Review: Bob Dylan and Mavis Staples Perform at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL


Photo by Jerry Schatzberg

Bob Dylan is a self-proclaimed “worried man with a worried mind”, and last night one of the most influential artists from the last few decades in American culture brought his band and a nearly two hour set to the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL, and opened with those very lyrics from his 2000 Oscar winning record, ‘Things Have Changed’. And Dylan’s visit couldn’t have come at a better time. At a time where our country, and the world in general, is constantly divided, whether it’s on gun control, the European Union, or your preference for the next president of the United States, Chicagoland fans saw one of the most politically conscious individual in music perform a collection of his favorite records throughout the years.

As the last of the sold-out crowd began to fill in and set up their lawn chairs and blankets at the Ravinia, 76-year-old and Chicago-native Mavis Staples warmed up her hometown crowd. An immensely talented R&B and gospel singer, and a vocal civil rights activist, it is hard to imagine a better opening act for Dylan and his band. And don’t sell Staples short. Despite her age, Staples put a lot of energy into her opening performance, which included some of her biggest records, including ‘I’ll Take You There’, ‘You Are Not Alone’, ‘Take Us Back’ and more.

After a brief intermission as crew began to set things up for the night, it was finally showtime. As anticipation was at its peak, Bob Dylan emerged in a checked shirt, blazer and his signature “Rolling Thunder” hat, made famous decades ago during his legendary concert tour of the same name.

After Dylan and his band opened with his award winning track, they following things with ‘She Belongs to Me’, ‘Beyond Here Lies Nothin” and an Irving Berlin cover with ‘What’ll I Do’. While Dylan’s set was more than memorable, it may not be what you expect. Rather than the 75-year-old Minnesota-born singer performing a collection of his biggest hits that date back to the ’50s, Dylan performed a wide array of songs. With nearly 40 full-length LPs with records to choose from, Dylan choose a number of his favorite songs from his more recent albums, while still finding time to sprinkle in some classics from his early years. Highlights included his performances of ‘Spirit on the Water’, ‘Scarlet Town’ and ‘Tangles Up in Blue’.

And although Dylan had hundreds of his own songs to choose from, he still found time to perform a number of covers from a range of different artists. Whether it was his Cy Coleman cover ‘Why Try to Change Me Now’, Yves Montand’s ‘Autumn Leaves’, or one of his many Frank Sinatra covers from the night (‘All or Nothing at All’, ‘I Could Have Told You’, ‘I’m a Fool to Want You’ and more), Dylan sang a number of unique covers to some classic records.

Nearly two-hours later, and after two Sets of music, the night wouldn’t have been complete without an encore. First Dylan re-emerged performing his 1963 record ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ from his album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. One of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and a protest record about peace and war, Dylan’s record from half-a-decade ago still is very much relevant today. Then, fast forwarding a few decades, Dylan took things to 1998 with his song ‘Love Sick’, from his 30th studio album, Time Out of Mind. ‘Love Sick’, among many reasons is known for the memorable performance of the track at the 1998 Grammys, and while last night’s performance of ‘Love Sick’ may not go down as one of Dylan’s biggest performances, for the people of Chicago and Highland Park last night, it will me a memory that will live on as long as Dylan’s career.


Visit for upcoming concerts and check out Bob Dylan’s remaining tour dates at his official website.

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