The Other Side of the Mirror – Bob Dylan, Live at the Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965

by | Oct 26, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

The Other Side of the Mirror – Bob Dylan, Live at the Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965

Studio: Columbia 88697 15537 9 [Release date: Oct. 30, 07]
Video: 1.33:1 full screen color
Audio: English, Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Regional coding: unknown
Extras: Interview with director Murray Lerner 
Length: 83:00 
Rating: ****

(Bob Dylan, guitar and vocals; Paul Butterfield, guitar; Al Kooper, organ; Barry Goldberg, organ; Jerome Arnold, bass; Sam Lay, drums; Joan Baez, vocals)

When Dylan fans think of the Newport Folk Festival, they tend to think of his 1965 appearance, when his electric set with the Paul Butterfield band got booed mercilessly by the crowd. In The Other Side of the Mirror, we see a portion of this set and hear the crowd’s loud, low boos. It’s startling to see and hear this actually happen, since the idea of a crowd freaking out over electric instruments seems ridiculous nowadays. But watching Dylan perform at the festival in 1963 and 1964, it’s clear how much the crowd adored the idea of Dylan as an heir to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, a guitar-slinging protest singer out to fix the wrongs of the world.

Seeing Dylan perform protest songs like Only a Pawn In Their Game and With God On Our Side, it’s hard not to sympathize with the Newport audience. The power and conviction he gives to the songs seems to come from a violently visceral place, as if Dylan truly believes he can sing away injustice and corruption. How could the crowd believe, without resistance, that Dylan wasn’t interested in protest songs anymore?

Folk legend and Dylan’s girlfriend at the time, Joan Baez, is featured heavily in the footage, singing duets with Dylan on With God On Our Side and It Ain’t Me Babe. Her bell-like voice is a welcome addition to the sometime monotony of Dylan and his guitar. Interviewed in a short segment between performance footage, Baez says she finds worship of folk singers odd but harmless. When we see Dylan in a car surrounded by a group of screaming fans, it’s clear from his bitter expression he doesn’t feel the same way.

The highlight of Dylan’s electric set is easily Maggie’s Farm. Turned into a ragged blues-shuffle by the Butterfield band, the song is by turns terrifying and venomous, with Dylan punching out the lines with an icy unease. Like A Rolling Stone, however, is a bit of a mess, with Dylan having difficulty locking into time with the rest of the band. As the song crawls to a stop, Dylan takes off his guitar and walks offstage as the people in the crowd cheering are quickly drowned out by boos. Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul, and Mary, appears onstage looking a bit scared and assured the crowd Dylan is going to go get his acoustic guitar and play a few more songs. He does return, playing Mr. Tambourine Man and It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, the latter sounding less like the bitter attack on the folk scene many claim it is and more like Dylan trying to help the crowd understand why he’s moved on and they should too.

While a bit short at 83 minutes, The Other Side of the Mirror is certainly worth checking out. However easy it is to dismiss the folk fans that called Dylan a Judas for plugging in his guitar, the film is a testament to how truly heroic Dylan must have seemed to an audience looking for a new voice of the people.

TrackList:

All I Really Want To Do (7/24/1965) – afternoon workshop

1963
North Country Blues
With God On Our Side (with Joan Baez)
Talkin’ World War III Blues
Who Killed Davey Moore?
Only A Pawn In Their Game
Blowin’ In The Wind (with The Freedom Singers, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul and Mary)

1964
Mr. Tambourine Man
Johnny Cash sings Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
Joan Baez sings Mary Hamilton as Bob Dylan
It Ain’t Me, Babe (with Joan Baez)
With God On Our Side (with Joan Baez)
Chimes Of Freedom

1965
If You Gotta Go, Go Now
Love Minus Zero/No Limit
Maggie’s Farm (electric)
Like A Rolling Stone (electric)
Mr. Tambourine Man
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

– Daniel Krow
 

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