Bob Dylan – Fire Still Smokin (Thinman-115/116)

Fire Still Smokin (Thinman-115/116)

Community Theater, Berkeley, CA – May 26th, 1995

Disc 1 (46:58):  Crash On The Levee, Señor, All Along The Watchtower, Born In Time, Silvio, Tombstone Blues, Mr. Tambourine Man

Disc 2 (56:37):  Gates Of Eden, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Jokerman, I’ll Remember You, Obviously Five Believers, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, One Too Many Mornings

Fire Still Smokin contains an excellent quality audience recording of the second of two shows at the Community Theater in Berkeley.  Like many tapes from this tour it is in amazingly detailed stereo with no cuts in the music.  This is also the first time this show has been pressed in any format, adding to Thinman’s growing catalogue of excellent releases from the legendary tours in the mid nineties.  

In direct comparison to the wired performances later in the year, the second Berkeley is a laid back and mellow all around performance.  Almost all of the songs are played in meditative and serene arrangements where Dylan offers rare articulation of the lyrics.  And instead of a visceral reaction to the images, there is ample time to ponder the means as he juices each phrase of nuance and subtlty not often heard in the live arena.  

The becomes evident after the chaotic opening of “Crash On The Levee” where the band seem lost in the middle.  “Señor,” the second number, is enhanced by the slower treatment and he sings the fatalistic narrative to its conclusion.  After the almost obligatory “All Along The Watchtower,” “Born In Time” from Under The Red Sky is played for the first of two times on this tour (the second on June 6th).  “Silvio,” the only song to really survive the catastrophe that is Down In The Groove, is normally quite bombastic with the backing band joining on the chorus shouting:  “Silvio / Silver and gold / Won’t buy back the beat of a heart grown cold / Silvio / I gotta go / Find out something only dead men know.”  However Dylan alone sings them.

“Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Gates Of Eden” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” form the midshow acoustic set and again the operative word is slow and ponderous which continues into a fun version of “Jokerman.”  After “I’ll Remember You” Dylan introduces the band and jokes about Bucky Baxter:  “He’s been playing with me for a while now.  He gave up that job to come with me. He’s never regretted it. He’s a child prodigy. Played on a lot of Bill Monroe’s early records.” 

Dylan introduced several rarities into the set on these dates and “Obviously Five Believers” from Blonde On Blonde made its live debut the previous week on May 15th in Palm Desert, California.  This is the sixth live performance.  The show ends on an acoustic note in the encore with a great version of “One Too Many Mornings.”  Fire Still Smokin is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with several photos from the era.  Thinman recycled the same photo of Dylan they used for The Supper Club four disc set released many years ago.  Although it’s not a big deal just make sure you read the title before picking it from the self.  This is another strong release in their documentation of the legendary tours in 1995 and worth having.   

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