Two Riders Approaching


A Fistful of Tapes

by The Two Riders

Sydney: 24th February 1986
It is a great pleasure to hear this sonically perfect recording. A good deal of this show has surfaced in broadcast quality via the Hard To Handle and Westwood One Radio Show but here we have the complete, unabridged show. It is easy to forget how these shows were Ė a pretty interesting mix of old, new, borrowed and blue with a never less-than-perfect Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers doing the backing band duties. This is an early show before Dylan hit America and cloned himself as the RockíníRoll hero, not quite burnt out Hearts of Fire but at times not far off. No, this show is vibrant and energetic, powerful, sometimes raw and rarely subtle. Dylan is extremely chatty throughout occasionally giving a bit of background information about the songs. It is a genuine thrill to hear again gems like Lucky Old Sun, Across the Borderline and I & I to mention a few. OK so there is often what amounts to a caterwauling female chorus line but it does not always detract. Strange how most versions are short and sharp. Very little gets drawn out beyond a reasonable length and thus the listener gets a feeling of constant forward movement  If there is one aspect of the last couple of yearsí shows that would benefit from change it is the extreme length of some songs. Not everything has to be short but most songs have a ďnaturalĒ length beyond which the band is simply repeating itself. Anyway listen out for a nicely controlled 4th Street, a truly cacaphonic Clean Cut Kid (awful) and a very assured, fast Itís Alright, Ma. There is a shouted Just Like A Woman followed by a raucous Iím Moviní On and a great Lenny Bruce. Also impressive is a very high energy When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky.

All but a couple of shows are now in from 2001 so letís get started:

Anzio: 24th July
At last, the complete show is now here but donít get too excited. Often Dylanís vocals are little more than spoken (Tell Me That It Isnít True, Love Minus Zero/No Limit) and the concert is a little lacklustre. Worth hearing Absolutely Sweet Marie and a new driving, dirty, bluesy arrangement of God Knows.

Santa Barbara
: 14th October
Unfortunately, there is nothing to write home about here either. This is compounded by some overrecording on a couple of songs.  Perhaps the standout cut is To Be Alone With You.

La Crosse
: 29th October
Spoilt somewhat by being recorded at very low volume this show has a solid heart of very good performances.  You Ainít Goiní Nowhere, High Water and It Ainít Me, Babe occupy the podium and are joined later by a great Sugar Baby. Shooting Star makes a welcome return but, in truth, it is poorly sung and laboured.

Green Bay
: 30th October
Nice show this one.  Watch out for a spot-on Itís Alright, Ma and a great Cry Awhile. This time out Moonlight is simply OK. Listen to a superb backing for 4th Time Around, even if the vocal is uncertain. Finally If Dogs Run Free just sits so well amongst the Love & Theft  songs and itís getting better and better.

: 31st October
A generally worthwhile show, more highs than lows. There is a powerful Hard Rain followed immediately by an excellent This World Canít Stand Long.  A dull Just Like A Woman lowers the levels (why canít he do this song justice anymore?) before things rev up again with a funky Lonesome Day Blues. Hollis Brown  is very dramatic and there is an absolutely on-the-button go at Visions Of Johanna. Sandwiched in between these two is a delicate One Too Many Mornings which a far too long at nearly 8 minutes. Also of note is Honest With Me.  Unfortunately Dylan spends a full 8 minutes (count Ďem) on the awful Rainy Day Women.

Terre Haute
: 2nd November
This show is a bit of a mixed bag. It is great to hear Rank Strangers in a new arrangement to accommodate a call-and-response chorus. Floater is pretty good and Tears Of Rage is very stately. Dylan adds a harp solo to Tangled Up In Blue but it wers thin its welcome after running for 11 minutes.

Grand Rapids
: 6th November
Another pretty good show from the start. Nice to hear one of the Love & Theft highlights, Poí Boy done wonderful justice and even John Brown is less dull than many other attempts. Unfortunately the potential highlight Every Grain Of Sand has a tuneless vocal Ė the song is simply murdered.

: 8th November
Fairly ordinary show with a noisy audience. The undoubted high spot is, aptly, High Water, all brooding and doom-laden. Just Like A Woman features a lengthy harp solo but one is completely distracted by some guy in the audience bellowing out the words all the way through the song!

: 9th November
Another show with a great central heart. Starting with Tweedle Dee (lovely guitar work) we are treated to a good Every Grain Of Sand, a well-sung Floater and an excellent High Water once more. Later on, Summer Days works well and Cold Irons Bound features some blistering guitar work.

10th November
Next night, same again. A menacing Itís Alright Ma ups the ante and then we get a great quartet of Tweedle Dee, 4th Street, Floater and High Water.  Mississippi is spoilt a bit by Dylanís very rough voice and the final sections of the show follow through their predictable patterns.

State College
: 11th November
This is a great show. For almost the entire main show, it is excellent all the way. There is a very evident care about the vocal efforts tonight Ė just listen to Floater or Visions of Johanna for proof. Itís Alright, Ma is truly gripping. The only distraction comes in the form of some woeful guitar picking by Dylan.

: 13th November
Not the best of recordings so judgements on this concert may be prejudiced on that account. Itís a pity that the rare Where Teardrops Fall is not better performed (but itís not). At least Boots Of Spanish Leather is very tender.

: 15th November
A semi roller-coaster of a show, a few highs and a few lows. Amongst the better performances are Hard Rain (lengthy but powerful), Floater and Tangled Up In Blue. John Brown is a definite dip, it is so dreary.

17th November
Not bad, not bad at all.  Early on we are treated to a very long version of It Ainít Me, Babe which features a decent harp solo. Tonight Iíll Be Staying Here With You is somewhat ragged but Lonesome Day Blues is pretty solid stuff. Listen out for some guy screaming out ďHurricane! Ya never play HurricaneĒ as Dylan ploughs on at that point with Summer Days.

New York City
: 19th November
Strangely enough for a show in his spiritual home city Dylan appears not to be up for this concert.  Words like flat, dull and  ponderous cross my mind even though he does redeem things with some good harp work and a trilogy of good efforts from his most recent album (Lonesome Day Blues, Sugar baby, Honest With Me).

: 20th November
Was looking forward to I Threw It All Away but Dylan manages to ruin it with unsympathetic phrasing and a raggy voice. Visions is once again excellent, very slow, very deliberate, 10 minutes and Honest With Me is coruscating.

: 21st November
Not much to say about this one. A pot-pourri of the ordinary and the better-than-ordinary. Very disappointing to hear a flat and ordinary Mississippi although things immediately pick up after that with the lively Cold Irons Bound.

: 23rd November
Watch out for a most splendid Not Dark Yet, the point at which the concert takes off. Lonesome Day Blues is niceínísleazy whilst the audience make whooping dog noises as Dylan plays If Dogs Run Free. Humour is not dead (it just left the building).

: 24th November
Last show of the year but not very spectacular or distinctive. Donít look for highlights here but you will get a competent concert.

So, as we said earlier, only a couple of shows to go to round off quite an eventful touring year.

Restless Farewell for now.

Mike and John

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