Bob Dylan – Hammersmith Grand Finale (Godfather Records GR 710/711/712)

Hammersmith Grand Finale (Godfather Records GR 710/711/712)

Disc 1 (79:01):  Hammersmith Apollo, London, England – November 20th, 2011:  Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Things Have Changed, Tryin’ To Get To Heaven, Honest With Me, Tangled Up In Blue, Summer Days, Blind Willie McTell, Highway 61 Revisited, Desolation Row, Thunder On The Mountain, Ballad Of A Thin Man

Disc 2 (79:43):  All Along The Watchtower, Like A Rolling Stone.  Hammersmith Apollo, London, England – November 21st, 2011:  Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Things Have Changed, Spirit On The Water, Honest With Me, Forgetful Heart, The Levee’s Gonna Break, Man In The Long Black Coat, Highway 61 Revisited, Desolation Row

Disc 3 (71:45):  Thunder On The Mountain, Ballad Of A Thinman, All Along The Watchtower, Like A Rolling Stone, Forever Young.  Hammersmith Apollo, London, England – November 19th, 2011:  Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, Mississippi, The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll, Ballad Of Hollis Brown, Make You Feel My Love, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Jolene

Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour played eighty-nine shows in 2011.  He visited Japan, Australia, North America, and, for the first time since 2000, two separate visits to Europe.  The final shows of the year were a three night stand at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, England, one of Dylan’s favorite cities to play. 

Hammersmith Grand Finale is the intriguing new Dylan release on Godfather capturing the final shows.  It presents the complete second and third shows of the set and seven songs from the opening night which weren’t played in the others.  The sound quality for all the shows are uniformly excellent stereo audience tapes. 

A review of the third night, and of the entire visit to London in British GQ magazine online makes several pertinent observations.  The author writes:  “Bob Dylan is in the form of his life and playing out of his parchment-pale skin. The only pity: this was the last show of 2011, the finale of the European tour he’s co-worked with Mark Knopfler’s band, itself the culmination of three nights at London’s Hammersmith Apollo. Oh, and, if you’re still counting, a half-century on the road.

“Now, inveterate Bob-watchers have long covered for an often wavering and unfocused performer by pedaling the orthodoxy that Dylan keeps pace with his hide-and-seek muse by offering only one – at most two – stone-cold classic reinterpretations of his 1,000+ oeuvre a night.

“Well that wasn’t the case at London’s Hammersmith Apollo on Monday, where the septuagenarian delivered a rangy, 15-song set that rocked harder than anything many of us will have seen him deliver – including those who witnessed his gale-force performances during the ‘hoodie years’ of the mid and late Eighties.

“Indeed, such is the ease and assurance with which he commands the stage, Dylan’s role as the consummate bandleader is in danger of overshadowing his career as the definitive performing artist.

“Now dividing his time between keyboards and electric guitar – with occasional forays on the harmonica – his love of extemporising on his own material has become a fully-fledged musical form, aided and abetted by his road-hardened band (and on four tunes, Knopfler’s guitar) but always true to Dylan’s own roaming spirit.

“That it didn’t roam too far was clearly a key to the success of the evening’s performance – those ready to jeer that a Dylan show is a spot-the-tune contest were sorely disappointed. But if one were to apply the old orthodoxy, there were indeed two stand-out performances: ‘Highway 61 revisited’ and ‘Desolation Row.’  Keynote addresses from the Sixties they may be, but in 2011 both burned anew. As does Dylan.”

None of the songs are particularly rare for this tour.  Dylan chose the songs from the repertoire he’s been using throughout the year.  Two shows start with “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” and they all end with “Ballad Of A Thinman.”  But he does include several scarce songs such as “Man In A Long Black Coat,” “Make You Feel My Love” and “Summer Days.” 

Only two songs, “Forgetful Heart” and “Jolene,” from the latest album Together Through Life are included in the set.  “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” the first single from the album, was only played twice on the European tour in the fall and none after Bournemouth. 

Perhaps the most interesting part of this release is the expanded presence of Mark Knopfler.  He made bigger strides from the early part of the tour, spending much more time on stage with Dylan and the band and even singing in “Forever Young” in the November 21st show.  It’s a great performance and is also the final song played on the tour.  He adds much, but it’s a shame the didn’t play anything from Slow Train Coming or Infidels, two albums Knopfler played on in the past.  

Godfather package Hammersmith Grande Finale in a tri-fold gatefold sleeve with many photos from the actual shows on the artwork.  Included also are copious liner notes and a fascinating essay.  Godfather have the final work on Dylan’s touring in 2011 and is worth having. 

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