Bob Dylan World Tour 1966-1974: Through the Camera of Barry Feinstein
by Barry Meyer
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Barry Feinstein was the exclusive tour photographer on Bob Dylan and The Band’s legendary 1966 and 1974 World Tours. In this documentary feature film, Feinstein and Director Joel Gilbert chronicle these epic Bob Dylan tours, featuring over 150 selections of Feinstein’s finest portraits—most revealed for the first time. Gilbert visits Woodstock and Greenwich Village, New York, where he investigates Dylan’s secluded life before his return to the road in 1974; he recreates the singer-songwriter’s 1966 motorcycle accident, pays a visit to Big Pink, examines Dylan’s first encounter with The Beatles, and even confronts fanatic “Dylanologist” A.J. Weberman.
The title of the documentary, as well as the DVD’s cover art, are mildly dubious, leaving the viewer to presume they’re going to be treated to some classic concert footage of Dylan in his heyday. What they’ll find, though, is a casually informative, mildly entertaining collection of talking head reminiscences of what it was like to be witness to that bit of Rock-n-Roll history, as told by such people as filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, rock journalism godfather Al Aronowitz, Band drummer Mickey Jones and others.
As a documentary, BDWT is fairly rudimentary and simplistic, not just in content, but also in style. Director Joel Gilbert may do a mean Dylan impersonation with his band Highway 66 Revisited (and he even fools some of the hippies in Woodstock), but at the helm of this documentary he is awkward, one-dimensional, and amateurish (though he’d already helmed the previous Bob Dylan 1966 World Tour; The Home Movies). His voice-overs meander along, sounding more like a travelogues and never really dig much deeper than the surface (“Manhattan sure was a lot louder than Woodstock, but it was sure nice to be here…”), and his interviewing skills lack exploration (he spends a lot of screen time thanking the guests for speaking with him). Gilbert’s amateurish skills are most evident, and almost laughable, during a segment in which Feinstein debunks Dylan’s tour-ending motorcycle accident. Peppered in between talking head accounts of the accident is a sepia toned reenactment of Gilbert, as Dylan, riding a motorcycle, and walking through a graveyard, all ending with Gilbert throwing his hands in the air in unintentionally comic faux fear, before fading to black over a generic car crash audio cue.
BDWT is clearly aimed at the fans of Dylan; those people who will, no doubt, revel in the tidbits of candid accounts of what it was like to be on tour with one of Rock’s legends (like when a British girl jumped up on stage and slapped Dylan when he started playing an electric guitar), and who would appreciate the great still photography by Feinstein (over 150 included). But, for the uninitiated in all things Bob, it may be a bit of a letdown.
Barry Meyer is a writer living in Jersey and a fan of Mr. Dylan’s music.
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