Kalamazoo 2008 (Lookback Records LBR 025/026)
Wings Stadium, Kalamazoo, MI – November 8th, 2008
Disc 1 01. Intro 02. Maggie’s Farm 03. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 04. It‘s All Over Now Baby Blue 05. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum 06. Make You Feel My Love 07. The Levee’s Gonna Break 08. Ballad Of Hollis Brown 09 Things Have Changed 10. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll 11. It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding 12. Workingman’s Blues #2 13. Highway 61 Revisited
Disc 2 01. Ain’t Talkin’ 02. Thunder On The Mountain 03. Ballad Of A Thin Man 04. Band Introduction 05. All Along The Watchtower
The Bob Dylan release from LookBack Records entitled, KALAMAZOO 2008 documents what I would consider to be Dylan’s personal celebration of eight horrible years under the reign of George W. Bush finally coming to an end. This fine sounding audience recording is an emotional rollercoster in terms of the setlist. The show starts out with a very dignified and well deserving introduction of Bob Dylan that includes a brief synopsis of his career……the announcer, half sounding like a professional boxing announcer paired with a commercial voice-over gets things rolling……and when Dylan does start rolling into his first set, he and his super tight band rip right into “Maggie’s Farm” & “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35″. Right off the bat the listener is handed (2) show opening tunes. …..Dylan sounds like a weight has been lifted off of his shoulders and he is ready to boogie!
Once Mr. Dylan & company hammered through the (2) openers…….he sweetly summons the ghost of Jerry G. & the boys’ rendition of “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”. The bubbly vibe of track #4 summons memories of twirling girls in tie-dye skirts after a few pulls from a variety of party favors. It is such a treat to hear Mr. Dylan working the harmonica on this tune. Taking into consideration that Mr. Dylan is getting up there in years, It was a pleasant surprise to hear how well he can still play the instrument.
The next track, “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” is a present day version of a 1950’s wang dang rocker. I have heard several people say that Dylan’s release of LOVE AND THEFT in 2001 was his attempt to recapture the energy that appeared on his 1976 masterpiece, DESIRE……and from the albums famous tour that included the Rolling Thunder Review. I think Mr. Dylan plays this song live because it is a boot scooter and it gives the guitar players a chance to toss out some licks that really get the crowd going. This performance in Michigan is all about that…..getting the crowd moving down the tracks…..rolling down the hill of boogie tunes & chilling out to smooth, bubbly grooves and then looking back in retrospect at the images Mr. Dylan evokes on tracks like “Make You Feel My Love” & “The Levee’s Gonna Break”.
The moment the listener manages to pull themselves together after shaking their tail feather to “The Levee’s Gonna Break”, Mr. Dylan turns a sharp corner to reveal a tune from his 1964 album, THE TIMES ARE A-CHANGIN’, a starkly emotional tune about poverty, starvation, desperation and impossible choices……the country western version of “Ballad Of Hollis Brown” is chillingly impressive and balances out the spectrum of colors illuminating from this fine show. The segway from a poor farmer starving on a South Dakota farm back in the 40’s to the troubled modern man described in, “Things Have Changed” is perfect! The listener experiences a perfect song transition between (2) songs describing a troubled man trying to get away from himself.
The next (2) tracks seem to be directed to the election of our country’s new president and waiving goodbye to the ideals of the Bush family….and to the ideals that have plagued this country for far to long. Those issues being war and racism. “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll” engages the listener and Mr. Dylan seems to be asking the audience to understand that we have delivered ourselves from a time period when travesties such as what happens in,”The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll” are no longer happening and any American man or women can in fact become the next President of the United States. Mr. Dylan’s version of “It’s All Right Ma, I’m Only Bleeding” is a brand new arrangement that seems to be the centerpiece of this set. Dylan’s arrangement confirms that he and his band spent a lot of time on this tune and wanted it to be just right for this tour. Nearly 8:00 minutes in length, this 1965 war theme tune from his, BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME album has a new rock-n-roll ‘esque armor. It really appears that Dylan wanted to make a hard-hitting war statement with this tune.
The ending track on disc 1 is, “Highway 61 Revisited” and it is kickin’ like a chicken! Picture a John Lee Hooker / Canned Heat boogie holding hands with Norman Greenbaum grooving to a pounding back beat with sprinkles of raspy, cut-throat Dylan lyrics and you have a good enough tune to complete a fine set of tunes that sent the listener up and down and round again.
Disc 2 starts out with “Ain’t Talkin'” and I think this chilled out tune was strategically placed in the set list so that Mr. Dylan could catch his second wind, and also for the audience to have some time to gather themselves before the heavy hitting show closers came up. The heavy hitting certainly came fast with the next tune “Thunder On The Mountain” coming down from the stage above. This tune starts out with a thunderous snare drum punch and then launches into a pounding Texas boogie that has the thickest bass walk this side of the Mason-Dixon line. Overall, the band really sounds like they are wide open and simply having fun!
Mr. Dylan and company once again reached into their bag of tricks and pulled a rare number, “Ballad Of A Thin Man”. I think it is impossible to ignore that this song is blatantly directed at George W. Bush and his republican ideals slowing slipping away….much like a guest that realizes that they are no longer welcome at the party. Mr. Dylan’s vocals are so strong and the emphasis he places at the end of each line is so strong that it can felt in Washington DC! A fantastic number! So fantastic that the audience goes on applauding for about 3:45……and just when the started dying down, Mr. Dylan and company hit the listener with a Temptations ‘esque version of “Like A Rolling Stone”. Just to hear the B-3 organ hanging on Dyan’s unique phrasing is worth every penny forked out to see this gig and what a joyous gig it has been. The guitar licks towards the end of this number are full of Motown swirls and side-steps……one of the best tunes of the night!
The listener can feel the show reaching it’s end and this becomes very apparent when Mr. Dylan takes a minute to introduce his entire band. The crowd is very pleased with all of the sounds & sights they were handed that evening and Mr. Dylan and his band toss out the show closer, “All Along The Watchtower” in a fashion that combines Jimi Hendrix’s version & the unique phrasing Mr. Dylan has incorporated into songs he has played for over thirty years. I am very pleased with the quality of this show and anyone who is a Dylan collector would be foolish not to add this one to their collection! LookBack Records have all of the titles correct, but I would consider the overall package design to be simply average. It looks like shots were taken off of Google or Flickr and then some basic type design was thrown on top. Most collectors don’t worry too much about the package design, so with that being said….those who do might be slightly disappointed.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)