Bob Dylan – Hit Too Hard (Thinman 096/97)

 Hit Too Hard (Thinman 096/97)

Dan and Ada Rice Athletic Center, Benedictine University, Lisle, Illinois – November 11th, 1997

Disc 1 (50:44):  Maggie’s Farm, Man In The Long Black Coat, Cold Irons Bound, Simple Twist Of Fate, Can’t Wait, Silvio, Cocaine Blues, Tangled Up In Blue

Disc 2 (57:04):  Mr. Tambourine Man, ‘Till I Fell In Love With You, This Wheel’s On Fire, Highway 61 Revisited, Like A Rolling Stone, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, Love Sick, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

The return of Bob Dylan’s muse in 1997 produced not only the first album of all original material with Time Out Of Mind but an infusion of renewed creativity in the live performances in the Never Ending Tour.  After the sessions for the new album in January he played six unique tours in Japan, UK and North America.  Hit Too Hard comes from the fifth tour which lasted three weeks beginning on October 24th in Starkville, Mississippi.  The show at the Dan And Ada Rice Athletic Center in Lisle was the third from the last.  Thinman use the common audience recording which is very good bordering on excellent except for the slight amount of distortion.  It sounds as if the taper set the levels just a tad too high and although it isn’t enough to be a nuisance it does detract from the overall clarity. 

The first three shows began with “Absolutely Sweet Marie” but Dylan instated “Maggie’s Farm” as the opener in the Athens, Georgia show on October 28th and remained there.  With a subject to perhaps the most variations throughout its stage life, in late 1997 he favored a slight country arrangement.  “I Want You,” “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” and “Lay Lady Lay” were the more common second slot songs, but in Lisle “Man In The Long Black Coat” makes its first appearance.

“Cold Irons Bound” is the first of four new songs played in the set and the hard live version confirms Oliver Trager’s observation, describing the song as “biting” with “ricocheting guitar licks, rockabilly drums, distorted organ, and voice floating in a blimp of its own echo.”  His shows in the mid nineties, especially in 1995 are considered legendary but they lack the discovery of new original material and hearing these songs when they were new provides a startling contrast to the classics.  It is followed up, after a cheery version of “Simple Twist Of Fate,” by the second new song “Can’t Wait.”  “Silvio” follows and really displays the alacrity of the touring band with delicate instrumentation in the bridge.     

A three song mini-set is played in the middle.  The traditional “Cocaine Blues” features Dylan on acoustic guitar with the rest of the band having fun singing in the chorus.  “Tangled Up In Blue” begins with Dylan alone on acoustic guitar in the same 1975 RTR arrangement until the band come crashing in after the first verse in spectacular fashion.  “‘Till I Fell In Love With You” is played in a bare arrangement in which the petal steel guitar dominates as they pound the beat hard.  The set officially ends with “Highway 61 Revisited” which serves as a good fast paced stage thumper.  The four song encore set begins with an old and wizened version of “Like A Rolling Stone.”  “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” is played acoustic with the band in a bluegrass arrangement.  Overall Hit Too Hard is a solid release by Thinman.   

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