Watkins Family Hour Stroll Down ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ at Lincoln Center (Photos)

Lincoln Center and Americanafest NYC welcomed the Watkins Family Hour for a special performance of Bob Dylan's Highway '61 Revisited.
Watkins Family Hour

The Watkins Family Hour is a well established troupe of musicians consisting of siblings Sara and Sean Watkins (who are also in Nickel Creek), Fiona Apple, Benmont Tench, Don Heffington, Greg Leisz and Sebastian Steinberg. They’ve been hosting a monthly show in California for years and they’ve released their self-titled debut album in July ahead of a tour that included Newport Folk Festival and a three night stand in New York City at City Winery. On August 1st, they returned to New York for a free performance in conjunction with Lincoln Center’s ‘Out of Doors’ and Americanafest NYC to perform Bob Dylan’s classic Highway ’61 Revisited. Leisz was not present it seemed but guitarists David Garza and Smokey Hormel were on stage in his stead.

The night began with opener, Justin Townes Earle performing as many people clamored outside Damrosch Park for a glimpse of the stage hoping to eventually be permitted to enter. After the prior weekend’s wild performance from Vintage Trouble that had packed the venue, I knew this evening of folk tunes would be more toned down but I didn’t anticipate it being almost as crowded. I guess I should have considered the weight Dylan carries. The folk legend also had a recent landmark anniversary, that of him plugging in at Newport Folk Festival fifty years ago. Newport featured a grand finale tribute, ‘Dylan ’65 Revisited’ (another fiftieth anniversary) which featured Dawes and a rotating selection of guests (not the Watkins Family Hour though from what I saw). Jill Sternheimer and Claudia Norman, curating the summer series for the first time, may have considered that infamous occasion as they assembled the 2015 series. But even if they hadn’t specifically been brought on to play Dylan, Watkins Family Hour was a great selection as the group regularly invites friends onto stage with them pooling together all their musical talents for covers and, now, originals. Though having Al Kooper, the original keyboardist with Dylan during that period, hit all the right notes, (they were his) blurred the lines between what was a cover or not (Kooper was also at Newport).

Just as it was a Family affair on stage, it was clear there were many families watching on as people of all ages were in attendance. For the first portion of their set, Watkins Family Hour performed a smattering of non-Dylan songs, including one of my favorite Nickel Creek tunes, “Somebody More Like You” (sung by Sean), Fiona Apple’s “A Mistake” (which received a huge applause as most everything else she did) and wrapped up with Grateful Dead’s’ “Brokedown Palace”. Next up came the Dylan portion of the evening where the group and guests tackled Highway ’61 Revisited. Sara sang “From a Buick 6”, Aimee Mann and Ted Leo sang “Queen Jane Approximately” and Pokey LaFarge appeared for “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” (and then stuck around for most of the show). Somewhat unfamiliar with the album as a whole, I hadn’t recognized they were playing it out of order.

But it makes sense given that the arguably biggest song from the album, “Like a Rolling Stone”, would serve as the rousing finale. Everyone returned to the stage for a group sing-along and the audience finally got to rush up to the rail (security kept them back to avoid blocking the views of those seated). But it turns out the music didn’t end there. For an encore, Watkins Family Hour returned, declaring they would have to move forward in Dylan’s repertoire and then jumped into “Rainy Day Women” (the same closer at Newport) with David Garza singing the lead. While I enjoyed the “Rolling Stone” finale more, I wasn’t gonna complain about another song. Nor did anyone else but even after that, the audience wasn’t satiated, lingering on and demanding more. Fortunately, the perfect summer weather made an already incredible show very memorable. Folks will just have to treasure that.

Justin Townes Earle:

Watkins Family Hour:

Jill Sternheimer:

Watkins Family Hour setlist:


You’re the One I Love (The Everly Brothers)

Where I Ought to Be (Skeeter Davis)

Somebody More Like You (Nickel Creek)

You and Me

Not in Nottingham (Roger Miller)

A Mistake

Steal Your Heart Away (Fleetwood Mac)

We’ll Cry Together (Maxine Brown)

Brokedown Palace (Grateful Dead)

—[Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited with Al Kooper and multiple guests]—

Tombstone Blues

It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry

From a Buick 6

Ballad of a Thin Man (with Shawn Colvin)

Queen Jane Approximately (with Aimee Mann and Ted Leo)

Highway 61 Revisited (with David Garza)

Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (with Pokey LaFarge)

Desolation Row

Like a Rolling Stone

[encore break]

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

Watkins Family Hour Tour Dates:

August 13—Los Angeles, CA—Largo at the Coronet

August 14—Berkeley, CA—Freight & Salvage

August 15—Berkeley, CA—Freight & Salvage

August 16—Redding, CA—Cascade Theatre

August 17—Arcata, CA—HSU Van Duzer Theater

August 19—Jacksonville, OR—Britt Pavilion

August 21—Portland, OR—Aladdin Theater

August 22—Seattle, WA—Tractor Tavern (SOLD OUT)

August 23—Seattle, WA—Tractor Tavern (SOLD OUT)

August 24—Bend, OR—Tower Theatre

August 28—Boulder, CO—Boulder Theater

August 30—Fayetteville, AR—Fayetteville Roots Festival

September 8—Alexandria, VA—The Birchmere

September 9—Alexandria, VA—The Birchmere

September 10—Carrboro, NC—Cat’s Cradle

September 11—Asheville, NC—The Grey Eagle

September 12—Asheville, NC—The Grey Eagle

September 13—Atlanta, GA—Terminal West

September 15—Athens, GA—Georgia Theatre