Bob Dylan – Driven From The Mission Grounds (Tambourine Man Records TMR 156/157)

Driven From The Mission Grounds (Tambourine Man Records TMR 156/157)

Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara CA – September 7, 2008

Disc 1 (61:09):  Cat’s In The Well, The Times They Are A-Changin’, The Levee’s Gonna Break, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, Million Miles, Desolation Row, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Honest With Me, I Believe In You

Disc 2 (53:24):  It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), When The Deal Goes Down, Highway 61 Revisited, Ain’t Talkin’, Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone, Blowin’ In The Wind

Tambourine Man Records have been focusing their latest releases upon the four final shows in southern California at the end of the summer tour.  These are called the “homecoming” shows since they occur close to his home in Malibu and are the September 3rd Santa Monica show on Laughter Down On Third Street (Tambourine Man Records TMR 152/153) and the September 6th show in San Diego on Heed These Modern Times (Tambourine Man Records TMR 154/155).  Driven From The Mission Grounds is the fourth and final “homecoming” show and is a complete, excellent quality audience recording with a great amount of detail and dynamics of the show.

Reviews of this show point out that the first part, focused in particular upon the first six songs, are extremely strong and powerful but then begins to waver in energy and enthusiasm.  Although there is some merit to this assertion, it plainly reveals Dylan attempting through the intonation and subtle differences in meter to bring out new nuances in meaning in the older songs.  Making these kinds of changes sometimes works, and sometimes they don’t but always expand the prism of meaning he’s trying to convey.

“Cat’s In The Well” is played after the introduction.  Although it was a popular opener in 2007 it has been hard to find in 2008.  “The Levee’s Gonna Break” is played with the same enthusiasm that used to be reserved for “Summer Days” and is followed by a relatively mellow “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” with Herron on acoustic and Freeman on very soft electric guitar and ends with Dylan playing the harp.  Reviews praise “Desolation Row” for good reason.  The performance goes very well to build tension which finds release at the end of each verse when he sings “…on desolation row.”  The song is played in a sad, dark timbre with very little reason for hope at the end. 

This is carried on in the next song “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”  This is where some reviews say he lost his way and there is some merit to that assessment.  Dylan takes a strange turn in the last stanza when he raises his voice at the end of each verse.  It’s a cross between Valley up-speak and rap which sounds out of sorts with the rest of the piece.  The first disc ends with a rare performance of “I Believe In You.” 

The ending of the show is dominted by sublime performances of “When The Deal Goes Down” and “Ain’t Talkin'” surrounding “Highway 61 Revisited” with a strange keyboard solo.  The encores are notable for the giant sing-along during “Like A Rolling Stone.”  Driven From The Mission Grounds is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with thick color glossy inserts containing the information.  This is another really nice document from the tour and Tambourine Man have only to produce a title with the September 4th show at Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula to complete the set. 

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