When my sister got me tickets for my birthday to see Drake in the recently re-opened Forest Hills Stadium, one of the first things I thought was: Dylan. Bob Dylan, of course!
Forest Hills August 28 1965 is an infamous show in the Dylan cannon. Just off his electric blasphemy at the Newport Folk Festival, he persisted with his new-fangled ‘folk rock’ and played with Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, and Al Kooper to a very confused and unhappy crowd. He was literally and symbolically extricating himself from the folk and civil rights scenes, eschewing the mainstream, as always.
That Dylan show was almost exactly 50 years ago but because the of the beauty of the internet you can listen to a recording of it right now, boos front and center, and read the New York Times review of the show (which described Dylan as a 'model of patient composure’).
Forest Hills stadium was once a marquee stop for major bands - when the Beatles played to 16,000 fans there in 1964 they were asked how they felt about being a 'threat to society’ - and re-opened last year after 30 years of dormancy. While the audience tonight will know what it’s in for - the rap stylings of Lil Wayne and the boy Drizzy Drake, sounds which would have been unimaginable in 1965- Forest Hills is still a tony, sleepy neighborhood that may have trouble grappling with both the sonics and the kind of crowd they will attract. (The booking is such a curious choice for the venue that the bio they have for Drake on their website ends in 2009, before he even released a major album!)
Still, we’ve undoubtedly opened our ears in this country. But with protests of the killing of an unarmed young black man in Ferguson dominating our collective consciousness, we are right to wonder how much we've opened our eyes, our hearts.
’Worst Behavior’ will be a highlight for me tonight, and I won’t be surprised if Drake saves it for his encore. It was my favorite song of 2013, and around this time last year my broken heart used its anxiety and bravado to muster up the sweet vindication of anger. “Motherfucker never loved us... remember?” I would mouth on the subways.
It could serve as anthem for Dylan too, who certainly has the last laugh all these years later. Can’t you just picture him scowling the lyric “They used to never want to hear us, Remember? / Motherfucker never loved us, remember?”
And no doubt its sentiment echoes through the streets of Ferguson, and anywhere else where people are marginalized and fed up:
“They used to never want to hear us, Remember?
Motherfucker never loved us, remember?”
“I should let you know ahead I’m coming back on my worst behavior”.