World Full Of Lies (Thinman-066/67)
First American Music Center, Antioch, Tennessee, September 9th 1999
Tracklisting: CD1: I Am the Man, Thomas/ Mr.Tambourine Man/ It´s Alright Ma (I´m Only Bleeding)/ It´s All Over Now, Baby Blue/ Tangled Up in Blue/ All Along the Watchtower/ Just Like a Woman/ Silvio/ Not Dark Yet
CD2: Highway 61 Revisited/ Like a Rolling Stone/ Blowin´in the Wind/ Not Fade Away/ BONUS TRACKS (with Paul Simon): The Boxer/ I Walk The Line/ The Wanderer/ Knockin´ On Heaven´s Door
1999 was a very good year in the history of Bob Dylan as a live performer. Only two years before, he had recaptured his long-lost crown as master songwriter and performer with the release of the moving “Time Out of Mind”, and by the end of that year and all through 1998 he presented that album live, seeming to gain a renewed sense of self-confidence in the process. His 1999 tour with Paul Simon was therefore, for all those who attended it, an extraordinary opportunity to see Dylan in a very relaxed mood, having nothing to prove to himself or to his audience, willing to enjoy himself on stage and to reidiscover and reinvent his back catalogue once more. Several reviews of these 1999 concerts clearly gave the advantage to Dylan over Simon, as an artist who was not afraid to experiment and rework his classics with passion and verve, while Paul Simon tended to rely much more on the same arrangements and setlist every night.
This beautiful Thinman release documents Dylan´s performance at Antioch, Tennessee, on the 9th September 1999, on an evening and a stage where he had just been preceded by Paul Simon. If there is something to be regretted in this release, it´s the fact that the inserts by Thinman do not specify the names of the band members or of the guest stars in the performance, besides Paul Simon. At this point Dylan´s band consisted of Charlie Sexton on guitar, Tony Garnier on bass, David Kemper on drums and virtuoso Larry Campbell on guitar, pedal steel and other instruments. The presence of Larry Campbell on any Dylan live recording is always a guarantee of precision and good taste both in the electric and acoustic numbers, and David Kemper was always a brilliant drummer for Dylan (though perhaps not as resourceful as George Receli is today), as this record proves once more.
But the most important bonus in this particular concert in Antioch was the presence of country singer and multi-instrumentalist Marty Stuart, who not only introduced Dylan to the audience, but played with him and with the band all through the evening. Marty Stuart is a very proficient country-and-roots musician who has had a very illustrious solo career (his surprising concept album “The Pilgrim” – much in the tradition of Willie Nelson´s “Red-Headed Stranger”- is particularly reccomended). Here his presence is very evident from the opening of the concert, where he joins Dylan in a version of the Stanley brothers´classsic “I Am the Man, Thomas”. A lady in the audience is heard right at the very beginning of the CD, as the musicians take the stage, saying “I like Marty Stuart!”; and she must have been overwhemed by what followed that night, because the integration of this artist into Dylan´s band and sound was certainly something to be remembered, as this double CD fully documents.
The second number for the night is a vintage classic, “Mr.Tambourine Man”, in what is truly one of the best live versions of this song that I have heard: it is played slowly, with Dylan letting the words fall serenely, controlling the tempo perfectly over the spiralling melodies played by Larry Campbell and Marty Stuart; the combination of Marty´s mandolin and Dylan´s harmonica in the final instrumental section of the song is a thing of beauty. Also remarkable is the version of “It´s All Over Now Baby Blue”: Dylan is in a relaxed mood here, phrasing his lines very calmly and stately, raising the intensity in the choruses to enhance the acerbic intention of the song; before and after the final verses come two delightful mandolin solos by Marty Stuart. The other gem of the acoustic section is a long version of “Tangled Up in Blue”, in an arrangement that evokes the original one from “Blood on the Tracks”, but with an added brilliance, thanks to the beautiful mandolin arrangement and its interplay with Bob´s harmonica towards the end.
An extraordinary level of precision has been reached throughout the acoustic set, and the electric part of the show, while being far looser, is far from being any kind of let-down. David Kemper pounds furiously on his drums and Charlie Sexton riffs energically all through a fiery version of “All Along the Watchtower”, and both of them also shine in a jaunty, extremely dynamic “Silvio”, where Dylan sings the choruses along with Marty Stuart. In between both numbers is an elegant version of “Just Like a Woman”, in an arrangement reminiscent of its original version in “Blonde on Blonde”. And then comes another of the clear highlights of the concert: a solemn version of the haunting “Nor Dark Yet”, the existentialist meditation from “Time Out of Mind”, sung with feeling and intention by Dylan (the title for the double CD comes indeed from a line in this song) over the soft, ethereal backing of his band, which here seems to reach for an atmosphere similar to that achieved in the studio version by producer Daniel Lanois.
The second CD opens with Dylan, obviously in a very good mood, introducing the band and Marty Stuart as well, and then letting them all rip through the raging glory of “Highway 61 Revisited”. The version of “Like a Rolling Stone” that follows is a master-stroke, with solid guitar accompaniments by Charlie Sexton and Larry Campbell, and with Dylan delivering the choruses with passion and rage, as if he had written the song only two weeks before. The audience is completely hysterical by this time (the screaming gets really loud in the space between songs), and the band responds to it in kind: the set closer is an acoustic, heartfelt version of “Blowin´in the Wind”, where Dylan shares vocals in the chorus with Marty Stuart, who once again culminates the piece with an extraordinary mandolin solo. The raucous rock and roll of “Not Fade Away” puts a fittingly energetic conclusion to the show; the last thing we hear from that night (before the bonus tracks) is the voice of a delighted Stuart presenting Bob Dylan to the audience one last time.
As a bonus for this double CD, Thinman have included the four numbers that Dylan and Paul Simon performed together that night (they usually played four songs together every night, all through the 1999 tour) as a transition between their respective shows; in fact, they were performed before Dylan´s concert, as Bob played the closing set on that particular night. The accompanists in these four pieces are Paul Simon´s large band, not Dylan´s smaller ensemble. The version of “The Boxer” included here is very much Simon´s traditional arrangement of the song, with the addition of a nice harmonica solo by Dylan at the end; it is followed by a brief medley of Americana with “I Walk the Line” and “The Wanderer”. But the clear highlight of this part of the set is, without a doubt, a solid reggae version of “Knockin´on Heaven´s door”, played with energy and elegance by Paul Simon´s band, and with both singers having their part of the spotlight (and, by the way, clearly sounding better as separate singers than when they join forces!). To Dylan´s connoisseurs, this will remind them strongly of the reggae version of the same song that Dylan used to play in his 1978 tour, more than twenty years before this particular concert.
The front cover of this CD is austerly elegant, and the liner photos (not from the Antioch show, but from different moments of the Dylan/Simon 1999 tour) are quite nice; it is a pity, though, that no photo of Dylan with Marty Stuart from the show presented here (if it exists) should have been included. This is a wonderful document of one of the very best concerts of the 1999 tour, and especially of Dylan´s capacity to draw other artists into his world and make them give the best of themselves on stage, as he does here with the great Marty Stuart.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)