All Roads Lead To Rome (Godfather Records GR 601/602)
Plazzo della Civiltà e del Lavoro, Rome, Italy – June 20th, 1989
Disk 1 : Intro / Most Likely You Go Your Way ( And I’ll Go Mine ) / You Don’t Know Me / Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again / Simple Twist Of Fate / I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight / All Along The Watchtower / Mama, You Been On My Mind / Girl From The North Country / The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll / I Shall Be Released / Ballad Of A Thin Man / Silvio / Like A Rolling Stone. ( 67:41 )
Disk 2 : Mr. Tambourine Man / Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door / Maggie’s Farm / To Ramona / It Ain’t Me Babe / Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright / Gates Of Eden / Lakes Of Pontchartrain / Boots Of Spanish Leather / Song To Woody / Forever Young. ( 60:07 )
Concert #87 of the N.E.T. finds us back in Italy. Dylan & his band – Comprising of a base 4 – Dylan himself, G.E. Smith, Tony Garnier & Christopher Parker take their prowess to town in Rome with a brassy & solid show. The support for these European shows was Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians who were having some success with a track called “What I Am” from their debut album “Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars”
The tape is another premier on silver disk for the Godfather following the releases of “How Sweet The Sound”, “Live At Hop Farm Music Festival” & “I Found my World In You” & again, it’s a tape of which the label can be proud. Both instrumentation & voice are clearly heard as are the audience but not to an extent that they become overpowering or too loud but are quite respectful to the show. That the show is from a striking era in Dylan’s reemergence certainly helps the desirability of the set. The following evenings show was released as a single CD in 2009 by Thinman as “Bound To Cross The Line” ( Thinman – 106 ) but here the Don have furnished disk two will a full accompaniment or suitable bonus tracks.
The show begins with an announcement in Italian pre Bohemians set as request that the audience do not use audio or visual recording equipment within the venue to which the audience take umbrage & begin to chastise the announcement. All very, very funny if you’re fluent in Italian ..
The show begins proper with a clattering, drum led “Most Likely You Go Your Way .. ” – A commonplace occurrence on this tour possibly intended to sound wild & bruising for a start to the show. It almost sounds like it could fall in to being a shambles at any point along the way. Amiably Dylan manages to keep pace & the band manage to keep it together beautifully right to the very end.
“You Don’t Know Me” covers the ‘surprise slot’ of the show – It was used a number of times by Dylan while on tour & 15 times this year alone. The Arnold & Walker cover
“Stuck Inside of Mobile .. ” takes on the same pace as “Most Likely .. ” a rampaging, crashing onslaught over the original. Guitars bruising against calamitous drumming while Dylan picks up the lyrics & roundly throws them against the wall like glass. There’s an energy here that is usually reserved for later on in to the concert but here it’s seemly due to bust out right from the traps & start pummeling the air as soon as possible.
“Simple Twist Of Fate” is slightly less intense although without the bullish pace to back it up it’s still upbeat & fond. G.E. Smith employs the sound of a traditional Italian guitar in the intro – a loving remark to the country that plays their host. Dylan springs out a expertly strummed solo in the middle. One that jollily pinpoints the turn in mood that the song has under taken since it’s 70’s premier. In the second break a sprightly harp is blown Dylan’s ‘alone again or’ blues are hinted at but the mood is hardly somber.
With “All Along the Watchtower” Dylan signals the end of this portion of the electric set. The Hendrix version as picked up soon after Jimi’s death remains almost unchanged – Slight differences in chords are suitably noticeable & G.E. Smith throws in a perfectly forceable solo that whirlwinds around in suitable homage to the guitar king. The coda folds down to a interestingly breezy slump.
“Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind” brings in the acoustic portion of the set. A technically wise & jostling version of the track greets the fans with the addition, yet again, of a brief but sprightly warm harp solo. While the venue may not be fireside intimate ( Or in Dylan’s case – From the Gaslight ) then the songs are cosy enough to benefit from a closeness that could bring Dylan right in to the middle of the crowd & to communicate straight to them without the need for extra bustle.
“Girl From The North Country” receives a bigger reception from the crowd though – As soon as the lyrics begin they’re pounced upon & song by parts of the crowd with gusto & so, positivity noted, the song is given a suitably dedicated push while the delicate picking of the guitars is even more gracefully played, Dylan’s harmonica brings a little more emphasis to the round.
Back to electric “I Shall Be Released” is burnished with an up to date, minimalist rendering. The optimistic & beatific stance remains. A new solo is included that sounds almost Guns & Roses – esque – It’s obvious that Dylan’s not thinking ‘greatest hits collection’ but giving the crowd another reason to re-think the catalogue as he brings it to the fore.
When we return to a standard set in stone – “Ballad Of A Thin Man” – the energy is still palpable. Crashing, crisp guitar licks stride alongside thundering drum fills while Dylan jumps upon his pulpit & points the finger towards Mr. Jones for his negligence.
The electricity of a Bob Dylan concert is still crackling around the audiences ears for a grandiose “Like A Rolling Stone”. After a thrilling set on stage Dylan wraps up the main with an excitable, trundling version of his first real hit. Both Dylan & G.E. Smith pull out the stops, throwing their weight behind the restless force.
From the encores, a triumphal “Knockin’ On Heavens Door” sees Dylan wordlessly reaching out to the gathered by sheer excitement along. It’s understood that the participation will be high for this song but one wouldn’t expect Dylan to sound so excited to be there – It’s all in the happy phrasing & whooping by Dylan (!) who sounds lost within the whole scene – Normally studied & slightly distant he really feels the power tonight which brings the band & the crowd closer together that either could expect to imagine. Lasting a joyous 6 minutes if there’s a highlight to be taken from this set & one to recommend it by then it’s this one.
“Maggie’s Farm” brings us up to the end. A regular if surprising end to the set this tour. It’s inclusion feels like a gifted addendum to the show – One might suspect that after the big hit that the band would exit the stage but obviously fueled by the odd curveball & chance to pique the audiences interest that’s what Bobby’s decided to do. The track is a real funky hoe-down bolstered by by G.E.’s hysteric, wild guitar finale & Christopher Parker’s four to the floor beat. A jubilant finale.
The specially chosen bonus tracks include a spacious “To Ramona” from Dublin, Ireland on June the 4th – Acoustic Dylan alone with G.E. Smith providing subtle, electric back up to push it all along then Dylan alone on “It Ain’t Me Babe” with a spectacular crowd sing along to push up an already intense performance.
“Gates Of Eden” from Frejus, France is less menacing than it’s CV but the lyrics are clear enough for even the hardest worked ears. A wobbly solo towards the end breaks the spell a little but glorious versions of “Lakes Of Pontchartrain” & “Boots of Spanish Leather” make this, slightly noisier, audience recording redeem their place on this set.
Finally 2 songs from consecutive nights round it all up. “Song To Woody” from Madrid, Spain on June 15th. A lesser heard tribute to Bobby’s spiritual guide thrown out just the once on this part of the tour & captured very well while a heartfelt “Forever Young” isn’t the clearest recording to this volume but is a passionate & responsive enough rendition of the ‘Planet Waves’ song.
The tri-fold set is the usual Godfather standard – Pictured using a rough aesthetic that’s scratchy but clear enough to read. A suitable set of Dylan on stage photos from different locations of that era & a full sided write up of 1989 & the contents of the set by the Ranachan Rocker.
It’s usually down to the Japanese labels to put out lesser known audience tapes from the later period of Dylan’s career but the Godfather has come up again with another wonderful tape from a startling period on the next transition of Bob.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)