Bob Dylan – Cold Tokyo Bound (Stringman Records SR 103 – 104)

Cold Tokyo Bound (Stringman Records SR 103 – 104)

Tokyo, Japan, International Forum Hall A – March 4, 2001

CD 1 : Duncan & Brady / Song To Woody / Desolation Row / Absolutely Sweet Marie / Can’t Wait / Seeing The Real You At Last / Visions of Johanna / John Brown / Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright ( 65:49 )

CD 2 : Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again / Cold Irons Bound / Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat / Love Sick / Like A Rolling Stone / If Dogs Run Free / All Along The Watchtower / Forever Young / Highway 61 Revisited / Blowin’ In The Wind ( 62:42 )

Recorded on the second night of Dylan’s shows at Tokyo’s International Forum this release continues the form of the previous sources – a excellent, pin sharp & detailed audience recording of the show abet a little 

Tonight Dylan slips in another 10 different songs to the night before, this was, of course, the era in when Dylan effectively rolled them out one by one, skipping through songs like he was stood on stage leafing through his extensive songbook ( Which he pretty much was, although these songs were rehearsed rather than being wheeled out from the archives of his mind. )

The show starts with the now standard opener thus far, “Duncan & Brady” but to follow that Dylan & his band strike up his tribute to singer / songwriter Woody Guthrie. A gentle wave that appears from nowhere & has the audience rapt – they’re keen enough to recognize the first few words too – the songs younger brother, “Desolation Row”, appears just a few seconds later & wordlessly enters the room only to set about slowly building up the tension in the room. 

Another 5 new to the tour tracks appear next – “Absolutely Sweet Marie” starts us off, clattering in to the arena & giving us the first electric rendition of the night. “Can’t Wait” follows. Slowly, sulkily & searingly brutal – this is the power that it has live and it is awesome. “Seeing The Real You At Last” is pulled apart & put together haphazardly. Verses & choruses are thrown to the wall & even the soloing lead guitar sounds like it should be somewhere else but, surprisingly, it just fits right in with the angry lyrics. “Visions of Johanna” ceased to be the lonely, monochromatic solitude it once was years ago & is now fondly remembered dressed in warm colours. This gorgeous country styled rendition, while Dylan’s phrasing is almost unrecognizable, steps along at a romantic pace & allows you to get lost in it all. it also heralds the first of Dylan’s harp solos tonight. “John Brown” is a similar beast – you wouldn’t recognize it until it hits you. Stripped of its evil warnings, it is more of an American hill-side tale than folkie’s rant but at this time there were no wars of note being fought. These were early days .. 

Unfortunately the rot starts to set in around the beginning of “Don’t Think Twice .. ” up until the encores as the bands playing seems to slip a notch and most of the songs within seem to lose their luster & become less than workman than ‘Woah, man!’ & elements of the songs start to become sloppy. Take for instance the second disk; It begins with a wonky “Stuck Inside of Mobile .. ” and a much improved ( over the previous song), bare bones but nearly heavy metal “Cold Irons Bound”. “Leopard-Skin .. ” sounds like the band have been to the bar & back as the seams become unstuck & the song begins to sound shaky. 

After a break for the band to leave & then come back “Love Sick” sounds a little more like they’ve pulled up their socks & are paying attention again. “If Dogs Run Free” takes its stance again & attracts it’s fair share of attention at the crowd relax at last. “All Along The Watchtower” is a strange thing. Amongst the instrumentation, there is a guitar line that sounds almost like the vocalization of a Geisha girl. If this is another nod to the East & their hospitality it’s a good one. If this was just testing a chord it has a nice familial ring to it & is a happy mistake. 

“Highway 61 Revisited” features some of the most enthusiastic singing by Dylan all night – He drags out the ‘Sixties’ in the title & ends of certain lines & sounds looser & looser as the song progresses. The band pull out all the stops by this time to really cement an impression on the night too. 

The set closes on a dreamy “Blowin’ In The Wind” which again has Dylan pulling out the stops while he sings his lines up and obviously wants to make amends for the earlier confusion. 

This is not quite the show played from the evenings previous & should be judged accordingly but while the quality drops towards the middle the songs that follow make up for it all. 

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