Bob Dylan – From Nassau To Mexico (Tambourine Man Records TMR-140/141)

From Nassau To Mexico (Tambourine Man Records TMR-140/141)

Auditorio Nacional, Mexico City, Mexico – February 27th, 2008

Disc 1:  Introduction, Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, Lay Lady Lay, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Love Sick, Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Spirit On The Water, Boots Of Spanish Leather, High Water (For Charley Patton), When The Deal Goes Down, Honest With Me

Disc 2:  My Back Pages, Highway 61 Revisited, Ain’t Talkin’, Summer Days, Like A Rolling Stone, Thunder On The Mountain, Blowin’ In The Wind.  Bonus tracks, Auditorio Nacional, Mexico City, Mexico – February 26th, 2008:  Watching The River Flow, Masters Of War, The Levee’s Gonna Break 

Bob Dylan began his first tour of Latin America since 1998 when he supported The Rolling Stones with two at the Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City.  These are the first concerts Dylan booked in Mexico City in seventeen years when he played two at the Palacio del los Deportes in March, 1991.  Opening night was a sell out but the second show presented on From Nassau To Mexico, was half full.  The complete audience recording is excellent stereo capturing the music clearly and with a very good live sound.  It begins with the introduction before they start. 

The first four songs have a strong thematic presenting various permutations of the broken heart and vagaries of relationships.  “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” the tale of human vanity and the cuckold husband starts off the evening followed by “Lay Lady Lay,” where the protagonist is trying to convince a lover to stay with him.  Dylan changes the line “His clothes are dirty” to “His feet are dirty.”

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” lifts the mood somewhat, displaying a confidence absent from the previous two.  “Love Sick,” the first song on which Dylan plays the keyboard, closes this set with the perplexing attraction of the beloved.  “I’m sick of love but I’m in the thick of it / This kind of love I’m so sick of it…Just don’t know what to do / I’d give anything to / Be with you” he mournfully intones to the audience.  They play one of the most loose sounding “Rollin’ And Tumblin'” with Freeman playing a great slide guitar.  After a sublime “Spirit On The Water” he picks up the beginning theme with the beautiful yet heartbreaking “Boots Of Spanish Leather.”  His harp solo sounds like tears dripping on the stage.   

Things pick up with the fatalism of “High Water (For Charley Patton)” and “When The Deal Goes Down.”  In the latter he brings much emotion to the line “we all wear the same thorny crown” breaking whatever barrier there is between him and the audience and Freeman plays a delicate solo in the middle in what is one of the best live versions to date.  “My Back Pages” is a nostalgic trip set to a waltz.  “Ain’t Talkin'” seems to have replaced “Nettie Moore” as the Modern Times contemplative show stopper, turning the stage into a confessional.  The final verse, “As I walked out in the mystic garden / On a hot summer day, hot summer lawn / Excuse me, ma’am I beg your pardon / There’s no one here, the gardener is gone,” hints at some mystery.  I interpret this verse in light of the Easter narrative in the gospel of John where Mary Magdalene sees the resurrected Christ and mistakes him for the gardener.  She asks, “excuse me, but they’ve taken away my Lord.” 

At which point Christ calls Mary’s name and she recognizes him.  She reaches for him but Christ says, “do not touch me because I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go and tell the others.”  Could the narrator in “Ain’t Talkin'” be speaking to Magdalene (“ma’am”)?  Is he saying that the gardener, Christ, is gone?  These are the kinds of tantalizing lyrics in Dylan’s music that make it so rich for discussion.  After this epiphany the show ends with “Summer Days” with the audience singing along and “Like A Rolling Stone.”  “Thunder On The Mountain” and the lullaby “Blowin’ In The Wind” close the show.  The bonus tracks are three numbers from the previous evening at the same venue and in similar sound quality to the main show of this release.  From Nassau To Mexico is a great document that is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with color glossy inserts for artwork.  There are photos from the gig along with reproductions of Dylan’s own paintings.  This title is worth having. 

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