It has been a marathon session of listening over the past month. It is always a pleasure to listen to any Dylan material but you need a lot of time to put onto it. Twenty-seven full shows takes bit of getting through, pleasurable or not. And there is still a batch to go! This leads me to return to the point which Chris C is always making Ė what about other music? Where is the time for that? As we write I have over twelve recent CD purchases to play and itís going to take a while. And before they are done, there will be another set of new purchases. It never ends. And where does the time come from to listen to new stuff more than once, or go back to old favourites? Worse things happen at sea but itís frustrating.
Nevertheless, here we go starting with the last missing show of 2002.
Ann Arbor 7th November 2002
May have been the last one to come through but it is a pretty standard run-through of a late 2002 show. It is very good to hear Hattie Carroll, done well this time out which Dylan follows with a comment about how Hank Williams would wipe the floor with the modern breed. Itís Alright, Ma still sounds great but the cover of Morrisonís Carrying A Torch is a shade overwrought.
And so we move back into 2003 and plug the last two gaps of the Antipodean tour.
Canberra 6th February 2003
This one has a lovely crisp sound making it a pleasure to review. It turns out to be a show of contrasts in the quality of Dylanís performances. The show starts with Tweedle Dee and Dylan manages to lose the song in the middle so itís an uncertain start. Things improve somewhat and by song five which is Things Have Changed, he is on fire. Mind you, it is probably accurate to say that he almost always does this song extremely well. The best performance is reserved for Saving Grace. This is not necessarily the best vocal but the performance is so full of feeling it takes you with it. Similarly, Summer Days really jumps. However, Masters of War is dull and plodding.
Melbourne 8th March
Oh dear! This recording provides us with the fan from hell who spends the show sreaming ďYeah, BobbyĒ right into the taperís microphone. Iíve never understood this type of concert-goer. I figure you go to listen to the music. Consequently, the concert takes a bit of listening-to. Added to that the sound is very dull. Given all of that, check out the stand-out track Honest With Me which really drives along.
So now we can catch up with the two North American tours. The common denominator of these shows is how well the band plays throughout all shows and the variability of Dylanís vocals.
Dallas 18th April
Once more Saving Grace is very dignified. Itís a great song anyway and you can feel that it is special to the man himself. Following a hesitant Never Gonna Be The Same Again, the stops are pulled out for Dignity which swings like mad and has a thrilling instrumental bridge. The surprise is a really Dylanified version of Freddy Hartís Easy Loving.
Houston 22nd April
This one features great sound and starts off well with a rolling and tumbling Tweedle Dee. Also worthwhile is Tombstone Blues which is full of energy. However, things deteriorate immediately with Just Like A Woman. Now why is it that Dylan canít perform this well any more? This version, like most, is full of inertia, listless and boring. There is a nice harp break at the end but oh dear! Once more the band are superb on Dignity and this is followed by an extremely delicate Moonlight and a raucous Honest With Me.
New Orleans 25th April
The first of two consecutive shows in the Big Easy. This one starts with To Be Alone With You and it is well done too Ė a lovely rocking start. Look out for a rock hard tilt at Highway 61 and an excellent Things Have Changed. Unfortunately things go downhill with Baby Blue Ė even though Dylan pulls out a great harp intro, the song is lost because Dylan more or less speaks it rather than sings it. He also stumbles into the vocal for Mr. Tambourine Man.
New Orleans 26th April
Dylan is augmented by saxophone on much of the show. Positively 4th Street positively oozes class and the roof is truly lifted on a storming Cold Irons Bound. Floater works really well in this piano-led arrangement. There is also a steaming, sax-dripping Canít Wait.
Tunica 27th April
The very next night provides a tastily-recorded show featuring very good sound. The version of Tonight Iíll Be Staying Here With You which features here is taken at the optimum tempo, completely unhurried and even the vocal isnít too bad (it often is on this one). Sticking with Nashville Skyline, Lay, Lady, Lay sounds good, helped by expert instrumentation from the band and, even though I thought Iíd never say it, Drifterís Escape is OK tonight and has a lovely harp solo. Saving Grace is as regal as ever.
Nashville 29th April
From whence Blonde On Blonde came. Not quite those heights tonight but Tombstone Blues ratchets up the power levels and Dylan shows off his singing voice quite well this time around. There can rarely have been a more rollicking version of To Be Alone With You and Like A Rolling Stone is top-notch, featuring a very effective piano from our man. Also a lovely guitar break Ė not from our man! But the highlights have to be Saving Grace and the morose Standing In The Doorway. The crowd really did love this latter one, cheering and yelping at itís conclusion.
Louisville 30th April
The opener, Tweedle Dee, is very much bedded-in by now and this one swings like fury and has a wonderful backing. This band is so hot now. It is always nice to hear Blind Willie McTell and tonightís rendition is spot-on. But not as good as the piece-de-resistance which is High Water. This is a killer version and some seriously cutting guitar work. Not only that but we also get a double two-song encore. Mind you the second encore starts with Rainy Day Women so Iím not sure that itís a bonus.
Atlanta 2nd May
Just an hour long is this show and the sound is dullish. Whilst it is nice to hear Tom Thumbís Blues and She Belongs To Me it would be nice to hear them, if you catch my drift.
West Palm Beach 4th May
Back to great sound for this show. There are some delicate inclusions tonight such as Senor, Lay, Lady, Lay and Bye and Bye. Cold Irons Bound scales the heights once more and, shock/horror, Just Like A Woman is not too bad at all. Love Sick is back and seems to feature a slightly changed arrangement, perhaps a bit less sparse than normal.
Orlando 5th May
This show seems not to have made much impression on these ears. Just Like A Woman reverts to type (ie dull) and Baby Blue is way too long for comfort. At least he varies it by doing The Wicked Messenger instead of Drifterís Escape albeit in its identikit arrangement.
Charleston 6th May
A very good show. Very refreshing to hear Everything Is Broken as the opener. And it works there. This is closely followed by a musically excellent I Donít Believe You though the vocal is dodgy. Love Sick hits the spot once more, Saving Grace is superb, Honest With Me is hot and mean and Moonlight is sweet and stylised. Plenty to whet the appetite then.
Portsmouth 8th May
Much that we have said about the previous show applies to this one. A different set list obviously but the high spots are there. Try Maggieís Farm as the opener rocking like mad. Then take a pinch of the rather wonderful Iíll Remember You. Season with the ever worthy Saving Grace and Honest With Me, throw in a decent Floater and you have a show.
Atlantic City 9th May
After a run of good recordings this show is marred by a noisy audience talking through the songs. I mean Ė why bother going in the first place? Itís a pity because itís not a bad set list. The worst and best moments come one after the other. A very raggy Standing In The Doorway is immediately followed by a sublime Dignity. Oh yes, Moonlight is excellent too.
Solomans 11th May
Not much to say about this show. It is competent enough without being remarkable in any way.
Cary 13th May
Another noisy crowd, another unremarkable show Ė is Dylan running out of steam on this tour now?
Asheville 14th May
A dull sounding recording but never mind, he was not running out of steam! True enough, Baby Blue and Just Like A Woman ramble on somewhat but then there is a magnificent trio of songs which ignite this concert and it glows like magnesium flares. The songs, Every Grain Of Sand, Dignity and Blind Willie McTell are great songs anyway but here they have a new life and the first and third are brought to a new place by Dylanís prominent piano work. It really does make the songs.
Jackson 17th May
Another short show, with Dylan taking fewer risks. The standout track is undoubtedly Make You Feel My Love.
Little Rock 18th May
We finally reach the last show of the tour with this harsh sounding, shrill recording. It is a pretty decent show but there are no extras or concessions to the tour end so itís a fairly standard set list. Nothing too special upon which to alight.
Winter Park 12th July
Dylan has had a couple of months off the road and this is the start of the new tour. First thing to notice is that he has taken to playing piano on every song. This is good news since it allows the band the freedom to stretch out even further. The set list has changed a little as well. The show starts with a vocally rough Memphis Blues Again before moving into a lovely piano arrangement for My Back Pages. It has a sort of jingle jangle feel which works well even though the vocal is forced. Tweedle Dee stands out well. Later on, Dylan does a newly arranged piano-based It Ainít Me, Babe which is simply lovely. It is very relaxed and delicate.
Casper 13th July
Memphis Blues Again is retained as the opener and sounds better tonight. It is followed by a very good Iíll Remember You. Tonight Itís Alright Ma and Dignity are stone killers and it is most refreshing to hear the much-maligned Under The Red Sky.
Jackson 15th July
This show takes off with Things Have Changed. Following that there is a very well played Standing In The Doorway (iffy vocal), a superb High Water (fantastic guitar work), a very welcome I Believe In You (even if he canít hit the notes of yesteryear), the eerie, dramatic Cold Irons Bound and that newly arranged It Ainít Me, Babe.
West Valley City 17th July
A great sounding show which maintains the high-level start to this tour. The crowd really do get behind him at the end of a wonderful Iíll Remember You. Baby Blue, My Back Pages and Moonlight all make the right noises.
Kelseyville 25th July
A week has passed since the last reviewed show and things have settled down a little. The sound on this recording is dull and far too bassy so itís difficult to review. However, it was nice to hear decent versions of Make You Feel My Love and Most Likely..
Sunrise 29th July Dylan/Dead set
Pretty unremarkable three-song set which remains fairly disposable.
Atlanta 31st July Dylan/Dead set
This three-song set has the advantage of starting off with an infectious Big River which makes up for a somewhat predictable ending.
Joliet 2nd August Dylan/Dead set
Now this is much better. It starts out with the excellent Goiní Down The Road Feeliní Bad, gets lost a bit with a rather rambling Senor and picks up with the pretty hackneyed Around and Around which features a very prominent Dylan piano. Itís pretty good for all itís been done by everybody and his uncle a million times.
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