Bob Dylan – Game Got Rough (Tambourine Man Records TMR 205/206)

Game Got Rough
(Tambourine Man Records TMR 205/206)

Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT – September 8th, 2012

Disc 1 (76:12):  You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere, Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Things Have Changed, Tangled Up In Blue, Summer Days, Not Dark Yet, Jolene, The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll, High Water (For Charley Patton), Visions Of Johanna, Highway 61 Revisited, Simple Twist Of Fate, Thunder On The Mountain

Disc 2 (78:01):  Ballad Of A Thin Man, Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower, Blowin’ In The Wind.  Cambria County War Memorial Arena, Johnstown, PA – August 29th, 2012:  Man In The Long Black Coat, Saving Grace (First performance since 11 April 2005), High Water (For Charley Patton), Desolation Row, Can’t Wait, Blind Willie McTell.  MTS Centre, Winnipeg, MB, Canada – October 5th, 2012: It Ain’t Me Babe, This Dream Of You, Scarlet Town (live debut)

Game Got Rough documents Bob Dylan’s September 8th, 2012 show at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.  Tambourine Man Records utilize an excellent stereo audience recording.  It captures the music with utmost clarity and reduces audience noise to a minimum.   A few shouts and whistles can be heard including one guy begging for “Isis.”  

A review of the show, posted online and titled “Bob Dylan growls, but wows in concert”, states:  “At an age when many men are worrying about hip replacements, Bob Dylan can still set a stadium alight — and even shake his hips.  In concert Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, the 71-year-old American folk legend strutted and sauntered, singing, playing guitar and piano, and letting rip on his famous harmonica.  Not that the performance was flawless. Far from it.  Dylan’s voice, never known for smoothness, gave the impression of coming from the bottom of a rock-filled barrel. From the upper rows of the approximately two-thirds full, 10,000 seat indoor arena, his brilliant lyrics were unintelligible.  ‘Tangled up in Blue,’ ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere,’ — the rhythms and bitter-sweet tunes of classic Dylan songs came through, but not a lot else.”

The rest of the article quotes people who were there commenting on his gravelly voice and his nimble gyrations onstage.  It is a very good show starting off with the rarity “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” from Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II.  The first set of songs sound a bit rough and sloppy, especially Dylan’s piano playing in “Tangled Up In Blue” sounding like a tangled mess.    

But the show picks up steam with a spirited “Summer Days” and a performance of “Not Dark Yet” that has some audience members singing along.  Another of the strange highlights is a heavy version of “Jolene.”  For more than a year it served as the middle encore, but it’s finding its way into the main set and has become one of Dylan’s stage thumpers.    

“High Water (For Charley Patton)” is a doom laden highlight.  The show ends with “Ballad Of A Thin Man” and Dylan gives Uncasville three encores, “Like A Rolling Stone,” “All Along The Watchertower” and “Blowin’ In The Wind.”  

The following six tracks are a bonus from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, about a week before the Connecticut show.  The sound quality is not as good, but still clear and enjoyable.  “High Water (For Charley Patton)” is the only track duplicated from the main show.  Because Johnstown is most well known for a devastating flood of 1889, the “Love And Theft” track takes on a chilling significance (even though it’s about the 1927 Louisiana flood).

Dylan seems to be in a dark mood in “Man In The Long Black Coat,” “Desolation Row,” “Can’t Wait” and “Blind Willie McTell.”  It is thankfully lifted somewhat by a faithful performance of “Saving Grace,” the first time played live since April 11th, 2005.  

The final three bonus tracks are taking from the October 5th show in Manitoba.  Sourced from an excellent stereo audience tape, these are perhaps the most interesting performances from the concert.  “It Ain’t Me, Babe” is very aggressive with Bob on guitar duetting with Charlie Sexton on lead guitar.  

“This Dream Of You” from Together Through Life is given a rare outing.  First introduced to the stage in 2009, past arrangements featured Bob on guitar.  But in Manitoba he plays grand piano, adding a feeling of nobility to the piece.  

And finally the live debut of “Scarlet Town” from his latest album Tempest.  Again playing grand piano, the band give a faithful performance of the song.  But the audience seem uneasy.  Some even boo the band.  Certainly not an auspicious start to the song’s inclusion in the NET.   

Game Got Rough is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with single inserts with a close up photo of Dylan on the front (just the way he likes it).  It’s a shame TMR release titles so infrequently these days.  They try to capture the highlights of a tour with only a few releases.  Their discs and bonus material are well thought out and all are worth having.      

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