British Columbia ’08 (Godfather Records GR342/343)
Save On Foods Memorial Centre, Victoria, BC, Canada – October 23rd, 2008
Disc 1 (75:11): Intro., Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, Man In The Long Black Coat, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Girl Of The North Country, High Water (For Charley Patton), Chimes Of Freedom, Till I Fell In Love With You, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Honest With Me, Just Like A Woman, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
Disc 2 (78:31): Beyond The Horizon, Highway 61 Revisited, Ain’t Talkin’, Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower. Bonus tracks: General Motors Place, Vancouver, BC, Canada – October 24th, 2008: The Times They Are A-Changin’, Tangled Up In Blue, Summer Days, Make You Feel My Love, Visions Of Johanna
British Columbia ’08on Godfather captures the first show of a short, twenty-one date tour of Canada (with the final two shows in Oneonta, New York and New York City). Dylan played before in Victoria on August 19th, 1990 and July 17th, 2008. The label uses an excellent quality, very natural sounding stereo audience recording of the entire gig which elicited a very negative review. Mike Devlin, writing for the Times Colonistin an article titled “An unrecognizable, risk-taking Bob Dylan has many fans heading for exits” observes:
“Official word is that 4,500 tickets were sold; at the conclusion of it, we’re guessing less than 4,000 were still in the building. And a good chunk of those who remained sat in stunned silence. Apparently, these folks haven’t checked-in on ol’ Bob for a while. If they had, they would have seen this coming….This Dylan fronts a very good bar-band who takes hits (such as Girl From the North Country) and renders them unrecognizable. And you either totally dig that, or you don’t….Never was the absence of such creativity more evident than on some of his bigger hits. His two-song encore of Like a Rolling Stone and All Along the Watchtower was big on energy, but light on passion.”
It is easy to dismiss his comments as one who demands exact replication in performance instead of experimentation and discovery, something at the heart of the Bob Dylan ethos. Dylan’s new songs and reinterpretations of his classics are demanding material which requires trust in the artist and absorption of the music. Since this is the first show of the tour there are some slow parts but nothing really drags down the show. The tape begins with the opening introduction before the opening “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35,” sounding more like a noise maker than an opening call to arms.
Devlin is correct in stating that the best numbers are those that emphasize the ensemble and “High Water (For Charley Patton)” is a definite stand out in the early part of the set. But this show is notable for a rare performance of “Chimes Of Freedom.” This song has been a rarity in the set, being played only a handful of time in the past couple years. There are some problems with the keyboard and he has to switch to guitar for only one song, “Just Like A Woman.”
The weight of the show rests on the second half of set with a brilliant, spine-tingling version of “Beyond The Horizon.” Dylan uses the image of the sea, such as in “Boots Of Spanish Leather,” “When My Ship Comes In,” “Caribbean Wind” and “Jokerman” to express the journey between what is and what is more real. Sung in a voice that suggests the artists’ desire to meet his muse, he alters some of the words singing “I’m touched with desire / What don’t I do? / I’ll set the town on fire (instead of I’ll throw the logs on the fire) / I’ll build my world around you” and later “if I die tomorrow / everything is hers… beyond the horizon.” Curiously, the signs of repentance and forgiveness in the studio version “My repentance is plain” and “Someone’s life has been spared” are omitted. It is another masterful performance of one of the best songs from Modern Times. Even “Ain’t Talkin’,” his musings on the mystic garden pale in comparison.
Godfather fill up the second disc with bonus material from the next night in Vancouver with no duplication of songs. The sound quality is just as clear and powerful as the Victoria show with slightly more emphasis on the bass. “Tangled Up In Blue” is played with the syncopated, walking rhythm on acoustic guitar with Recile giving emphasis off the beat. Dylan delivers the narrative in a quick rap. “Summer Days” on good nights is an infectious, high energy swing but in Vancouver sounds winded as if the energy were expended elsewhere in the set. An extraordinary seven minute version of “Visions Of Johanna” ends the set. British Columbia ’08 is packaged in a tri-fold cardboard gatefold sleeve with several tour photos on the artwork and is a superlative production from Dylan’s short tour of Canada.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)