The Stockholm Box (Crystal Cat CC968-971)
Bob Dylan has played in Sweden ever since his first tour of Europe in April 1966 when he played the Konserthueset in Stockholm. The tours in 1978 and 1984 favored Gothenburg over Stockholm, but all of the others included a visit to the capital of Sweden at some point.
And since the NET visited Europe in spring 2002, Bob Dylan has favored Scandinavia as a starting point for his European tours which include the crazy shows in Stockholm in 2007.
The Stockholm Boxis the latest Dylan boxset on the excellent Crystal Cat label. Both shows in Stockholm are presented in excellent sound quality. And just like the shows in 2007, these two contain their fair share of rarities and surprises of songs either making their debuts or played again for a very long time.
Berns 2009 (Crystal Cat CC968/969)
Berns Salonger, Stockholm, Sweden – March 22nd, 2009
Disc 1 (74:26): Intro., Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine), Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power), I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Tryin’ To Get To Heaven, Things Have Changed, Watching The River Flow, Blind Willie McTell, I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met), I Believe In You, Honest With Me, Billy 4
Disc 2 (75:59): Summer Days, All Along The Watchtower, Cry A While, Like A Rolling Stone, Forever Young. Bonus tracks, Kinnarps Arena, Jönköping, Sweden – March 27th, 2009: Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Million Miles, This Wheel’s On Fire
The first show of the European tour, and the first show in 2009, took place at the 1,200 seat Berns Salonger. This is the first time he’s played this venue before. Ancient Footprints (Tambourine Man Records TMR 164/165) contains bonus tracks from this show from a great sounding tape, but Crystal Cat’s is from a different, much superior sounding tape.
In 2007, when Dylan started the tour in the Globen, he delivered and adventurous setlist but with many mistakes and an overall inferior performance. But this show begins with much more familiar tunes and the band sound tight and well rehearsed. Dylan’s voice also sounds very strong and versatile, some of his best vocals in a while.
An energetic “Most Likely You Go Your Own Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” starts the show, followed by an excellent performance of “Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power).”
At the concert’s half way point, things take an interesting turn. After a kicking “Watching The River Flow,” he followed with “Blind Willie McTell,” resonating with profundity. He plays a rare version of “I Believe In You” from Slow Train Coming in which he’s continuing to reintroduce songs from his “gospel” period into the repertoire. It is slow, stately, and one of the sublime highlights from the set.
But the real surprise follows “Honest With Me” when he pulls out “Billy 4″ from the Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid soundtrack. (The only song to ever be performed from that LP is of course “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.”) It takes some time before anyone recognizes the tune, and it sounds good for a song that has never been preformed before.
One of the reviews printed in the liner notes observes: “When you are a Dylan fan sometimes you get a question like this: ‘If you met Bob before a concert and he asked you what song do you want to hear tonight, what song is your choice?’ When I have been asked this, I have had the same answer for years: BILLY. I have never expected it to happen. Tonight he played it. Beautiful version, what more can I say. Tears running on a lot of faces, first time for me since 2003 in Hammersmith when he played Romance in Durango. Maybe a once in a lifetime experience. Who knows?”
The set closes surprisingly with “All Along The Watchtower,” a song that is normally the final encore. “Cry A While” makes a surprising apparance in the encores, as does “Forever Young.” No songs from the latest album Modern Times, and no previews from the soon-to-be released Together Through Life are performed.
Six songs from the show in Jönköping are included as a bonus. Thankfully there is no duplication with the Berns concert, and there are several interesting performances. “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” features a banjo / heavy metal guitar duet to fascinating results. A good version of “Million Miles” is included as well as a rare performance of “This Wheel’s On Fire.”
Globen 2009 (Crystal Cat CC970/971)
Globen, Stockholm, Sweden – March 23rd, 2009
Disc 1 (76:51): Intro., Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, Lay Lady Lay, Tangled Up In Blue, Chimes Of Freedom, High Water (For Charley Patton), Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Love Sick, Desolation Row, Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Make You Feel My Love, Highway 61 Revisited, One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below)
Disc 2 (75:46): Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower, Spirit On The Water, Blowin’ In The Wind. Bonus tracks, Malmö Arena, Malmö, Sweden – March 28th, 2009: Maggie’s Farm, The Man In Me, When The Deal Goes Down, Ballad Of Hollis Brown, Just Like A Woman, Beyond The Horizon, The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Caroll
The show in Globen the following night is captured in another sterling stereo audience recording. Although it doesn’t contain any off-the-wall selections like “Billy 4,” one can argue this is the better of the two. For one, except for “All Along The Watchtower” and “Like A Rolling Stone,” the setlist is completely different including more newer songs from Modern Times.
But also Dylan’s singing is perhaps the best in many years. Rather than the ancient growl that has been so common, tonight there is an elasticity in his voice which recalls his younger days. The effect suggests Dylan as the young savant instead of the grizzled, old wise man. This gives an different dimension to latter day songs such as “High Water (For Charley Patton)” and “Love Sick.”
Particulary interesting is the addition of “One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below).” This hasn’t really been a regular part of the set for many years and is given a lush country/western arrangement. “Like A Rolling Stone” closes the show and a “Blowin’ In The Wind” makes an appearance as the final encore.
The lengthy reviews of the show which Crystal Cat include in the liner notes claim that: “Great singing all the way through. I can’t remember last time I heard him singing as good. 3. Many highlights, and 3 of them just magic: A perfect performed Chimes of freedom. I really felt it in my spine. Love sick, performed center stage mixing up his vocal and harmonica playing in a way I never heard before. Brilliant! One more cup of coffee, with acoustic guitar center stage. Bluuues! I think I have to add Desolation Row too. Nine word perfect verses and the staccato singing at the last three verses even sounded right.” (Steinar Daler)
The other review printed by Crystal Cat observes: “Dylan had the good taste to start the 2009 tour in Stockholm….And what about this specific Globe show? The arena is first of all better out for ice-hockey as the sound waves tend to swirl around like free swallows inside this spherical dome. Echo effects of that kind are actually not at all qualifying for a concert venue. Secondly, the show went on other qualifications – state of mind, poetic splendor and musical thrill. So much heartfeld music. Dylan doing all well-known stuff in an expected less well-known way.
“A tremendous version of Chimes of Freedom, Love Sick and Like a Rolling Stone, to mention some real highlights. Rock, blues and ballads – maybe a swinging calypso sound when Desolation Row was waving free before a disciplined harmonica closure. And there a glimpse of the roots. No matter what new versions in the air, you feel the roots. And Desolation Row was on the set list also April -66…. Dylan did phrasing some songs – like Desolation Row – in a staccato rythmic way I never heard before. … One More Cup Of Coffee was more of a warm caretaker with roots down south. Does the new cd, released next month, arrive from north or east. Not a hint in concert yet. When finally Blowin´ In The Wind tuned out in a 2009 version probably nobody ever heard anything like that. Things have changed once more. No surprise. Dylan – now a citizen of Obamaland.” (Anders Tidström)
Several bonus tracks from the show in Malmö are included.
Crystal Cat have released many sterling Bob Dylan boxsets over the past couple of years including The Brixton Box 2005 (CC 787-796) with the five London shows in 2005 and The Amsterdam Box (CC 922-927) with the three shows in Amsterdam in 2009. The two shows are contained in slim double jewel cases with thick artwork and copious liner notes and photographs from the shows.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)