Clear Through Calgary (Tambourine Man Records TMR 158/159)
Pengroth Saddledome, Calgary, Alberta, Canada – October 27th, 2008
Disc 1 (70:03): Intro., Watching The River Flow, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Million Miles, Spirit On The Water, The Levee’s Gonna Break, My Back Pages, Summer Days, Tryin’ To Get To Heaven, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
Disc 2 (45:51): Just Like A Woman, Highway 61 Revisited, Nettie Moore, Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone / band intro, All Along The Watchtower
Bob Dylan’s tour in Canada in 2008 has been almost meticulously documented by TMR and Look Back Records. Clear Through Calgary is a two disc set with an excellent quality recording of the fourth show of the set at the Pengroth Saddledome in Calgary. The only negative about the actual recording is audience conversation between “Summer Days” and “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven” when some people by the taper have trouble finding their seats.
Calgary is one of the more laid back and fun shows in recent memory. The set is chosen to reflect a good mood and even the performance of the profundities are given a breezy delivery. Beginning with the hard blue of “Watching The River Flow,” the opening numbers are played at a brisk pace. “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” has a very delicate guitar solo courtesy of Denny Freeman. “Million Miles” is played for only the seventh time in 2008. Dylan sings it with a hint of ironic distance in his voice and after singing “I don’t tell them anything I do” throws in “ahhhh why should I?” as an aside.
“Spirit On The Water” lacks the gravitas of other performances and the Calgary audience don’t react when Dylan sings, “so you think I’m over the hill.” “My Back Pages” is played for the fifth of only six times all year and is followed by “Summer Days.” This song is a popular set closer (or at least played closer to the end of the show). It is a strange hearing it in the middle of the set. Dylan and the band give the song an arrangement closer to fifties rock and roll instead of forties swing. Like the rest of the show, they sound like they’re having a lot of fun. When he sings “My dogs are barking, there must be someone around” Dylan’s quip “I hope” is clearly audible off mic and he laughs during Freeman’s Bill Haley inspired guitar solo.
Some balance is restored to the set with the next two songs. “Trying To Get To Heaven” is played for the thirteenth of only fifteen times and the hopefulness in his voice is truly sublime. “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” follows and for the only time this night he moves from behind the keyboard and sings the song at the front of the stage without even the accompaniment of a guitar. Performing like this is Dylan’s way of making himself vulnerable to make an emphatic. The twists and turns of the strange tale are delivered with conviction largely absent from the first hour of the show.
The ending of the set sees him playing the meditative (“Just Like A Woman,” “Nettie Moore”) in juxtaposition with the stage thumpers (“Highway 61 Revisited” and the set closer “Thunder On The Mountain.”) The encores are the expected “Like A Rolling Stone” and “All Along The Watchtower.” This has been the normal encore arrangement for years and in Calgary, unlike in other stops, there is no third encore. Overall this is an effective show in a great audience recording. TMR use a far angle, atmospheric shot for the front cover to express the entire ensemble. The art design is clean and printed on glossy paper as all of their releases of late and is an excellent addition to the Canadian tour collection.