The Other Side Of The Mirror: Live At The Newport Folk Festival (DVD)

Bob Dylan

Columbia Performance Series, 2007

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


The Other Side Of The Mirror: Live At The Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965 is a fascinating historical document of Bob Dylan’s transformation from an aspiring artist to an established star on the way to becoming an American musical icon.

1963 finds a very raw Bob Dylan performing with just his guitar and harmonica. It also finds an uncompromising Dylan who sings songs of protest and quickly finds a home with an audience ready to embrace this ideology. “Talking World War III Blues,” “Who Killed Davey Moore” and “Only A Pawn In The Game” may seem antiquated today, but they were at the heart of the folk protest movement of the early 1960s.

Dylan’s first appearance at the Newport Folk Festival occurred at an afternoon workshop on July 26. His song “North Country Blues,” about the abuse of minors, finds a nervous Dylan belting out his sophisticated lyrics before a tiny audience who may or may not have realized they was witnessing musical history. At the same workshop, Joan Baez joins Dylan for a duet of “With God On Our Side.” Baez changes her vocal tone so as to harmonize with Dylan’s vocals -- which was not an easy task at the time.

The eternal “Blowin’ In The Wind” closed the night performance on the 26my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 th but Dylan was not important or well known enough to close the show alone, so is joined on stage by Baez, The Freedom Singers and Peter, Paul and Mary. Despite some of the more well-known folk artists of the day being on hand, however, Dylan rises to the occasion and dominates the performance.

Newport 1964 finds a very different Dylan. Gone are the strictly anti-establishment songs of 1963 and in their place is an artist beginning to find his musical vision, one that would come to fruition over the next year.

Dylan brings his “Mr. Tambourine Man” to the afternoon workshop. The artistry of the songs shows his tremendous advancement as a lyricist in just 12 months. The night performance would include two duets with Joan Baez, “It Ain’t Me Babe and “With God On Our Side,” but the concluding song, “Chimes Of Freedom,” find a powerful Dylan back in the comfort zone of the audience and folk movement of the day.

1965 finds Bob Dylan a star. His records are selling in the millions and he is receiving public acclaim as one of the important songwriters of his generation. In two short years Dylan has evolved into a confidant performer who can take charge and dominate the stage, as this DVD bears out.

Dylan at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival starts innocently enough. Again performing at the afternoon workshop he debuts “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” and “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” to an appreciative and adoring audience.

Everything changed the night of July 25, 1965 at the night performance. Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper among others ambled out on stage as the back-up band to Bob Dylan. From the fist crashing notes of “Maggie’s Farm” to the end of “Like A Rolling Stone” the audience sat stunned as Dylan publicly went electric for the first time. While the audience was at best ambivalent, what they did not realize at the time was that Dylan had changed the face of American folk music and it would never be the same. This decision and performance would provide Dylan with the impetus to create some magnificent albums during the last half of the 1960s.

Dylan would have mercy upon the audience that night. Many people forget that Dylan would return to the stage and mollify the people with acoustic versions of “Mr. Tambourine Man” and fittingly “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” solely because him going electric was seen as either sacrilege or daring.  

The Other Side Of The Mirror: Live At The Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965 is really what DVDs are made for. Watching history in action as well as the evolution of an important artist is the selling point, and it’s well worth the time.

Rating: A

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© 2007 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Performance Series, and is used for informational purposes only.