Bob Dylan – Dark Room Of His Mind (Tambourine Man Records TMR 189/190)

 Dark Room Of His Mind (Tambourine Man Records TMR 189/190)

Warfield Theater, San Francisco, CA – August 25th, 2010

Disc 1 (62:10):  Introduction, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power), Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues, Simple Twist Of Fate, Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Desolation Row, High Water (For Charley Patton), Man In The Long Black Coat, Most Likely You Go Your Own Way (And I Go Mine), My Wife’s Home Town

Disc 2 (47:22):  Highway 61 Revisited, Ain’t Talkin’, Thunder On The Mountain, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Jolene, Like A Rolling Stone

Bob Dylan made performed his first concert at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco 1995 on August 25th, 2010.  The show created a bit of controversy even before it started because it was scheduled only five days prior and tickets were sold only on the day of the show and payable with cash.  The plan was established to prevent large blocks of tickets being sold online at inflated prices and to circumvent additional processing fees. 

But it also insured the show was not a sell out.  Eyewitnesses estimate only about eighty percent of the  2,250 seat venue was filled.  Dark Room Of His Mind is an excellent sounding document of the show.  The recorder is very close to the stage and the small size of the venue almost ensures a clear recording.  The lower frequencies sometimes predominate, especially in the middle during “My Wife’s Home Town.” 

The Warfield Theater hold special significance in Dylan history because it is the venue where he started his “gospel” period in November, 1979.  The fourteen shows are legendary in rock history, not only for his complete change in direction and playing new songs, but also for the banishment of any older songs from the setlist.

Dylan makes no acknowledgements of this phase in his setlist, and almost duplicates the attitude of 1979 (or at least the Warfield shows in 1980 which were a healthy mix of his evangelical songs with older classics) with an emphasis upon newer songs. 

David Sason, in his blog North Bay Bohemian’s BohoBlog, points out:  “the ‘poet laureate of rock’ and his incredible band played a tight, focused 90-minute+ set that relied surprisingly much on latter-day gems, including the rarity ‘Man in the Long Black Coat’ from 1989’s Oh Mercy.  This setlist made Dylan’s usual gruff, garbled delivery less disconcerting. ‘Ain’t Talkin” was much more enjoyable than the preceding ‘Highway 61 Revisited.'”

The setlist shares a common trait with many with “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (including the Link Wray tribute in the middle) and ending with “Ballad Of A Thinman.”  Nine songs come from the sixties and seventies and seven from the eighties onward, so the split is more even than Sason suggests.  But the emphasis Dylan places on the newer song is refreshing.

“Simple Twist Of Fate” from Blood On The Tracks had more airings in 2010 than in previous years, finding its way into almost a third of the shows.  Dylan favors a very breezy arrangement and sings the lyrics clearly.

One of the highlights is “Man In The Long Black Coat.”  Only played five times during the year, the spooky, gothic arrangement of the studio recording is traded for a quicker, hard rock style which suggest willing compliance than brooding meditation.

“Most Likely You Go Your Own Way (And I Go Mine)” follows, averaging between ten and twenty performances per year.  Much like the preceding song, it is very slick and professional and is an energetic performance.  In the middle they play a very familiar tune.

Another highlight is a majestic arrangement of “Ain’t Talkin'” from Modern Times.  Sason is correct in saying this was easily better than “Highway 61 Revisited,” and is perhaps the best performance of the night.  Dylan’s vocals are again very clear as the audience hang on his words.  “Thunder On The Mountain” sounds limp afterwards, and the show ends with “Ballad Of A Thinman.”

Only two songs, “Jolene” and “Like A Rolling Stone” are performed (“All Along The Watchtower” being dropped), and Dylan introduces the band before the final song of the night.

Dark Room Of His Mind uses the concert poster, designed by artist Chuck Sperry.  Its graphics are attractive, utilizing many shades of orange and a portrait of Dylan c.1966.  Thinman continue to produce some of the very best Dylan releases from the NET and this one is definitely worth having. 

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