Bob Dylan – Bootleg Whiskey (Crystal Cat CC 1091 / 92)

Bob Dylan, ‘Bootleg Whisky’ (Crystal Cat CC 1091/92)

Disk one; Intro – Stu Kimball / Things Have Changed / Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright / Highway 61 Revisited / Simple Twist Of Fate / Duquesne Whistle / Melancholy Mood / Honest With Me / train’ To Get To Heaven / Come Rain Or Come Shine / Pay In Blood / Tangled Up In Blue / Early Roman Kings / Desolation Row / Love Sick

Disk two; Intro / Autumn Leaves / Thunder On The Mountain / Soon After Midnight / Long And Wasted Years / Blowin’ In The Wind / Ballad Of A Thin Man

Bonus tracks; It Ain’t Me Babe (22/3-18) / Summerdays (22/3-18) / Make You Feel My Love (22/3-18) / Spirit On The Water (22/3-18) / Why Try To change Me Now (22/3-18) / High Water (31/3-18) / Once Upon A Time (3/4-18) / Full Moon And Empty Arms (5/4-18)

Live at Seidensticker Halle, Bielefeld, Germany, April 21, 2018

The fact that Bob Dylan continued to tour upon his obsession of Sinatra covers was largely met with empty hearts (And folded arms) for some people, though in late 2017, Dylan began to shed the skin of the old and returned largely to his own songs. Relief poured from those that were shy of the tin-pan-alley tracks and were looking forward to now – changes to the setlist were slim, there were very few new  or rare returns from Dylan but at 76 years old, Bob is out touring some of his heroes and keeps building upon his legend in many different ways – As noted by this sets title, he brought news of his own whiskey – inspired by the American story that Dylan has made a staple of his songs, his art, his other writings, at this moment Dylan has seen the opening of his ‘Mondo Scripto’ exhibition – A collection of his lyrics, rewritten and re-written again, including many on the nose or oblique references that possibly only Dylan might see, alongside his ironworks, his Drawn Blank and Beaten Path paintings.

This concert, recorded by CC at the Seidensticker Halle in Bielefeld, Germany, shows 2018 Dylan on form – Starting to peel away the ‘standards’ skins (Five tracks in the 20 are for the Great American Songbook – The rest are from the greater one.)

Though the two reviews at Bob Links are poles apart in describing Dylan’s performance this evening, this is another beautiful sounding audience recording with just a soft flourish of audience participation – This is one of the best things about the inclusion of the Sinatra tracks – The fact that the audience were generally reverential towards them and so the quiet is perfect for capturing a great gig.

A standardised setlist for the time, we start with Stu Kimball’s soft, acoustic introduction, in to ‘Things Have Changed’, then a raggedy ‘Don’t Think Twice’ where Dylan’s voice actually seems to blossom win the second half – his piano playing a semi-tone behind everyone however.
‘Highway 61 Revisited’ – One of the standouts to any concert these days – shines. It is driven by the same juice as usual, that granite persistent beat, pretty peels of guitar and Dylan’s maddening piano extravagances have it rocket around the stage like a madman. To oppose it, ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’ brings down the tempo to a crawl. The changes to these oft’ spoken lyrics are more pronounced for it though that’s why most people here I suspect – Just to capture the moment that Bob flicks a new lyric out.

There is a long instrumental intro to ‘Melancholy Mood’, easily allowing Dylan to sweep across the stage to join the mics at the front. A debonaire French mood is draped around, the soft pad of a whiskey sipping night leans over to a thumping, brawlin’ and swillin’ ‘Honest With Me’. Bob delivers a rapid fire recitation of the lyrics while the music tugs and pulls around the stage. ‘Pay In Blood’, it’s soul brother doesn’t bother to compete, creeping along like a silent cat burglar to a waltz beat. Oddly jarring.

‘Tangled Up In Blue’ takes another turn by being as lilting and laidback as possible. This time, the change IS interesting and at least the words can easily be defined rather than ground in to the music like pepper.  Fan favorite, ‘Early Roman Kings’ beefs up the tempo a little, lunging with pointed finger and a piratical limp. It certainly has one audience member enthralled at the middle.

A long, ‘Desolation Row’ takes the same route as ‘Tangled ..’ Slow, easy and clear with a spoken / sung delivery. Dylan, despite singing this song for the best part of his life, still believes and you can hear the passion in his voice. Same as ‘Love Sick’ the late phase zinger that’s more desolate than ‘Desolation ..’ You can hear a hundred divorce writs being balled up and spat out in the audience, still for everyone that it doesn’t affect so closely, it still has an unnerving quality.

‘Thunder On The Mountain’, the track that refuses to budge, is here with a jiving, cod-bossa-nova quality. It almost sounds like Dylan and his band are trying to shove two songs in to the one spot. Quietly unerring, certainly captivating despite itself and then it throws itself in to a pique of madness by throwing in a rapid guitar solo before flapping around with a pattering drum excursion. Wild! I’m almost sure I’ve heard nothing like it and I can promise you you’ll get sucked in.

Finally, ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ has now become rooted in a soft country waltz. There’s doubt that Dylan will ever return to playing this track solo anymore, finding comfort in the sidelines of the stage, if you were to ease everybody in to the night, out of the venue however, theres no better a pleasing lilt to do it with. However, the set ends with a simmering ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’, obviously less relaxing than the former, this will have the hairs on the back of your neck prickling while your heartbeat rises. An odd way to send out your audience but as we’ve come to expect from Dylan, don’t expect. Just enjoy!

The bonus tracks once again take in a clutch of ‘Best-Of’s’ from the Cat’s captures from the same tour – No less than 8 tracks that were only played a few times from this leg – Each in a quality that’s around just as clear as the main attraction (‘High Water’ suffers from the muffles though) From the selection; ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ has a funky, polka feel to it’s beat, reforming the mood to something a little more carefree and optimistic. ‘Summer days’ goes full country and, with the typically jaunty fiddle backing, has the same skippy abandon as ‘It Ain’t Me ..’

‘Make You Feel My Love’ runs Adele’s version back out of town. Dylan at street level, dripping with rain, clutching the lapels of his coat closed. It is plaintive, longing and loving. A beautiful rendition.
‘High Rain’ is nearly unidentifiable from it’s rendition – Not that that’s a bad thing, it merely changes shape from it’s usual form to an entirely different beast. It is unfortunate though that the sound is not comparable with the main attraction.

Another fantastic capture by Crystal Cat. There’s something to be said against the IEM captures that come from other bands that CCs tapings feature just as much warmth in their execution. The sound quality near comparable. Along with the now standard cardboard packaging for their releases (A couple too many fuzzy images for me this time but then, trying to get a good shot quietly at a Dylan concert is near impossible these days unless you’re press – And that’s also a lot of equipment to take.)

From the lack of Dylan recordings being released from his current tour, this makes it more desirable than it would already be.

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