Saturday, December 26, 2009

Top 10 Favourite Live Performances of the Decade
Pt. 2
Bob Dylan

with some reminisces culled from a book I wrote about these shows.

10) Mississippi 2001-11-10 Columbus OH
"this show is made by Mississippi."


09) Never Gonna Be The Same Again 2002-08-02 Worcester MA
"again, a lengthy break and the hall falls into silence as Bob chats with the band. a strange thing, the smaller the venue the more likely there will be ‘dead air’ during a show. you don’t seem to get that in the arena’s where there’s always background noise. until now we’ve had a decent, if hot, show, with no real indication we’re about to get one of the 5 most memorable moments in my Bob-story. Bob steps forward to the vocal mic as Charlie does a little noodle, boom – boom, counts Recile, as Larry’s pedal steel adds some melody. Bob plunks his way around the song as it takes form. ..,’now you’re here beside me baby, you’re a living dream’… pause… pause… pause… wow, there’s no telling what is happening now, the pause at the end of that couplet meets rapt silence in the hall. I’m thinking…Bob’s lost his place! the band was caught unawares! it’s the wrong song! George counts two… ‘every time you touch me baby, you make me want to scream’… plunk, plink, plunk, during the very pregnant pause. these starts and stops are breathtaking. for the first time in probably 20 years I had no idea where this could go, what was coming next. Bob was out on the edge, delivering the shortened lines and hanging in the empty, sparse musical fills between. couldn’t tell if it was about to fall apart and crash right in front of us. something was happening and I didn’t know what it was…right away. but we did catch on, and so did the audience. the song has only been performed rarely since its debut in 1986, the only outing for that year. it got 8 airings in ’95, 4 in ’96, 3 in ‘97, one in ’99…and now this new arrangement. for audience response, the version from Moncton a few nights later can’t be beat. by that time mp3’s were floating around the web and everyone, or those in the front rows, knew what was coming. on this night it was brand spanking new. unforgettable. even with the lyric flub in the second verse and some repeated verses later. the stop-start is excruciating…in a good way. it gets more and more intense with each break as the audience hoots and hollers become louder. after a bridge filled with some sweet pedal steel melodies and percussion work we’re back into the sparse noodles of the verse and Bob’s voice quavers as he sings …’you taught me how to love you baby, you taught me oh-o-o-o-h so-o-o weellllll/ I ain’t never gonna be the sa-a-a-a-a-me again’… Larry’s pedal steels gets to do a solo of the melody line that is left hanging on the cliff of …pause …pause …pause, broken by another pedal steel riff accompanied by Bob’s noodles. the whole band kicks in and it threatens to turn into a song as we ride a wave of emotion into another abyss of…pause …pause …pause and a lyric change in a repeated verse. …’I can’t go back to what was, sugar!’ … and closes with a nice little emphasis…’that I ain’t never, ahhhh-gonna be the same again’… two words: a – mazing! right up there with the opening of the ’75 Rolling Thunder show, the piano version of When He Returns in 1980, Idiot Wind from the rail in 1992 and a moment or two yet to come, with the most powerful memories of Bob on stage that I have retained."


08) Dignity 2004-11-13 Rochester NY
"a superb Dignity, a song he always treats well and, lucky for us, seems to have taken a shine too again. actually it’s beyond superb. Bob’s inflection is an animated as it ever was. whatever caught hold of him during LDB has carried on. we are not worthy but he’s not done. more vocal gymnastics then we get: “somebody showed me a picture and I just laughed…..ha ha...dignity’s never been photographed” wow. this marks the high point of the show. "


07) In the Summertime 2002-11-03 Kent OH
"get my third In the Summertime in a row. the song would be dropped from the rotation until I get the last ever in Philadelphia a couple weeks from now. "


06) TUIB Phoenix 2004-03-20 Toronto ON
"Tangled Up In Blue makes its second appearance on the tour. a new stripped down arrangement for the year, the song is driven by George’s cymbal work. it’s moving along nicely, not being dragged down by the complexity of the three guitar attack that tended to drown out the story in recent versions, primarily the 2002 versions. the song was fading fast after 52 performances in that year. in 2003, it had only 6 outings, of which I caught two. this is the third performance this year (there will be 8 in total) and it just explodes tonight. the crowd follows in time, a loud cheer going up at the first title line. after a few verses we get Freddy’s extended solo and then the verse with the altered lyrics.

now I enlisted the help of some poolers to get the lyrics right. here’s what they thought they heard:

dude’s rendition
“...stopped there in for a beer
a deep fork trottin' in the side of her face
I don't even drink beer here!
a deep throat job and the sun came down
she was just about the same
standin' there right beside my chair
I knooow your name!
she made a little suckle underneath my breath
she stu-died the caaaards
a lady wrote down in the hood of my face
I know you're miiiine
in blue
tangled up in blue”
close, but not quite.

this was VirgilCaine’s hearing:
“...stopped in for a beer
I been fools tired’f every side of her face,
(and) I don't even drink beer, here.
she grew tired when the sun came down,
she was just about to say,
she was standing there, right beside my chair,
I know your name.
she lit something underneath my drink...
she slipped me the ganga.
when we rolled down to hood by day,
I know your mine- in blue.
tangled up in blue”
they seemed to agree on the finish anyway.

Cece and I have turned our ears to the verse and this is the best we can come up with:
“...stopped in here for a beer
a deep hope shinin' in the side of her face
I don’t even drink beer, I hear
in no time when the sun came down
she was just about to say
she was standin’ there right beside my chair
I knoooooow your name
she giggled something underneath my breathe
she slipped me the Times
label down and the hood of my cape?
I know you’re mine in blue
tangled up in blue.”

not an easy task. took me 17 hours to write this book but 14 of them were spent listening to that verse."


05) To Ramona 2001-08-24 Las Vegas NV
"Larry’s mandolin intro during ‘To Ramona’ was also both a harbinger of good things to come and a reason this band is so easy on the ears. I love the little instruments. Bob’s in another world on this night’s version of a terrific song. he alternates between long extension on the rhyme words and short, almost clipped, staccato delivery of the transitional lines in the verses."


04) LDB 2004-11-13 Rochester NY
"the BEST EVER Lonesome Day Blues! the voice tricks are splendid. nice staccato effect, the song really rolls now, as well as rocks. and the most hilarious single word Bob sang all year...SEN -TI - MENT – AL. whatever he’s been working at with this song…he found it tonight in its definitive performance. he’s developed a mode of delivery I’ll call the “LDB lilt”. it’s not new; he’s used it sparingly over his whole career. I come across songs from the late 90’s where it’s evident. it’s all grown up now and in this song, it has found its home."


03) Hazel 2004-04-02 Washington DC
"a couple nondescript guitar noodles emanate from Freddy’s speakers as Larry takes a seat behind the pedal steel and strums a chord. I’m fearing Baby Blue, thinking it might be Lay Lady Lay if the descending chords rise again, when Bob leans forward into his mic and says... “Hazel...” I’m immediately transfixed. each word comes out crystal clear. Bob is telling the story and you know he feels no shame. even if he stumbles over the pronouns once. not even the pedal steel can distract me as Larry keeps it low behind George’s soft and steady rhythm. Freddy is staying away from the song as Bob works his way flawlessly through the verses. then, for my ears, the penultimate moment “Hazel...you called and I caaaaame, now don’t make me play this waiting game...a-you got something that I want pleeeeennnty of...aaaaooooowwwee, a little touch of your love....” I am all choked up and just in awe at this point. Freddy moves in with another subdued and melodic 30 second fill that leads into a sweet and short run on the pedal steel from Larry. next time through the above refrain Bob totally changes the attitude. where the first time he was full of loss and sorrow and longing, this time he’s more emphatic, almost asking for his due, not begging for it.... ‘you called and I CAME!, (I brought my best with me) now. don’t. make. me. play. this. wai-ting. game. (don’t make me come up there) you got something I want plenty of (and I’m here for it) ooohh, a little touch of your love (and it’s worth the trip) ....’ Bob’s harp solo begins at 4:01 and it’s beautifully inside the song until the PA feedback at 4:28. everyone in the band cringes. Bob shakes it off, doubles the tempo, and rides the harp run with George’s soft cymbals, right into the end of the song, body shaking."


02) Carrying A Torch 2002-11-09 Elmira NY
"more piano on a heartfelt rendition of Van Morrison’s Carrying A Torch. Bob is deep in introspection, resigned to his fate. Bob’s hands dance like butterfly’s over the keys. it’s a captivating performance of a rare tune, only 6 live outings."


01) Standing in the Doorway 2004-07-02 Stra Italy
"what comes next can never be anticipated and can come out of the most unforeseen circumstances. a light drum roll and gently swaying guitar riff, coupled with some subtle piano, invites us into a definitive live version of Standing in the Doorway. it turns early as Bob puts his heart into “nothing left to burn…nowhere left to turn…” flipping the order but no matter. in the midst of this rain, with all that can do to distract, he’s found a zone inside this song and the delivery is spine chillin’. his voice is strong, plaintive, almost crying like a baritone Johnny Ray. emotion builds in the bridge as Bob barks “you left me STANDING, ahhhhhh, in the doorway cryin’…” he takes on a sardonic tone in the next verse, pulling back, not telling us the things he knows, then he dives into the midnight train…no ice water here. it’s breathtaking and we get a musical interlude so we can catch ours. the fill grows to almost a crescendo as George ups the volume and all the instruments create a lush center to the song. but it ain’t done yet. he steps lightly through the first quatrain of the last verse the bites out “it always means so much…” cutting this line short and giving the room to “ even the so-o-o-o-o-o-o-oftest touch…” he needs to offer no explanation, or words, as his plaintive wail takes us into the final couplet. and done. 7:40 of prime Dylan."

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