It’s certainly nice having all these Newport appearances in one tidy package, but there’s only one reason anybody would want to own this set and that’s to see the epochal 1965 performance when Dylan goes electric. And yet watching it, you realize all the real drama is backstage, folkies cursing Dylan for abandoning them and Peter Yarrow restraining an out-of-control Pete Seeger from cutting off the power onstage with an axe — things you’d almost expect to see, given the Sidney Sheldon title they tagged this with.
For all that has been written about this historically confrontational event, you’d think the boos would be a lot louder, the tension onstage a lot more visible. In truth, there’s a helluva lot more derision in the audio track of the famed “Royal Albert Hall” concert, and that audience was British! Seeing Martin Scorsese’s brilliant documentary No Direction Home whetted a lot of appetites for viewing this whole show but the straight-ahead footage (which does contain some neat rehearsal shots) without any narrative makes the whole Judas moment seem less like a betrayal and more a disappointment that he played such a short set.
You kind of wonder if 42 years from now, we’ll watch a “Special Edition ZVD” of Britney Spears at the VMAs doing “Gimme More” and say, “I dunno, that wasn’t such a bust.”
— Serene Dominic