored). I love musicians and what they bring to the world but was he really so far above the previous nobel winners that he just couldn’t accept the prize with humility? What an insult to all those who have graciously received the prize before him, most of whom made far greater contributions to humanity.

    31. John says:

      Sorry you have been living under a rock all these years and that you have no conception of Dylan’s philosophy on live performance. Your review is laughable.

    32. Jeff says:

      Amen to this. I saw Dylan in 2013 at the United Palace Theatre. Great seats, beautiful theater… and like John mentions here, the band was incredible. But Dylan was horrible. I couldn’t wait for the concert to end so I could go home. I love his music, but would never see him again in concert, not even for $20.00

    33. Dave Read says:

      Thank you for explaining the difference between art and entertainment. As it has been for sixty years, a Dylan concert is an instance of musical artistry, rather than the approximation of the recording of some such. It really is that simple, but few choose to accept it.

    34. UWSPoet says:

      I saw him at the Beacon in December and the beauty of his performance moved me to tears. This man has been on tour for 30 years, with only one 3-month break for health reasons in the late nineties. He keeps reinventing himself and exploring more types of music and ways to interpret his own songs. He sang many classics and favorites this year. I appreciated that and it was a choice that was clearly a nod to his audience.

      You go to a Bob Dylan concert to see BOB not to hear him sing songs like they sound on the records. EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS. Stop kvetching and stay home and listen to the records instead if you cannot appreciate what he is doing and has always done.
      He is an artist and a legend. He is dynamic not static.

    35. Michael V says:

      I saw Dylan in 1966 at SMU Dallas. He did his folk songs took 15 and came back electric HYW 61. It was a great show cost $8.50
      How old does that make him now? My age and I am 76 and still a huge fan. You want to hear me sing at 76 give Bob a break. Enjoy the music.

    36. Scott Miller says:

      Hey jay jay . scotty from whitestone. Great times back in the day

    37. JH says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more, John French. I have always loved Dylan’s music as much as his talent as a poet for decades. We saw him in concert at the Beacon for the first time in 2018. It was so bad, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It quickly became abundantly clear that he really didn’t give a damn about his audience. He was, in a word, unintelligible. His performance, if one could call it that, was so bad that we questioned whether perhaps Dylan had foolishly decided to go ahead and perform anyway in a drug-fueled drunken stupor because that could be the only explanation. We walked out, mid-show, in shock, horror, and disbelief. Many others did too.

      Those who chided you that You should have known Dylan was merely interpreting his prior work need to stop making delusional excuses for Dylan’s narcissistic behavior and truly see it for what it is. If they say they continue to go because this is simply what is to be expected, I say, “Stop kidding yourselves!” I also say, vilifying and denigrating John French simply because he gave an honest review says more about you than anyone else.

    38. Michael Sobsey says:

      Couldn’t agree less. I went to three shows at Beacon, sorry I couldn’t take in a few more.

    39. I Met Paul - lol says:

      Hey Mr. Jones! Many years ago Dylan quipped he was just a “song and dance man” and the joke was that he was NEVER an “entertainer”. Dylan has ALWAYS disappointed those who bring the expectation he will “entertain” them. You’re confused when you write, “The responsibility of an artist is to give the audience what they want, not what you want”. That’s what an ENTERTAINER does and that’s what you did with Twisted Sister and that’s fine. It’s amazing when art and entertainment converges like it did when we were growing up in the sixties and it can be fun to watch the oldies shows during the PBS pledge drives. But to confuse what Dylan does when he “performs” live with that kind of entertainment is misunderstanding his unique status as a cultural icon. You walked into the room with your pencil in your hand…you tried so hard but you (still) don’t understand.

    40. munsen says:

      Is this “review” intended as satire or a troll. Either way it’s unsuccessful. Check the song titles you thought you recognized, maybe it all happened too fast for you to hear the right words or right notes. You recognized Ballad Of a Thin Man… So maybe think about that first verse.

      Singing just for you.

    41. Ron says:

      I saw him for the first (and last time) in St Louis around 2005. He didn’t even play any guitar at all. Slouched over a keyboard you really could not make out what song he was playing and I know many of his albums.
      Disappointing to say the least.

    42. Carol Casper says:

      Most actual Dylan fans DO NOT want to hear him perform his songs exactly the way they sounded on his records. Especially when many of the songs he performed at those recent Beacon shows were originally written and recorded over 20, 30, 40, even more than 55 years ago. Dylan isn’t the young lad of 22, nor the 25-year-old hipster, 30-year-old young father, 45-year-old walking mid-life crisis, nor mature man still in the late prime of life that he was when he first created these songs, and it’s just plain dumb to expect him to try to reach back and re-inhabit the shells of those old selves today just because some twisted sister wants the thrill of seeing some of his favorite album cuts brought to life.
      Dylan isn’t part of a wax museum nor an animatronic Disneyland attraction to entertain the masses.
      He’s still a living, breathing artist and part of the thrill his fans get returning year after year to see him is witnessing the new life and meaning he brings to snd finds in his songs as he continues to grow and change along life’s journey. Or even different bits of expression, emphasis and lyrical ideas that can change in the same song from one night to the next.
      Maybe that’s a disappointment to casual concertgoers who just want to see the great man be the Dylan of their record collections and personal memories one time, so they can say they’ve seen him.
      But to his serious listeners, appreciators and long-time devotees, the fluidity of his ever-changing reinterpretations of his huge body of work is a key element of his appeal and fascination as a true performing artist – not a mere popular entertainer.

      And BTW, having seen Dylan many, many times from the early Seventies to today, I’ve heard him “mumble sing” sloppy renditions of songs at times, particularly at concerts in the late ‘80s and very early ‘90s. But when I saw him a month ago at the Beacon, his articulation was extremely clear and his singing often delicately detailed, at other points raucously rollicking. But throughout the show, I was able to discern virtually every single word he sang – and this despite the fact that many lyrics were freely adapted and quite extensively changed from the original versions, or versions from live shows in previous decades.
      But it’s a popular convention for people who don’t really get his live performances to complain about Dylan’s “mumbling” – whether in fact he was mumbling the time they saw him, or was enunciating with crystal clarity.

      • Groovy Guru says:

        Thank you. You are right on target. I’ve seen a few clunkers over the years but even at his worst there was always a gem or two. It just boggles the mind that in this day and age someone could buy tickets for a Dylan show and not know he’s going to play what he wants the way he wants. How someone could be at The Beacon and not be moved by Soon After Midnight or Not Dark Yet is beyond me. Finally the fact that Mr.French thinks that a band has to play their songs just like they were recorded is absurd. That’s what I’d call going through the motions.

    43. Bill Royaloak says:

      THANKYOU! I know Dylan’s a jerk and an arrogant SOB who somehow lies to himself daily and only uses this Never Ending Tout as an ATM to support his failures.

      At most you may get one or two songs per performance which are coherent or maybe decent.

      I’ve seen about 15 shows and I feel like such a sucker every time I leave trying to convince myself that maybe I’ll catch the one where he cares and it’ll be the most “historical event” but he can’t and he never will because he just sucks live period!

    44. Sam says:

      There are some artists who never look back, like Miles Davis. They have that right. Artists aren’t robots totally at the mercy of their audience. I saw Miles in the late 1970’s and was disappointed. Others, like The Eagles, play note for note. Saw them too and while it was musically amazing it was kind of antiseptic too. At least Dylan tries to reinterpret his material, but from what I’ve heard on YT he just doesn’t have the chops to get it across. Too bad. He certainly doesn’t need the money. But he’s driven to continue performing. He’s still Dylan and deserves all respect.

    45. I totally agree… My excitement of attending the
      Dylan concert ended in hideous disappointment!!
      I waited and waited for a wonderful classic!!
      So sad!!

    46. Terry Coldiron says:

      I couldn’t agree more with this review. And it’s a pleasure to see an artist like Mr French acknowledge that 95% of fans want to hear the live artist play like their records. It’s refreshing to hear from a performer that the performance is for the fans, not the artist. Bob Dylan is the greatest song writer of the last 100 years. I saw him in 1965, and he sounded just like his records, only with that presence that only “live” music can produce. I can’t understand why critics give him a pass for the jumble he does now.

    47. Twisted Sister says:

      Hey, Dylan, maybe you would be a better performer if you just put on some make up, some lip stick, wear a wig, maybe some tights, or if you stick your tongue out. Don’t forget to play your same old boring chords real fast and loud, and the same way since the one song that got you famous. Yeah, baby, now that’s art.

    48. Stu-Daddy says:

      Bob Dylan — pissing off his fans since 1965

    49. Tom says:

      Enough about me.
      Let’s talk about you.
      What do you think about me?

    50. Jack Silverman says:

      Sorry to disagree. Dylan changes the songs because he’s not in the business of being an oldies act reproducing the songs as on the album. If you knew anything about him as an artist you’d know he never plays anything the same way twice.

    51. Constance Zack says:

      I wanted to introduce my granddaughter to Dylan and made the mistake of taking her to a live concert. I knew the inspiring lyrics and his haunting and gritty voice would inspire her poetic soul as it did mine many years ago. I was wrong. He sang thoughtlessly and changed both the lyrics and melody of his best songs so they were almost unrecognizable. He sang a bunch of old classics (not his) which did not suit his voice or demeanor and left her bewildered and me deeply disappointed. Why Bob? The new generations need to get to really know you and now I have a granddaughter not much interested in what you gave the world. Ugh.

    52. KC says:

      I stopped attending Dylan shows about 20 years ago.Ten-tweleve years ago he came to Reading, PA, five miles from where I live, but I did not go. While I’m not as critical as the author of this piece, I made a pledge to myself not to see him again 20 years ago and I’ve kept that pledge for many of the reasons expressed here.

    53. UWS_lifer says:

      No offense but this dude is a back up guy in a “one hit wonder” KISS rip off, 80’s hair metal band. Still a nice accomplishment but come on…

      He is entitled to his opinion but he is not even in the same business as Bob Dylan. It’s like comparing George Carlin to a juggling birthday party clown.

      Any true Dylan fan would know that a ticket to one of his shows is caveat emptor. Manage your expectations. This isn’t some Las Vegas residency.

    54. no says:


    55. Mark Moore says:

      I’ve seen Bob Dylan twice in my life and it totally sucked both times, so I can relate. Very boring show and the sound quality was really bad.

    56. Dennis Lemons says:

      Dylan in 2018 was the worst show I’ve seen. It was a waste of money. Bob did mostly crooning Sinatra type songs, wtf? And he changed the arrangements on all of the classics and not in a good way. If it weren’t for Mavis Staples opening up and kicking total ass it would have been a wasted evening.

    57. Lorene says:

      Sorry, but anyone who didn’t already know Dylan sucks in concert has been living in a bubble for the past 30 years.

    58. Jake says:

      you’ll always know a can of spam. It will disappoint you if it contains something else. A can of spam is a true and tested product, it will not disappoint if you like it. Bob Dylan is not a can of spam, not a true and tested concept in a can. A concept band may be – but that’s their thing to bring you back memory lane. I like Dylan just the way he isn’t – to me, he is an artist and I am in- trigued by his ever swiftness into new spheres. If Dylan ever became a can of spam – i’d drop that like a hot potato. Your expectations are based on what you carry around in your cans – get the f$&@ over this consistency concept – not everything is like a cup of StarBucks that you can complain about, cuz too much or too little of this and that – screw that!

    59. John Schenk says:

      Dylan has more talent in his nose buggers than this clown.

    60. Andy Kerr says:

      Most ill informed review I have ever read . Wonder what song you think is called “best of me “ ? Have seen him many times in the past few decades and only once did he see disinterested. Maybe Glasgow is just lucky. If you want a greatest hits with slightly not very good inferior versions of studio songs go and see Neil Diamond . I’ll take interesting melody changes and different lyrics every time . Saw him in Kilkenny last summer and even the many Neil Young fans there were impressed, and I know many , Andy Kerr

    61. 2phat says:

      There are a couple of different types of Dylan fans; those who love his music on record but are put off by his live reinventions, and those who go to his concerts because they love exactly that aspect.
      At most of the Dylan shows I’ve seen, he’s been incredibly present and haunting in his performances. Someone else here mentioned jazz as a comparison, and that fits on some level.
      Anyway, interesting review pretty much saying the same thing that negative reviewers have been saying since, oh, about 1962. You just gotta remember that there remains a huge number of people who go to his shows, knowing full well why he’s “come down the mountain”, as you put it.

    62. Michele says:

      I’ve lost count of all the times I’ve seen Dylan play live since the first, at Boston Garden with The Band in 1974. I’ve seen him with Tom Petty and with Patti Smith and members of the Dead; in huge venues and small, indoors and out. Some have been better than others. Some have left me exhilarated and some have left me kinda sad. But each one has had *something* – if only a moment – that captured me.

      I go to see Dylan perform on that given day; I find it infinitely interesting to hear how he rephrases lyrics, what he emphasizes or doesn’t. What changes, what doesn’t. He’s not my trained parrot. He’s not a jukebox. The songs are his, not mine.

      I understand what people are saying here and I would say please, don’t ever go to another Dylan show. (Especially if you think it’s “Diary of a Tin Man.”) Play the records, relive your youth. Remember: It’s YOUR youth, but they are DYLAN’s songs.

    63. Michael M Falk says:


    64. Jeremy says:

      Wish twisted sister didn’t have to suck. Is this guy some kind of authority on music?

      • Cato says:

        Does someone have to be an “authority on music” to have an opinion about a concert?

        I hope not. Can’t I just like it, or not like it, without first having to pass your qualifying tests?

    65. WillW says:

      Forget Dylan. See Patti Smith instead. She delivers every time. (btw, I loved twisted sister)

      • george Hunter says:

        Hey WillW, did you know Dylan came up with the Rolling Thunder Revue after watching a Patti Smith gig?

    66. Dee says:

      Your whiny writing style reminds of the old dad/teacher in those “Twisted Sister” videos

    67. Table's Edge says:

      Dylan played at the Calvin in Northampton, Mass. which is a small venue in a small city. He spoke with local press and tickets were pretty cheap. Always sold out of course.

      Then recently he didn’t even play there, but at Look Park’s tiny Pines Theater, a summertime venue for mostly local bands. It was less than a mile from our house and we could hear the band from our porch.

      We thought either it was pathetic that he’d come to this or he was a purist who just wanted to play for the people.

    68. Alex Panowko says:

      Id rather see a bad Dylan show than a Twisted Sister gig anytime. and what was the mesage was TS trying to get across in their songs ? anybody ?

    69. Pierre says:

      “The responsibility of an artist is to give the audience what they want, not what you want.”

      This statement couldn’t be more wrong. Any artist who does this is a marketer, not an artist.

    70. Charlie Browne says:

      Bob Dylan is the greatest singer I have ever heard.

    71. Remy says:

      This is hilarious
      Twisted Sister hack commenting on Dylan.
      Maybe you should get a member of the Starland Vocal Band next to write an essay on Leonard Cohen.
      Then again, rag is in your title.

    72. Lars Larsen says:

      Expectation is a prison.

    73. george Hunter says:

      Anyone who has heard the Bootleg Series will be aware that Dylan recorded radically different versions of songs throughout his career, usually living the best versions off the album. So hearing him perform songs in a different structure or time key is a treat. For those who turn up and just want the hits, please tell me who Dylan should be performing for? Casual fans who just happen upon his concert because it is nearby and on their bucket list? Or the fans that understand Dylan’s point, his musical art is a fluid form that is constantly changing and is never what you expect. Trust me, it is more than 5% of the audience, and it is also why Dylan kept intentionally losing ‘fans’ – going electric, christian, the mid eighties – he was trying to get rid of the fans who were there for the fashionable value and retain those who were there to watch a musician create music.

    74. Nancy Montgomery says:

      I’m one of those fans who saw him for the first time at the Beacon and will never see him live again. Couldn’t understand a word. An occasional chord progression revealed the identity of a few songs, but even then I couldn’t understand the words. Girl From the North Country stood out as the most recognizable and understandable. Other than that, they mostly all sounded the same.

    75. nwags says:

      WSR, you’ve done it again! The headline alone for this article was hilarious and spot on. Comments section is even better. Saw Dylan at Jones Beach a few years back and it suuuuuucked. My friend and I still regale each other w/ our best live Dylan impressions when we see each other for yucks. I’d pay double to see her comical impression of him vs shelling out any money to see him live ever again. Keep up the good work, WSR 😉

      • nwags says:

        Also, Twisted Sister scene of Pee Wees Big Adventure is one of my all-time fav musician scenes in a movie. Rock on, John!

    76. Sue Cassidy Clark says:

      Amen!!! A thousand times. I’d only seen Dylan @ Woody Guthrie Memorial concert @ Carnegie Hall decades ago. Before electric. I could hear (last row/parquet)all the words perfectly. Wrote review in ROLLING STONE. Also live UWS; walking. Astonished. Impossible to hear words. Thanks for your honest review. Disrespect for admirers is unfathomable.

    77. Cris Weiler says:

      3 times I saw Bob, we got good bad & indifferent.. The good was with Petty & the Heartbreakers,awesome, he even smiled! But hey folks it’s Bob! He can do what he likes.. Too bad some of you will never get it.. I consider myself to be a fan always, the real thing..

    78. A Lifelong Bob Fan says:

      Dylan is a music legend for the ages, arguably the biggest, most brilliant and most influential of our time. Twisted Sister is a joke that most people forgot about long ago. That you think you have advice on how he could make his concerts more enjoyable for his fans is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a really long time. But I can’t blame you as you must assume his fans are just like your fans when nothing could be further from the truth. The comments section clearly shows the difference.

    79. ALEXIS GREENE says:

      You are so right. My husband and I both love Dylan. But that concert? A sham and a shame. Truly. Couldn’t hear him. No rapport with the audience. The band was terrific, but it totally overwhelmed Dylan, visually and aurally.

    80. Steve says:

      Hi John, I saw Bob with the Band at the Nassau Coliseum and FWIR (I am a child of the sixties:) it was a great show. 18 years later at the Waikiki Shell, I was left dumbfounded. The setlist was great but I don’t remember recognizing any of the songs he was singing. And what was being played was awful.

      Your ‘Ugly’ is 95% the truth. When I see Jeff Beck, I expect his soloing to differ from other times but when it differes too far, I am disappointed.

      There are MANY MANY great musicians. What seperats the famous from the obscure are great SONGS. Songs as Peter Frampton recently said in an interview with Joe Bonamassa are the ‘IT” of success.

      We pay for a show, therefore we the audience should get what we paid for. Not somneone who deems themselves a cult of personality and what we who paid want, be dammned.

    81. Tanya says:

      I have never seen Dylan live, but as a music lover and a musician, Robert Plant is a perfect example of why I love artists who don’t try to replicate their old hits to the “T” when they play live. Robert infuses old Zeppelin songs with new instruments/instrumentation/rhythms, vocal spins and harmonies, while honoring the massive glory of the original song. It wakes up the song into a new era and shows he is a true artist and not a replicator or a parrot of his own work (or stuck in the past). So, I guess I wouldn’t underestimate and audience’s intelligence by presuming that “95% of any audience wants to hear a song exactly as it is played on the records they own. Period.” But, having not seen Dylan, I can’t speak to this example firsthand. Just food for thought : )

    82. Paul says:

      There is a big difference between art (Dylan) and craft (Twisted Sister). Artists challenge their audience and change the way they do things because they loathe the idea of staying stuck in the past. Craftspeople find something that a large amount of people (enough, anyway, to keep them making money) enjoy and regurgitate it over and over, pretty much the same way for years, because their audience is happy with that. So be it. If John French doesn’t understand art, that’s OK; there’ll always be room for both artists and craftspeople.

      And by the way, I knew every song he was singing a few bars into each one, and judging by the people around me, so did most everyone else.