Casino Royale (Mainstream MAST 079/080)
Grand Event Center, Grand Casino, Tunica, MS – April 27, 2003
Disc 1: Intro, Tweedle Dee And Tweedle Dum, Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You, Highway 61 Revisited, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, Things Have Changed, Lay Lady Lay, Drifter’s Escape, Just Like A Woman
Disc 2: Dignity, Saving Grace, Honest With Me, Bye And Bye, Watching The River Flow, band introduction, Summer Days, Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower
Casino Royale has a complete audience recording of Bob Dylan’s eighth show on the spring tour bringing him through the southern states (with a two night excursion to Atlantic City, New Jersey). The sound quality of this tape is very clear and detailed and is one of the better ones from this tour. Still playing off of “Love & Theft”the show starts off with the odd and pointless tale of “Tweedle Dee And Tweedle Dum.” “Tonight I’ll Be Staying With You” is the first of two songs off of Nashville Skyline in the set list. The early highlight is “Highway 61 Revisited.” Perhaps overplayed, but its inclusion in the set list is obvious since the Grand Casino in Tunica is actually located on Highway 61. The guitarists Freddie Koela and Larry Campbell do a nice jam in the middle, and the following song “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” contains a great bluegrass style solo by Campbell.
Dylan alternated between keyboard and harp and even playing them at the same time with one hand on the keys and the other holding the harmonica. “Things Have Changed” sounds much heavier and rocks faster than the studio version on the Wonder Boys soundtrack. He won the Academy Award for best music, original song and has the Oscar resting on his amplifier during performance. Dylan plays guitar on “Drifter’s Escape” and plays an interesting duet with Koela. “Saving Grace” from 1980’s Saved was resurrected for this tour, receiving fourteen performances. It is played as a slow country and western ballad and it seems Dylan reserved his best vocal performance of the evening for this one track and his voice add poignancy to lines such as: “By this time I’d-a thought I would be sleeping / In a pine box for all eternity. / My faith keeps me alive, but I still be weeping / For the saving grace that’s over me.” Recognizing this, the audience rewards it with much applause.
“Honest With Me” still sounds fresh and powerful. The volume comes close to distorting the tape at certain points during this track and is followed by another new song “Bye And Bye.” Koela again takes center stage during the muscular blues of “Watching The River Flow.” After Dylan introduces the band they play the swinging “Summer Days” with many in the audience dancing along. The encores are the expected “Like A Rolling Stone” and “All Along The Watchtower.” Casino Royale is a good release by the Mainstream label but, with the show clocking in at just under one hundred minutes, could have filled it up with bonus material. Mainstream released many Bob Dylan titles but never utilizes bonus tracks. The aesthetics of the artwork are nice and overall this is an excellent recording of a very good show from Dylan’s tour of the south that spring.