The King in Kingston, Rhode Island 4.8.13

Bob Dylan, Kingston Rhode Island - photo by CJThibault via ExpectingRain.com

Never enough Bob. There I was last Friday night, snooping around Expecting Rain, the premier Bob Dylan website, checking out the live setlist from Buffalo NY for opening night of the 2013 edition of the Neverending Tour, where the fanatics post up for the rest of us too busy to be at every show, live, play by play, song by song, reportage. What he's wearing. What part of the stage Bob's standing at for each song. When he's playing harmonica. When he's playing guitar? Plus the occasional Instagram nugget for illustration. But most importanly, you can find out in the moment, what songs Bob is adding and subtracting each night. It's taken for granted that no two nights are ever alike - Dylan's known for changing songs up mid show, calling an audible on his own band at a moment's notice. Bob fanatics like myself live for the obscure add-in's. Meanwhile over at DylanPool - on the theNeverendingPool website, the faithful  are betting on upcoming setlists, getting odds each night on the outside chance he'll add a rarely played song worth more points in the nightly competition. It's online scrabble for Dylan-onics.

So there I was last Friday night watching the live setlist streaming in from SUNY Buffalo. It was an extraordinary setlist for a first night. New opening song -  Things Have Changed. Four - count 'em - four songs from Tempest.  And some great classics, any fan would die to see just one of on any given night - Visions of Johanna, Blind Willie McTell, Highwater, What Good Am I?  Plus he changed up the last four songs of the set - that he was pretty much on automatic pilot playing for the last year. And he's changed up lead guitarists for this tour - adding Duke Robillard.  Well that was enough for me. I was going to be up in Massachusetts anyway, nearby the third stop of the tour last Monday in Kingston, Rhode Island, so I pulled the trigger and picked myself up a last minute ticket. 

I love seeing Dylan shows on college campuses. They are so accessible. So not city like. I drove up to Connecticut in the early 90's to see Dylan and Patti Smith play a college gymnasium - sat right on the floor. Also saw him with then unknown opening act Jewel at a college gym out in New Jersey in the mid 90's. The atmosphere is just so laid back and Dylan does some of his best shows out of town. So there I was Sunday heading for a college stadium at University of Rhode Island on a pleasant night in April. No annoying city bouncers - just local students in charge. I just walked to my floor seat and sat myself down. I had a great spot where I could see Bob and the band pretty well. Plenty of leg room. I was even on Dylan's side of his piano, where he spends much of the set these days.

Bob Dylan, Kingston Rhode Island - photo by CJThibault via ExpectingRan.com

Now I don't plan to give a full rundown of the show I saw. In fact as it turned out, I saw virtually the same setlist in Kingston, as was played in Buffalo. Inscrutably Dylan has played nearly the same set list for the last five nights running - confounding the faithful.  But it's such a great setlist that nobody's complaining - that's for sure.

Just a few things - I love that the opener is "Things Have Changed" -  as in the setlist has really changed since the last tour, OR as in, nothing's gonna change from night to night. Dylan came shuffling out to center stage with a "take this" attitude right from the start. He looked great all in black, embodying a kind of Charlie Chaplin look gesturing and pointing his way thru the song. Stepping back during the guitar break, left hand on hip, head cocked back, listening to new guitarist Duke Robillard get acclimated. The whole set list, in fact, felt like a bit of a rehearsal to acquaint the "new guy" with the lay of the land. Considering his history with Roomful of Blues and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, the setlist is perfectly tailored for a blues guitarist. Beyond Here Lies Nothing and Thunder On The Mountain, and Early Roman Kings are all right in his comfort zone. And sprinkled throughout the sublimely constructed setlist, were a couple of 60's classics (Thin Man, VisionsWatchtower), one 70's highlight (Tangled), some cherry picked standouts from recent records (Beyond, Thunder), two show stoppers (Willie McTell and Highwater) , two total surprises (What Good Am I?  and Lovesick), and four solid songs from the newest CD Tempest.  Did I say I love this set list? 

You can listen to the whole Amherst show here for yourself:   Amherst full show audio

Kingston RI 

I've been re-reading "Performing Artist "all week, the masterwork from the great Paul Williams who sadly passed away a few weeks ago. I was reminded that Dylan used to have an unchanging set list back when touring with his first electric band in the 1966. I love Williams' description of the rhyme scheme in Visions of Johanna, from his review of Blonde on Blonde  back in 1966:

"straightforward through four verses AAA BBBB CC - with dramatic crescendo in the last verse,  AAA BBBBBBB CC (all of those B's  give the last pair of C's s special resonance." 

So I've been listening to varying versions of that song all week. In fact, every time I see a live version of Johanna,  the key for me is how much attention Dylan pays to that spectacular last verse. I get anxiety sometimes during the last instrumental break prior, waiting to see if he's gonna bring it on home. Sometimes he lets it slide, sometimes he's right on top of it. In Kingston, he was absolutely on it - from the "peddler" and the  "countess", to Louise, straight through the "skeleton keys in the rain". There's a reason this key song was right in the middle of this set list - in a version recognizable to all (unlike most of the other songs).  Outside after the show a young student fan remarked to me - "wasn't that a great Visions of Johanna?"

In fact the whole show had a well constructed arc, from the openers center stage, thru the middle ground on the piano, with a stop upfront center for "Blind Willie Mc Tell", landing at the finish line for "Scarlet Town", "Watchtower, and "Thin Man".  My favorite moment: Dylan leaning on his elbow over his piano, head in hand - not playing, but watching and encouraging Duke Robillard as he played away during the break in "Thunder on the Mountain".

Watchtower, Kingston RI

Someone posted a clip of the spectacular "Watchtower" from Kingston, where you can hear Dylan adding what I thought at the time was a "oooweee" at the end of the second verse ("the hour is getting late"), and a "ooooo" in the third verse ("the wind began to howl").

You can bet I'll be watching the setlist tonight.

the "formation" post show, Kingston RI


Academy Awards weekend roundup

Emmanuelle Riva & Quvenzhane Wallis - January 2013

They are the oldest and youngest nominees in the Best Actress category - Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour" and Quevenzhane Wallis  in "Beasts of the Southern Wild" - both excellent films, both great roles. I was lucky to get this picture of them together on the day before the Oscar nominations were announced in January. This is the only time they were photographed together in the same room before awards weekend. I love this shot that Eugene Hernandez took of me taking it.

photo: Eugene Hernandez, FSLC

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" was easily my favorite film of the year. After  sweeping the prizes last January at Sundance, I saw the highly anticipated "Beasts" last March on the closing night of New Directors/New Films,  and was blown away. It was indescribable then, and remains so still. The screenplay, based on her own play by Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin is also up for an Oscar. Here are some photos from that screening last March.

Benh Zeitlin & writer Lucy Alibar

Benh Zeitlin & producer Dan Janvey

Benh Zeitlin, March 2012

Meanwhile, "Amour" directed by Michael Haneke,  another excellent film,  played at the 2012 New York Film Festival  last September where I took this photo of the director before the public screening."Amour", up for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Film,  is a favorite to win in the latter category. 

Michael Haneke, September 2012

Another film up for  Best Foreign Film is "No" directed by Pablo Larrain, which I highly recommend. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal as the actual 1970's "Mad Man" who took down Pinochet's ductatorship in Chile by running an unlikely ad campaign it was also one of my favorite films of the year, and just opened here in New York last week. Here is a photo of director Larrain with his lead actress from NY Film Festival screening.

 "No" director Pablo Larrain & actress Antonia Zegers

Pablo Larrain, NYC 2009

OK, I just saw "Silver Linings Playbook" this afternoon, and now agree that Jennifer Lawrence will win Best Actress. What a performance. I had originally thought it would go to Jessica Chastain  for "Zero Dark Thirty", whom I photographed a couple of weeks ago.  But honestly I have to go with Jennifer Lawrence (even though I didn't take any photos of  her). The film might even slip by for Best Picture.

Jessica Chastain, January 2013

Have you seen "Flight"?  Disguised as an action movie, it is really a very well made character study of an alcoholic. Denzel Washington's performance is deservedly up for Best Actor. Plus it has John Goodman as a drug dealer for comic relief. 

NY FIlm Festival 2012 - Flight press confrerence

Too bad Denzel Washington is up against Daniel Day Lewis  who seems destined to win Best Actor for Lincoln.  I took a few shots at the "Lincoln" advance screening at last year's NY Film Festival,  but alas, a humble shy Daniel Day Lewis snuck out early and steered clear of the cameras.

'Lincoln' cast, director Steven Spielberg & Tony Kushner

Steven Spielberg, NY Film Fest 2012

Up against Steven Spielberg is Quentin Tarrantino for "Django Unchained".  I am almost ashamed to say I have not seen it yet, but here is a shot of the man himself a couple of years ago.

Quentin Tarrantino, NY Film Fest 2011

Also up for Best Director is Ang Lee for "Life of Pi". I'm not an expert on 3D films, but this one was amazing. It was opening night of the 2012 New York Film Festival, where I took this pic of Ang Lee with star Suraj Sharma.

"Life of Pi" star Suraj Sharma and director Ang Lee

Also up for Best Director is Kathryn Bigelow, for"Zero Dark Thirty", I took this shot when she was in town for an early screening of "The Hurt Locker" at Lincoln Center in 2009.

Kathryn Bigelow, NYC 2009

The likely winner in the Best Documentary category is "Searching for Sugar Man".  Director Malik Bendjelloui was in town in January. Also in the Best Documentary category - "The Gatekeepers" directed by Dror Moreh (shown at the NY FIlm Fest) , and "Five Broken Cameras", directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi (shown at New Directors 2012)  are both very excellent docs about the Middle Eastf. 

Malik Bendjellouui -  "Searching for Sugarman" - January 2013

Guy Davidi & Emad Burnat - "Five Broken Cameras" - March 2012

Dror Moreh - "The Gatekeepers" - September 2012

Oh right  - Anne Hathaway. I'm not likely to see "Les Miserables", and Anne Hathaway's likely to win Best Supporting Actress, but I do have a couple of cool pix I took of her at the New York Film Festival a couple of years ago. 

Anne Hathaway, NY Film Fest, Red Carpet 2008

Which brings me full circle to my favorite film of the year, "Beasts of the Southern Wild", and more pix of star Quvenzhane Wallis. If there is an upset win, I sure hope it goes to her.

Benh Zeitlin and Quvenzhane Wallis - January 2013

Quvenzhane Wallis - January 2013



Cinema-tography: Photographers in the Movies

Juaquin Phoenix in The Master

Been thinking about actors playing photographers in the movies. Juaquin Phoenix's performance as a war weary alcoholic department store photographer in Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master,  is as good a place to start as any. If a picture's worth a thousand words, this promo still for the film sums up why his performance is up for an Academy Award this year. Taking the psychotic who tries his hand as a photographer to a whole new level, two scenes - "mixing chemicals" in the darkroom with a pretty salesgirl, and as a bullying portrait photographer - are, uh,  kind of unforgettable. 

David Hemmings in Blow-Up

Still for me, the touchstone performance is David Hemmings as the swinging London photographer David Bailey in Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up, circa 1966. This was the film that drew me towards being a photographer. Scenes photographing in the park, with Vanessa Redgrave that lead to a murder mystery solved in the darkroom were beyond cool to my teenage self. Scenes in the studio with Veruschka are simply self-consciously over the top - not that I haven't seen photographers try to pull that trick off like they invented it.  And the existential nightclub scene with the Yardbirds, was well, for me simply prophetic. Yes, this was the film that was destined to awaken the photographer within me.

The New York City counterpart to David Bailey in London would have been Richard Avedon. In Funny Face, Stanley Donen directs Fred Astaire as a New York City fashion photographer discovering model Audrey Hepburn, based on Donen's friend and legend, Richard Avedon. Here are a couple of nice stills from that film.

This great photograph of James Dean taken by Roy Schatt, is from no film in particular, but some people just have style. 

James Dean with camera, photographed by Roy Schatt

In 1978's The Eyes of Laura Mars, Faye Dunaaway also plays a fashion photographer who helps solve crimes. The tagline for the poster was "You can't always believe what you see". 

This still looks decidedly similar to Jimmy Stewart in Alfred Hitchcok's Rear Window. 

How cool and sinister is it to have a wheelchair bound photographer stuck in his Greenwich Village apartment, witnessing crimes, and trying to save Grace Kelly through his telephoto lens? 

Now from the sublime to the ridiculous.Nicole Kidman played Diane Arbus in the absurdly titled Fur (a result of no cooperation from the Diane Arbus Estate I guess). Here's a still from that film, and a shot I just found of the real Diane Arbus in the East Village in 1969 by Mary Ellen Mark.  Notice the St.Marks Cinema in the background!

Diane Arbus 1969, by Mary Ellen Mark

Way back in the 1933, just after the invention of the hand held "spy" camera, James Cagney played an undercover news photographer in The Picture Snatcher. I love that title!

My favorite implausible photographic impersonation would be Farrah Fawcett playing Life magazine photographer Margaret Bourke-White in the "made for TV" movie. Remember "Made for TV Movies"? 

Farrah Bourke-White

Speaking of television, Charles Bronson played a street photographer in the series Man With A Camera from 1958-1960, just before taking off as a movie star in The Magnificent Seven. 

Though not strictly about a photographer, I have to include the great Michael Powell's 1960 classic, "Peeping Tom".  About a serial killer that films his murders, I couldn't resist posting up the opening scene to round this all up. Happy Valentine's Day!


Snow York City Photographs

Bowery 1978
With snow on my mind, I've dug into the archives for pictures taken on those slippery cold nights when I would roam the city streets at night in search of the perfect snow shots. The photograph  above, which I took - let's see 35 years ago - was taken on January 17th 1978. I know this only because I just read a brilliant piece by Binky Philips, about him meeting Johnny Rotten at the bar at CBGB's the night after the Sex Pistols US tour. I too met Johnny Rotten that night and took his photo behind the CBGB bar. I also took a photo of Bob Gruen, who has told me he was walking across Bleecker Street to CB's that night, from his darkroom to show Johnny Rotten the photographs he had just printed of the Sex Pistols tour. Just another quiet Monday night at CBGB's. 

Bob Gruen, Bleecker St. 1978

There were two big snowstorms back to back that winter. This one in late January followed by the Blizzard of 78 two weeks later on February 6th. Style took precedence to winter wear that night, as evidenced by these next two photographs. 

Jimmy Destri & Phyllis Stein, Bowery 1978

Kristian Hoffman & Bradley Field, Bowery 1978

Jump cut to 1996, another winter full of snow. I was out on Wall Street late this night. Downtown was shut down to all cars for the blizzard. Garbage Trucks and plows ruled the streets. It was a bit scary to be out there on foot but I'm a dedicated snow shooter. 

Wall Street, Blizzard 1996

It was also that long winter of 1996, when I navigated through the slush and winds of Astor Place to get this Xmas photo. 

Astor Place, Winter 1996

And then there was 1983, when I took this photograph on the roof of my St.Marks Place apartment building. Guess I didn't travel to far then to get a snow photo. 

St.Marks Place roof, 1983

Just one more thing to tell, before I go out to get some new snow photographs. The first shot, of CBGB's in the 1978 storm, has sat unprinted / unseen for all these 35 years. Last night in anticipation of the coming Blizzard, I went back to the analog proof sheets, pulled the negative, unfroze the image, and brought it back to life. What did Diane Arbus say? - "I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them."



Aftermath: The Station nightclub fire 2003 / 2007

On February 25th, 2007 our car broke down driving on I-95, near West Warwick, Rhode Island. The tow truck driver, on his way to the repair garage, pointed out to us that we were passing the site of The Station, a nightclub where 100 people lost their lives in a tragic fire on February 23, 2003. By coincidence, we were there two days after the 4th anniversary of that terrible event.

Now, with the Brazilian nightclub fire in the news, where 230 people lost their lives last weekend, I revisited the photographs I took on The Station site, that cold day in February. I pulled them from the archives, and as I was editing I realized it was going to be the 10th anniversary of that event next month.

I can still remember standing among all the aching memorials, laid out uncovered in the open space where the club once stood. By daylight it took on the feeling of a cemetery, only more personal. The two events were eerily similar - pyrotechnics onstage, a mad rush to the exits. Standing on the site, the presence of the lost AND those that loved them was overwhelming. I took these photos and packed them away for years. The tragedy struck a little too close to home.

Now, I've read that the land where the club once stood was transferred this past September, to a survivor fund, and a new memorial they were hoping for over the last 10 years, will be built.

the FULL SET OF PHOTOS can be viewed here

all photos © GODLIS