Highlands Adelaide (Stringman SR-119-120) CDR
Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide, Australia – March 20, 2001
Disc 1: Duncan And Brady, The Times They Are A-Changin’, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), If You See Her Say Hello, This Wheel’s On Fire, Seeing The Real You At Last, Ring Them Bells, Masters Of War, Tangled Up In Blue
Disc 2: Watching The River Flow, Drifter’s Escape, Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat , Highlands , Like A Rolling Stone, If Dogs Run Free, All Along The Watchtower, I Shall Be Released, Highway 61 Revisited, Blowin’ In The Wind
Highlands Adelaide contains a good but distant audience recording of the March 20th, 2001 show in Adelaide burned onto professional grade CDR. It’s a good show which would be nice to have on pressed silver.
One of the reviews from the Bob’s Links site writes:
The weather in Adelaide had started to take a turn for the worse from early afternoon. It was cool. It was wet. The wind blew through your clothing like an express bus. The Adelaide Entertainment Centre is Adelaide’s premiere venue for live acts that come through town, and this was the third occasion I had been to see Dylan at this venue. I hear it said many times by many people, and it sounds a bit cliqued, but last night will be burned in my memory for a long time. Dylan was extraordinary! His singing was precise, measured, risky. His voice shone clearly and distinctively through the mix, and the song selection was a treat.
Settling into my seat in the front/middle area about 10 metres back from stage, Dylan came on with his band just before 9pm. It was a rousing reception, then straight into “Duncan and Brady”. Dylan played out the “too long” parts of each verse to great effect. The acoustic work of Campbell was gorgeous. It’s also pertinent to add that though up front tickets have their benefit, I could not get a clear view of David Kemper on drums, all evening. Elevated away in the back left corner (and often behind Campbell) it was just one of those things. I caught flashes of his sun glasses though, and a flawless cream hat.
Next was “The Times They Are A- Changin”, and I’d be honest enough to say that the eyes became a little moist at this point. How to describe this rendition? Word perfect? Bathed in nuance! It was like having open heart surgery! I knew at this very early point of the show that most of my expectations for a great vocal performance were going to be met. Larry chimed in with violin on this track as well, if my memory is clear.
I had a feeling that I might hear “It’s Alright Ma” tonight and when the lights dimmed and those chords began, the sound was as fresh and pulsating as you could imagine. Dylan did the song incredible justice, displaying an inexplicable look when it came to the line “not much is really say….credddddd”. The version seemed a little paired back than some of the heavier/Kemper thumping episodes that I heard through out last year (not that these weren’t awesome) with Dylan wrapping it up in the ilk of his Bobfest performance of 1992 – with those sliding high chords at the end, and the wringing of his strings. Wo!
What to say about this next one? It was one of only two songs for the evening that I didn’t immediately pick at outset. “If You See Her Say Hello” almost stopped my breathing. If I was breathing it certainly wasn’t obvious. This was a stunner! Caressing the words tenderly, this was a moment of frank and open hearted nostalgia, and indeed…. confession. The tempo of the song was upbeat, and perhaps best described as musically similar to his performance of “If Not For You” at the first Portsmouth show in September of last year. A few minor lyric changes (‘cut me me to the bone’ instead of ‘pierce me through the heart’) added a further ingredient of surprise. The way Dylan looked and forlornly threw away his head at the end of the line “….tell her she can look me up, if she’s got the time” was literally heartbreaking.
“This Wheel’s On Fire” and “Seeing The Real You At Last” followed. Charlie and Larry were a great vocal backdrop to Dylan on “Wheels” and likewise, kept “Seeing The Real You At Last” rocking to the final crescendo. Garnier was particularly animated during the second of these songs, with what seemed to be some interesting interplay between him and Sexton toward the end. Dylan’s vocal presentation was showing no signs of slipping at this point of the concert with the amplification in the Centre moving up a notch.
As the lights dimmed down and rose again, the stage scene surrounding “Ring Them Bells” was like a visual throwback to MTV Unplugged. Majestic curtains, that swapped and changed their arrangement of hanging throughout the concert, turned a sharp purple. It was acoustic guitars all round, and Garnier with his upright bass – which he may have even played with a bow at one point. He has an interesting style with it – half crouching with his left ear almost at the point where his fingers are playing. He picked out a point to the side of the stage to focus on, and his look never wavered. Dylan omitted the “St Peter” verse on this one to sing the “St Catherine” verse twice, but this was easy to overlook. The singing of the lines “..for the child that cries/when innocence dies…” was ghostly, verging on chilling.
It was great to see Larry Campbell play the mandolin and there seemed no better song for it to appear on than “Master’s Of War”. The crowd was very wired into this one. Dylan’s vocal led the track from go to woe, with Campbell’s playing reminiscent of the accompaniment that G.E. Smith provided Eddie Vedder when this song was performed in New York in 1992.
“Tangled Up In Blue” was a somewhat predictable choice in the ninth spot, with Dylan and Campbell leading off on acoustic guitar. It wasn’t long before the other players came swirling in though. “Tangled” was just as it had been for the last year – eloquent and rollicking. For me, though, it offered a brief moment to take stock and contemplate what had come before now, and what might be next. Aside from this, there was distraction a few rows in front of me during the song, with a taper (presumably) being identified and escorted from the venue in full view of Dylan and the band. He did not return.
“Watching The River Flow”, which I imagine was a bit of a stranger to most of the crowd, “Drifter’s Escape” and “Leopard Skin” closed off the opening part of the concert and didn’t disappoint with their stealth and verve. I’ve always liked “Watching The River Flow” and tonight was a great chance to focus on the vocal which Dylan delivered with great touch. The wailing harmonica on “Drifter’s” sent the front rows into a frenzy. Dylan straddled his guitar to one side, played the harmonica with one hand, allowing the other one to…shall we say, ‘wave free’… before he finished with a point right in the direction of Kemper, who even from my position, looked visibly uplifted. “Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat” was well received by the audience, but was oddly eclipsed by the band formation that occurred after this. The crowd were beside themselves, numbers around me quite surprised by this gesture. Campbell and Garnier seemed the most relaxed.
The appearance of “Highlands” as the opening encore song sent a shot of blood straight to my head. I had been expecting either “Things Have Changed” or “Lovesick”. The atmosphere on stage seemed very relaxed. There were a few wry grins between Garnier and Dylan on this one, with Kemper keeping it all shuffling along in fine style. From ‘Time Out Of Mind’, this song is perhaps the most extraordinary of the extraordinary. To have heard it live was like being offered a chance of a sweet and great indulgence in a space and time that I will remember fondly. To call Dylan’s delivery of the words of this song wry, would be the understatement of the year.
“Like A Rolling Stone” followed, and again, whipped the crowd up. Dylan performed only three verses of the classic, with a curious arrangement that the front of the crowd was bathed in red light at each chorus. It was probably the first point of the night at which Dylan got a clear look at the first few rows, and the number of people that had been let up to the stage front at the beginning of the encore. “If Dogs Run Free” was a great tangent to move off on after “Rolling Stone”. The song seems to have evolved a little from the performances of late last year, with a bit more body in the middle, and a little more guitar improvisation. Garnier had a huge grin over the line “it can cure your ill’s/pay your bills/if dogs run free” at the end. This was so good to hear.
The beginning of “All Along The Watchtower” gave Charlie Sexton his moment in the spotlight. Interestingly, as the amplification went, Sexton seemed to only boom out from the speakers on his side of the stage. It was a great rendition, though, with Dylan growling out the ends of each verse. “I Shall Be Released” was another real surprise for me. Again the harmonising of Campbell and Sexton was spot on, and a real feature. Anyone who has ever been on a aircraft knows the feeling and roar of the plane when it has completed it’s taxi-ing to the runway, and is belting up it’s engines for take off. This was the impression that “Highway 61” left. It was relentless! I think my nerves are still recovering. True to his form of the night, Dylan delivered it word perfect. At one point in the song Garnier (on electric bass) crept over behind Dylan and almost joined Campbell on the other side of the stage. He then shot a big grin to an attendee of the front row before slipping back behind Dylan and resuming his original position. This guy would win any lurking competition hands down! The style of playing by Sexton, too, was interesting. At one stage of glancing in his direction he was hitting, almost whacking his strings with a flat palm, wavy hair shaking off in all directions, legs and hips twisting. Dylan introduced his band during the extended solo of the song, which was an unexpected touch as well.
“Blowin’ In The Wind” began with an extended introduction attributed to Dylan missing his spot, but was exquisite. Many had no doubt waited anxiously to hear this one, and the outpouring of applause was evident. For the second time of the evening, the lights came fully up and the band stood again to enjoy the acknowledgement of the crowd. There wasn’t a lot of animation from Dylan here, and the band exited with Dylan leaving last.
Still coming down from the experience today, and writing this, has been a great way to reflect. Dylan was a marvel in Adelaide last night. The evenness of the show a hallmark. I felt very fortunate to have been so close up and able to see it unfold before me. Fans in Australia who encounter Dylan and his band in the next week or so will not be disappointed.
Perhaps it’s all best summed up by the guy who was sitting behind me, who turned to his mate at the conclusion of the concert and said: “Gawd….was he ON”. Indeed he was!