Flames On The Italian Streets (Godfather GR BOX 06)
Flames On The Italian Streets is the first Godfather box set devoted to Bob Dylan. The label chose to issue several shows from 1987 Temples In Flames tour in 1987. Several of these shows have been released before, but this is the first comprehensive collection of Italian shows and highlights in such good sound quality.
The value of these tapes lie in displaying one of Dylan’s returns to artistic form. The liner notes point out how the previous years’ True Confessions tour with Tom Petty was mostly a rote affair. After recording Down In The Groove, Dylan went on tour with the Grateful Dead.
“Dylan had confided in Jerry Garcia that he had lost his way & forgotten the meanings of some of the songs he had written. In 1997 via an interview with Newsweek, Dylan recalled that ‘I’d kind of reached the end of the line. Whatever I’d started out to do, it wasn’t that. I was going to pack it in.’ Onstage, he couldn’t do his old songs. ‘You know, like how do I sing this? It just sounds funny.’
“He goes into an all-too-convincing imitation of panic: ‘I – I can’t remember what it means, does it mean — is it just a bunch of words? Maybe it’s like what all these people say, just a bunch of surrealistic nonsense.’ When the Grateful Dead took him on tour in 1987, Jerry Garcia urged him to try again. He’d say, ‘Come on, man, you know, this is the way it goes, let’s play it, it goes like this.’ And I’d say, ‘Man, he’s right, you know? How’s he gettin’ there and I can’t get there?’ And I had to go through a lot of red tape in my mind to get back there.”
This strength makes this box set so interesting and valuable. The songs chosen and performed are unlike other tours. Other sets have anthologized this material, but this is the first focusing upon a specific segment of the tour. Tel Aviv was the first visit with Modena and Turin in Italy following soon after.
Dylan returned to Italy later in the tour for shows in Rome and Verona. All of the discs focus on Dylan’s set only. The Tom Petty sets were pretty straightforward with little variation. He joined on some numbers by Petty, Heartbreaker Howie Epstein and opening act Roger McGuinn.
Modena-Turin (GR BOX 06 A/B)
Area Ex Autodromo, Modena, Italy – September 12th, 1987
Disc 1 (77:38): Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35, I Want You, In The Garden, Highway 61 Revisited, Simple Twist Of Fate, I And I, I’ll Remember You, Joey, Tangled Up In Blue, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Pledging My Time, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, All Along The Watchtower, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky
Modena is surprisingly well documented. In late 1987 it appears on the vinyl release Goes Fishin’ In Modena in 1987 which has both Bob Dylan’s and Roger McGuinn’s complete sets. In the following year Soldier Sons (TMQ 72101) came out with a selection of songs from the tour including four from this show.
The only silver compact disc release which has anything to do with Modena is the anthology Temples In Flames (Wanted Man WMM 008/009/010) which has “Joey,” “All Along The Watchtower,” and “When The Night Comes Falling.”
According to the liner notes, “Tonight’s show at the Arena in Modena has been justly judged as a great show – It may be that Tel Aviv gave Dylan a new stance to work with. Maybe the trip through & over Swiss airspace gave Bobby some time to think or to speculate on the shows that he played. He certainly isn’t a ‘Rank stranger to himself’ (sic) this evening & he finally has the confidence back in him to front the band & stand to the front of the stage. This show is acclaimed as a plausible show for release if ever Columbia decided that a show from this era should be released.
“From the beginning Dylan’s force is apparent – a pulsing ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’ swaggers in & affirms its presence to the crowd while a glistening ‘I Want You’ quickly follows. Dylan is taking nothing to chance either, throwing a multitude of effects in to the renditions – for the former starts with a barrel house piano, a blustering electric guitar & the steadfast acoustic guitar can clearly be heard trading licks between each other, The Queens of Rhythm even keep a diligent pace with Dylan’s changes in phrases. The latter song a busy, harp leaden, wild west rendition – Knowing Dylan’s love for Italy this could be a call to any number of women in the crowd who had caught his eye that day.
“As was customary on this tour opening artist Roger McGuinn would join in towards the end of the set, Rolling Thunder Revue style, for the grand exit. It would seem that what Dylan really needed was the support of his friends behind him to add ballast to his performance. Obviously still hesitant at coming out & standing before the crowd on his own the the communal feel was just the kick that Dylan needed to stand outside of his self doubt & sing.
“The song that ends the show is the apocalyptic ‘When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky’ – As opposed to the minimalistic tendencies of some of the later shows, tonight this song searches for the full band onslaught. A rapturous gathering of the voices, a crunching rumble of drums, screaming guitar work from the attendant players & wild hammering at the piano keys accumulate in an mass fury of sound.
Palasport, Turin, Italy – September 13th, 1987
Disc 2 (68:01): Positively 4th Street, Masters Of War, Lenny Bruce, Gotta Serve Somebody, Maggie’s Farm, John Brown, Emotionally Yours, The Wicked Messenger, I Shall Be Released, Heart Of Mine, License To Kill, Shot Of Love, The Times They Are A-Changin’, I And I
Turin is another well documented show. Several tracks were included in the massive 5LP Over Europe box on the Archive Series label, and also on the compact disc release Temples In Flames: 1987 Tour Anthology (White Bear 13). It has also been issued on CD on Torino 1987 (Quality Masters 002) with appallingly dull artwork.
“The following nights show in Torino blows away any memories of the previous show & throws down a completely different set. Dylan & the band were obviously in no doubt of their powers & staying true to the rotating song agenda leave only ‘I And I’ unscathed. While it may not score as highly as Modena, the complete control that Dylan shows is stronger – He doesn’t have to draw on the unknown or follow the energy from his band, he instead builds on his strengths & the newly found confidence that his touring partners have brought him.
“Dylan will, for possibly the first & only time ever, begin the show with ‘Positively 4th Street’, 1965’s stray single. Strongly reminiscent of the original, tonight’s version finds Dylan in good voice from the start. The following track is “Masters Of War” a seething, pent up rage against the puppet masters who control the people who are singled out to fight for their causes – towards the end, after the vicious pay off lines & as an aural Gurnica, Bobby & Tom trade licks, venting spleen against the robust drumming & clattering piano.
“‘John Brown’ is set around a chiming, countdown piano chime – effectively akin to the tick of a pressurized, safe cracking moment within a Hollywood film. The claustrophobic feel of waiting for something large to loom over the horizon. The audience greet the track with a tempo keeping clap as if the track was one of the most hotly anticipated track that Dylan could perform that night. As happens, the track doesn’t take off screaming in to a bucolic angry rage but more of a frustrated & seething headache – the dull appearance of battle smoke & red mist.
“The rarities continue to flow with Bob unveiling ‘The Wicked Messenger’ one of only a select few times that this track would be played this year. The eastern riff, the heartbeat of piano & the crushing tumble of the drums make this excursion worth it’s appearance.”
Verona-Roma (GR BOX 06 C/D)
Arena di Verona, Verona, Italy – October 1st, 1987
Disc 3 (68:32): When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky, Like A Rolling Stone, Maggie’s Farm, I’ll Remember You, Dead Man Dead Man, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Tangled Up In Blue, I And I, Watching The River Flow, John Brown, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, Ballad Of A Thin Man, I Shall Be Released, Shot Of Love
After two weeks, Dylan returned to Italy on October 1st for the show in Verona. It is a very good and pleasant audience recording which was released in 2002 on Flames In Verona (Mainstream MAST-055). Godfather’s sound is a slight improvement over the older release.
“Dylan & his band returned to Italy after a lengthy jaunt through Eastern Europe for the rest of the duration on September. Reports of the tour continued to be positive – More than a few shows seem to have reanimated the critics & given them cause to rejoice on the return of Dylan’s passion for his game.
“This evenings show at the Arena begins with the eerie, tumbleweed chords of ‘When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky’. It’s a wonderful introduction for Bobby to begin with as it shrouds him as the returning hero. Having slain the evil in the room the last time around he steps forward once more to proclaim his arrival.
“‘I Shall Be Released’ heralds more catcalls & bellowing from the crowd than any other song tonight. Another chance for the attended to pull each other close & take in the glory from the stage. The unfortunately sloppy solo duetting, while evidently well thought of, manages not to spoil anyone’s fun & this final, short excursion in to Dylan’s back pages stands intact.
“The show ends with another rousing rendition of one of Dylan’s latter day tracks, ‘Shot Of Love.’ Cut from the same cloth as the previous outing on this set but missing the strong urgency of it’s previous treatment, it’s still a fine way to wrap up a nights work for Dylan & the band.”
Palaeur, Rome, Italy – October 3rd, 1987
Disc 4 (68:59): Blowin’ In The Wind, Like A Rolling Stone, Man Of Peace, Forever Young, Heart Of Mine, I And I, The Wicked Messenger, Shelter From The Storm, Seeing The Real You At Last, Simple Twist Of Fate, Tomorrow Is A Long Time,In The Garden, Shot Of Love, The Times They Are A-Changin’
Selectoins from the following night in Rome can also be found on The Final Night And More (Dandelion 072/073) (“The Wicked Messenger”) and on Temples In Flames: 1987 Tour Anthology (White Bear 13). Godfather is the first release of the whole Dylan set.
According to the notes, “The following nights show in Italy discarded all but 3 of the songs performed the previous show – A move that these days would be a more than welcome change for the hardened Bobcats who attend concert after concert. The boisterous crowd must have known something was afoot this evening as even before the show they sound to be excitable, a tide of chanting threatens to submerge the warm up chords – maybe the reviews from Verona had filtered through & news of Dylan’s resurgence had broken his dry spell.
“Dylan merrily swings on to the stage with a euphoric ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ – easily sounding like a man who has remembered he can take control of the crowd & pull the set his own way. Understandable, as here is the man whom the audience have rallied together for but for them the chance to see this reincarnation made flesh is all powerful. The phrasing for the first song is up and around, Dylan is defiant on putting a spin on it but quite what that spin is he’s unable to fathom out & the song, due to his meanderings, sways between reggae & country – An infliction that doesn’t seem to settle throughout, it’s not to say it’s unpleasant but, like a happy accident, the song still seems to find it’s way.“
Milano-Tour Highlights (GR BOX 06 E/F)
Arena Civica, Milan, Italy – October 4th, 1987
Disc 5 (68:22): The Times They Are A-Changin’, Like A Rolling Stone, Maggie’s Farm, Simple Twist Of Fate, Shot Of Love, License To Kill, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, Shelter From The Storm, Gotta Serve Somebody, Clean Cut Kid, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine, Blowin’ In The Wind
“License To Kill” from the October 4th show in Milan appeared on the previously released The Final Night And More (Dandelion 072/073). Godfather is the first release of the entire Dylan tape in very good sound quality.
“The final full night of our boxed set is the night before Dylan found the light again. It’s interesting that Dylan can pinpoint that very night that he found the change but in 1997’s Newsweek interview he remembered “October 1987, playing Locarno, Switzerland, with Tom Petty’s band and the female singers he now says he used to hide behind, Dylan had his breakthrough. It was an outdoor show–he remembers the fog and the wind–and as he stepped to the mike, a line came into his head. “
“It’s almost like I heard it as a voice. It wasn’t like it was even me thinking it. I’m determined to stand, whether God will deliver me or not. And all of a sudden everything just exploded. It exploded every which way. And I noticed that all the people out there–I was used to them looking at the girl singers, they were good-looking girls, you know? And like I say, I had them up there so I wouldn’t feel so bad. But when that happened, nobody was looking at the girls anymore. They were looking at the main mike. After that is when I sort of knew: I’ve got to go out and play these songs. That’s just what I must do.” He’s been at it ever since.” It’s subjective to the protagonist as to THE night that things circled around but Milan could certainly make the claim that it heralded the turning point that would follow as the show tonight makes Dylan reach out just that little bit further.
Disc 6 (69:43): Queen Jane Approximately (St. Jakobshalle, Basel, Switzerland, 10 September 1987), Senor (Westfalenhalle, Dortmund, Germany, 15 September 1987), The Ballad Of Frankie Lee & Judas Priest (Westfalenhalle, Dortmund, Germany, 15 September 1987), When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky (Treptower Park, Berlin, Germany, 17 September 1987), I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine (Treptower Park, Berlin, Germany, 17 September 1987), Shot Of Love (Ahoy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 19 September 1987), John Brown (Ahoy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 19 September 1987), It’s All Over Now Baby Blue (Messehalle, Hannover, Germany, 20 September 1987), Shelter From The Storm (Messehalle, Hannover, Germany, 20 September 1987), When I Paint My Masterpiece (Valby Hallen, Copenhagen, Denmark, 21 September 1987), Joey (Hanns Martine Schleyer Halle, Stuttgart, Germany, 29 September 1987), Pledging My Time (Vorst Nationaal, Brussels, Belgium, 8 October 1987), Man Gave Names To All The Animals (Vorst Nationaal, Brussels, Belgium, 8 October 1987), House Of The Rising Sun (Palais Omnisport De Bercy, Paris, France, 7 October 1987), Tomorrow Is A Long Time (London, Wembley Arena, England, 17 October 1987)
“Our set is rounded off by a selection of ‘Greatest hits’ from this tour. While they may not be the best remembered tracks from Dylan’s oeuvre as the general public are concerned then for the rarity value of these tracks then they’re worth your attention. As always things are thrown in the air, songs are dragged from rehearsals & cast before us.
“Frequently on this tour Dylan was inspired to pull something out, perhaps it was the lengthy rehearsals with the Dead that got him thinking – the structure of a lot of these tracks owe a great debt to the extended jam style of the California band, most of the time it could be argued that location was key to Dylan’s thoughts – Europe has seemingly been bountiful for Dylan’s expressions, Italy more so than others – & sometimes it may just have been state of mind – ‘I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine’ played in Berlin & Milan, for example, have been noted as Dylan’s prayers for his own calling. He wished so much to be touched by the hand of the lord, to be given that blessing that would bring him out of himself & push him on to the next stage in his career that he may have sought justification in playing this song.”
Flames On The Italian Streets is packaged in a deluxe cover with the three tri-fold cardboard sleeves being housed in the box. It is another stunning box set release by Godfather worth having.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)