Heed These Modern Times (Tambourine Man Records TMR 154/155)
Concerts On The Green At Qualcomm, San Diego, CA – September 6th, 2008
Disc 1 (77:40): Intro., Cat’s In The Well, The Times They Are A-Changin’, The Levee’s Gonna Break, She Belongs To Me, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Ballad Of Hollis Brown, Make You Feel My Love, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Workingman’s Blues #2, Honest With Me, Lenny Bruce, I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
Disc 2 (75:50): Highway 61 Revisited, Ain’t Talkin’, Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower. Bonus tracks, New American Music Union Festival, main stage, South Side Works, Pittsburgh, PA – August 9th, 2008: It Ain’t Me Babe, Spirit On The Water, High Water (For Charley Patton), Tangled Up In Blue, Nettie Moore, Ballad Of A Thinman
Bob Dylan ended his summer tour with four dates in southern California. Heed These Modern Timesdocuments the September 6th show on the Green at Qualcomm in San Diego. The venue, adjacent to Qualcomm Stadium and home of the San Diego Chargers, was the Chargers’ former practice field converted into an outdoor amphitheater. Dylan played to seven thousand that night in a ninety minute performance. TMR use an excellent stereo audience recording which emphasizes the lower frequencies and is bass heavy. The label made a pressing mistake on the second disc. Although “All Along The Watchtower” was played as the second encore in San Diego and is listed on the artwork, it is missing on the actual disc and the music skips straight to Pittsburgh. Also, the final track on disc two is “Ballad Of A Thinman” which isn’t mentioned.
These shows served as an informal homecoming for Dylan since he lives in the region. An interesting personal diary of the event appears on Tea For The Bloggerman which also has some amateur footage from the show. “Cat’s In The Well” has been a popular opening song for the past two years and begins the show at Qualcomm. Despite the faced paced tempo and catchy melody, the message of the song is interesting in this context. The image of the cat, known for its agility and stealth, is caught in the well with the wolf looking down connotes one struggling with impotence in the threat of danger. And with no help coming from the other characters in the narrative (the gentle lady’s asleep, poppa’s reading the paper and Sally is doing the American jump) all the cat can say is “Goodnight, my love, may the lord have mercy on us all.”
“She Belongs To Me” makes a good appearance in a mellow arrangement as does “Ballad Of Hollis Brown.” After only appearing in three shows the previous year, Dylan includes it in twelve shows in 2008. This arrangement sounds very similar to “John Brown” with Donnie on banjo and Stu and Denny on acoustic guitars. Moments of culminations differ, however, since “John Brown” leads to insight while “Hollis Brown” with violent death and preternaturalrebirth. Dylan repeats the penultimate line, “there’s seven people dead on a South Dakota farm” several times and drags out the final line “somewhere in the distance there’ seven new people born.” It’s a tremendous performance to perfectly fit Dylan’s vocals.
“Make You Feel My Love” from Time Out Of Mind is played eight times on this tour after not being played for almost two years. Donnie returns to banjo for “I’m Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” giving a bluegrass foil to the electric guitars. “Lenny Bruce” is played for the second time in two and a half years and has not aged well. Out of date when it was written in 1981, more then twenty-five years later it is even more of an anachronism since the comic has been out of the public consciousness for so many years. It contains some of Dylan’s most cringe-worthy lyrics (“Never robbed any churches nor cut off any babies’ heads”). A pair of Modern Times songs, “Ain’t Talkin'” and “Thunder On The Mountain” close the show. “Like A Rolling Stone” and “All Along The Watchtower” are the encores. Although “All Along The Watchtower” was played and is listed on the artwork Tambourine Man Records forgot to include it.
The six bonus tracks come from Dylan’s set in Pittsburgh in August for the inaugeral New American Music Union festival. The two-day summer music festival, August 8th and August 9th, featured Dylan as the headliner along with The Raconteurs, Gnarls Barkley, The Roots, Spoon, The Black Keys, Black Mountain, The Duke Spirit, NASA, Tiny Masters of Today by American Eagle Outfitters, in league with host and organizer Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The sound quality is thin but clear and enjoyable and includes the better part of the set with simply chilling renditions of “Nettie Moore” and “Ballad Of A Thinman.” TMR package this in a double slimline jewel case with thick inserts and gorgeous graphic on picture discs. Except for the mistake, this is an excellent release.