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Bob Dylan – Zürich Modern Times (Tambourine Man Records TMR-128/129)

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Zürich Modern Times (Tambourine Man Records TMR-128/129)

Hallenstadion, Zürich, Switzerland – April 29th, 2007
Disc 1: Introduction, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, The Times They Are A-Changin’, Watching The River Flow, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Girl From The North Country, Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Visions Of Johanna, Things Have Changed, When The Deal Goes Down, Highway 61 Revisited

Disc 2: Spirit On The Water, Tangled Up In Blue, Nettie Moore, Summer Days, Blowin’ In The Wind, Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone. Bonus tracks, Palaolimpico Isozaki, Turin, Italy – April 26th, 2007: Boots Of Spanish Leather, My Back Pages, High Water

Zürich Modern Times contains the complete April 29th show at the Hallenstadion with three bonus tracks from Turin three days before. The Zürich tape contains the complete show from an excellent quality DAT recording. Another tape source also circulates of this concert that is louder and in some respects more clear than the tape TMR use, but what the label does use has great atmosphere and captures the ambience of the performance perfectly. It picks up in the introduction and when the band eschew the more popular opener “Cat’s In The Well” for “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum,” it is apparent that this show will be much more mellow than others on this tour.

“Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” is played for the fourth of only five times and the final time as the set opener. Instead of the band pounding out the rhythm, the emphasis is upon following the narrative of the two “Living in the Land of Nod / Trustin’ their fate to the Hands of God.” The second song, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” is played for the second of only two appearances in set lists in Europe in an arrangement that emphasizes the sing-song melody of the piece. “Watching The River Flow” is played at a majority of the stops and the band hit a nice groove as Dylan sings about his philosophical paradox. Dylan switches to electric keyboard for “Girl From The North Country” and plays it for the rest of the evening. “North Country” is played for the first time in almost a month, since the April 1 show in Göteborg.

The mood fits the tone of the concert perfectly and, as one review points out, is “a stunning, gorgeous, doom-laden, heart-breaking, nursery rhyme version…this was genuinely astonishing.” Freeman plays a beautiful solo over Herron’s steel guitar both before and after the harp solo. The Modern Times track “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” alleviates the gravity before another astonishing performance, this time of “Visions Of Johanna.” Another rare song for this tour, this is the third and final performance (after appearing the set in both Copenhagen and Amsterdam). It begins with Dylan on the harp and overall Zürich’s rendition is simply striking over the song’s nine minutes.

The vocal gymnastics of forty years ago are long gone, and the youthful voice of wonder and frustration is replaced by the haggard voice weary of life’s broken promises. “When The Deal Goes Down” is the second song played from the new album and the crowd are hushed as they follow the lyrics. They cheer loudly when he sings, “And I picked up a rose / and I poked through my clothes.” “Highway 61 Revisited” has been a regular in the set list for the past decade and is one of the most often played songs. It sounds like they are on automatic pilot here, but everything picks up with the opening strains of “Tangled Up In Blue.” Many in the audience recognize the melody played on the acoustic and harp, but there is much more applause when he sings “Early one morning the sun was shining…”

The band play this song in only about a third of the shows on this tour and on this night play the same arrangement as in Scandinavia, with the power chords used to punctuate the end of each verse. There is more applause with the opening notes of “Nettie Moore” and the audience again follows along attentively. “Summer Days” follows, but is not the closer of the set. That is “Blowin’ In The Wind.” It is played in an unusual arrangement as a heavy rock number and the audience sound bewildered by it. Only two encores are played, “Thunder On The Mountain” and “Like A Rolling Stone” with “All Along The Watchtower” given a rest. The three bonus tracks come from the Turin show three nights before Zürich. It also is an excellent and clear audience recording with a deep echo surrounding the music. TMR choose three rarities performed that night.

“Boots Of Spanish Leather” is given only two outings with Brussels being the other set. The band plays this “restless, forlorn ballad for the ages and sages” with a dream like, surreal quality. “My Back Pages” is played four times and this is its second airing on the tour. “High Water (For Charley Patton)” appears in five concerts and has been quite scare for the past couple years. The loud banjo of past versions is minimized and is barely audible in favor of Freeman’s loud electric guitar. Zürich Modern Times is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with the same high quality inserts used with the other releases in this batch. Some may question TMR’s decision to not use the more clear Zürich tape, but since the dynamics of the tape they do use are very good it is easy to see why they choose it. Plus the bonus tracks are interesting as well making this another quality release. (GS)

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If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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