Bob Dylan – 20Ten20Eleven (Rattle Snake RS 249)

20Ten20Eleven (Rattle Snake RS 249)

Ahoy, Rotterdam, Netherlands – October 20th, 2011

(87:06):   Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, It Ain’t Me Babe, Things Have Changed, Mississippi, The Levee’s Gonna Break, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, High Water (For Charley Patton), Blind Willie McTell, Highway 61 Revisited, Workingman’s Blues #2, Thunder On The Mountain, Ballad Of A Thin Man, All Along The Watchtower, Like A Rolling Stone [ 87:00 ]

The Hague Online advertised this appearance almost three weeks before the event, asking emphatically: “Are you a younger Dylan fan who has dreamt of seeing him live? Or are you tickled by nostalgia at the sound of his raspy voice; reminded of your youth when this singer, dubbed the Voice of Protest and the Voice of a Generation, bravely stated his controversial political views in his songs? Or are you curious to find out who he is? This is your chance to see the 71-year old legend perform!”

And follows with one of the more unique descriptions of Dylan in print.  “Characterized by his harmonica, curly hair and lyrical song texts, Dylan has been known to bring poetry into popular music. His symbolic texts combined with a very unique voice and that Jewish charm will leave you very much affected!”

Bob Dylan added songs 40 and 41 to his autumn song list earlier tonight in Rotterdam, debuting “Mississippi” (a fan favorite from the summer) and “Workingman’s Blues #2” during his 14-song set.

As exclusively predicted here, sort of, Bob Dylan broke from his routine to play “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” instead of the expected “Desolation Row.” “Hard Rain” was also performed earlier in the set than usual, this time as the sixth song. “Blind Willie McTell” returned to the set for the fourth time this tour, taking up slot number eight.

Also returning after Antwerp was the first “The Levee’s Gonna Break” since the opener in Dublin, the second “It Ain’t Me, Babe” of the tour, and “Things Have Changed.”

The Rattlesnake announced prior to release that we would be getting an excellent sounding audience tape from this venue and they’re not wrong – It’s a fantastic sound that would rival the ‘Snakes closest competitors for warmth and closeness – there’s a little audience chatter between songs but it’s nothing that shades the music.

The label have also taken the liberty of utilising the space of the CD the best they can by using the technology available to them and stretching the timing to an almost unthinkable 87 minutes – this is a novelty that was first introduced on the label’s Rolling Stones release “Training Wheels” turning 2 short CDs or around 40 mins or so in length and, rather than raking in the cash, squeezing the 2 on to a singular disk. without losing any of the material. It’s a great coup for them and also offers great value to the consumer the only thing that you might notice is that some of the breaks between tracks seem to be clipped slightly though this is a minor scrape at best.

We start tonight’s show with “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” – the tours standard opener and a familiarity to those kids who’d heard the official document from the 1966 tour – There we were exposed to the glorious sound of the young upstart, ex – folky Dylan, plugging in and rebooting his career in to something that would both shock the old fraternity to their boots but herald in the new phrase Bob Dylan, then today, well, today is different, Not quite the shock awe of the past but still a great kick in the seat of your pants from the song that that usually stands to warm up Dylan and his band.

“Things Have Changed” is the much vaunted, changed around version. A hop, skip, jump closer to the real americana that Dylan favours nowadays.

Next up, the mostly anticipated, if almost unrecognisable, “Mississippi”. This one seems not to have sparked with the fans and rather than having the audience flourish in appreciation catches them talking amongst themselves instead.

A much stronger reception for “The Levees Gonna Break” but for most, a rockier, less contented Dylan seems to suit and as it fits the theme of ‘what can I do’ as much as “Leopard-Skin .. ” Bob throws in one of this years favored, atonal, pronged-stabs-at-the-keys solos. Everyone’s happy.

One of this shows choices for this reviewer would be “High Water ( For Charley Patton )” as usual a brooding, heavy rumination on life. Dylan’s phrasing is menacing and forbidding – listeners contemplating his words would be correct in heading these warnings and running towards the hills. The harp solos are eerily close to early warning sirens.

Another much awaited song is the following version of “Blind Willie McTell”. This reinvention was sparse but strong, Dylan’s proto-raps skip along with the music as if he runs to a point with each line – starting either at the beginning and building or jumping from the start as if to shock. He also pronounces the line ‘Bootlegged whiskey in his hand’ with the emphasis on the first word as if a subtle nod to our taper.

This version of “Thunder On The Mountain” is subdued in comparison to previous outings, the brief soloing no more than a few licks aside, it’s a good rendition but nothing that really quite takes off.

A supine version of “Ballad Of A Thin Man” is furnished by an echoing effect on Dylan’s voice for the later verses where the final word to each line skips a beat only to hang in the air like a ghost, pointedly holding Dylan’s lines aloft and apart. The harp playing is both just as tortured and as deep cutting as his words and leaves the air heavy with expectation.

For the final sprint, a ringing version of “All Along The Watchtower” sounds like Bob himself playing God. He could be stood astride the rafters, shrouded in robes, hand on bible, the other hand a pointed finger, struck towards the ceiling.

After a brisk introduction for the band ( Is there any other these days? ) we’re sent in to the night with a grand version of “Like A Rolling Stone”.

While this release was a very good attempt at keeping up with the (Mr.) Jones’ then there was something about Dylan’s performances last year that made collecting him in 2011 a little of a tough challenge. The legendary Rattlesnake packaging is there – a glossy 8 page booklet, expressive and through notes written, once again, by the Gentleman’s Club of Spalding Treasurer and a sharp, clear picture disk, while the recording is very, very good, even for Rattlesnake’s standards and the jewel in their crown was always going to be the “Nashville Sessions” then this disk still hovers a shade above “If you were there” but slightly below “Must have” this time round. It’s not the fault of the label but more of the performer and his band. Lets hope the man returns with some stronger shows in 2012.

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