Bob Dylan – If You Ever Go To Dublin (Godfather Records GR446/447)

If You Ever Go To Dublin (Godfather Records GR446/447)

O2 Arena, Dublin, Ireland – May 5th, 2009

Disc 1 (70:32):  Introduction, Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, Lonesome Day Blues, Just Like A Woman, Rollin’ And Tumblin’, John Brown, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Under The Red Sky, Honest With Me, Masters Of War, Highway 61 Revisited

Disc 2 (77:52):  Ain’t Talkin’, Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower, If You Ever Go To Houston, Blowin’ In The Wind.  Bonus tracks, Assage Datch Forum, Milan, Italy – April 15th, 2009:  A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, High Water, Blind Willie McTell, Desolation Row, Ballad Of A Thinman

Bob Dylan ended his tour of Europe with two shows at the O2 Arena in Dublin.  If You Ever Go To Dublin on Godfather presents the first utilizing an amazingly clear and powerful stereo audience recording.  It is good enough to rival the best tapes to come from the European tour in the spring.  The music is well balanced, but also the audience reactions to the music occurring on stage are also mixed in well with the overall sound helping it achieve a wonderful live sound.

A hard “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” with Dylan on keyboard, starts off the show.  He then switches to guitar for a softer “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”  Another heavy blues, “Lonesome Day Blues” follows and it is interesting how the songs in the first hour of the show deal with both human vanity (“Leopard-Skin Pill-Box  Hat,” “Just Like A Woman” and “Honest With Me”) and others are strongly anti-war (“Lonesome Day Blues,” “John Brown,” and “Masters Of War.”)  For those who like to psychoanalyze Dylan based upon his setlist can have fun parsing this show.

One of the highlights in the middle of the set is when he switches again to guitar for a rare “Under The Red Sky.”  The arrangement hasn’t change at all in the almost twenty years since it was written.  Dublin is the live debut of “If You Ever Go To Houston” from Together Through Life.  Just like “Jolene” it is played in the encore set where, if it isn’t received well or if there are any big mistakes, wouldn’t hurt the show too much. 

Overall the concert is one of the best from the tour and received rave reviews in the Irish press.  The Irish Times writes:

“Here’s a potentially interesting question: what other bona-fide pop-culture icon would treat his audience the way Bob Dylan does? Not a word is said to the capacity crowd between songs; apart from a few dainty steps and hand movements, his stage presence is non-existent; his voice now approximates a series of growls; and some of his best-known songs are altered almost beyond recognition. Perhaps more to the point, why does a Bob Dylan audience accept this kind of treatment?  

“The answer to the latter is that they’re Bob Dylan fans and they know the score (although aren’t they getting ever so slightly weary of it by now?). The answer to the former? Well, as the man himself sings it, the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. In other words, go figure.

“That Dylan continues to evolve as an artist isn’t in question. Over the past 12 years he has released a series of albums that has even further cemented his position as the pre-eminent figurehead of rock music. Yes, there is filler between the good stuff, but Dylan’s reputation as an artist is copperfastened, his back catalogue comprises an unequalled number of truly great songs and classics – it’s just a shame, to these ears and eyes at least, that he regards his live performances with such a dismaying lack of engagement.

“There are – as per usual for us Dylan fans who traipse along to his gigs pretty much every time he visits – moments of unadulterated pleasure. His version of Just Like A Woman (one of three songs he played from Blonde on Blonde – the others were the gig opener, Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat , and Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again ) was amazing, while the rendition of All Along the Watchtower snatched it from the hands of Jimi Hendrix and refused point-blank to give it back.

“And, as per usual, there were moments of bewilderment and banality: the totally askew version of Blowin’ in the Wind, the croaking, complacent version of Masters of War, too much time given over to bar-band blues chugging.

“But, you know, with a Dylan show, what you come for doesn’t exactly correlate with what you get. A few notes from Block D, Row 21, Seat 104: slivers of brilliance, but not really entertaining, not genuinely exciting. More an exercise, perhaps, in how to keep moving – creatively, frustratingly – from one place to the next. Where he’s bound? Who can tell?”  TONY CLAYTON-LEA

Godfather include as filler five songs from the April 15th Milan show.  It comes from another excellent stereo audience recording and thankfully the label use the most interesting songs from the set.  “Blind Willie McTell” has been performed only seven times in 2009 and the Milan rendition is extremely dramatic.  A ten-minute genial version of “Desolation Row” follows and the disc ends with “Ballad Of A Thinman,” as song included in about half of the shows on the tour.  If You Ever Go To Dublin (a riff of of the new Together Through Life song played in Dublin) is packaged in a tri-fold cardboard gatefold sleeve and is another solid Dylan effort by the label.       

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