In The Eternal City (Godfather Records GR 708/709)
PalaLottomatica, Rome, Italy – November 12th, 2011
Disc 1 (75:59): Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, Things Have Changed, Spirit On The Water, Honest With Me, The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll, Ballad Of Hollis Brown, Desolation Row, Highway 61 Revisited, Forgetful Heart, Thunder On The Mountain, Ballad Of A Thin Man
Disc 2 (63:48): All Along The Watchtower, band introduction, Like A Rolling Stone, Blowin’ In The Wind. Forum di Assago, Assago, Milan, Italy – November 14th, 2011: It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Tangled Up In Blue, The Levee’s Gonna Break, Simple Twist Of Fate. Palafabris, Padova, Italy – November 9th, 2011: It Ain’t Me Babe, Mississippi, Ballad Of A Thinman. Nelson Mandela Forum, Florence, Italy – November 11th, 2011: Girl From The North Country
Bob Dylan played four shows in Italy in the final week of second European tour of 2011. Playing in the 10,000 capacity PalaLoomttomatica, this was his fifth show in the venue dating back to 1984 but the first since the name changed from PalaEur in 2003. On In The Eternal City Godfather present the penultimate show in Rome in an excellent stereo, near flawless audience recording.
The tape cuts in at the beginning of Dylan’s introduction with Santos making some odd inflections this time, stretching out some of the words like “The guy who forced FOOOOLK into bed with ROOOOOCK.” Curiously, about this time, there was serious discussion on Expecting Rain about how outdated the introduction now sound and whether it should be dropped.
Dylan starts off with “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat.” Mark Knopfler joins the band for the first three numbers and adds his country style to the arrangements very nicely. His best contribution can be found in the third song of the night, the newer country and western arrangement of “Things Have Changed.” He pretty much takes over the song, adding an effortless solo reminiscent of “Sultans Of Swing.”
After a bulky “Honest With Me,” Dylan play a series of songs from his mid sixties peak including “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll,” “Ballad Of Hollis Brown,” “Desolation Row” where Charlie Sexton plays in the style of Mark Knopfler, and “Highway 61 Revisited.” It’s an interesting choice of songs compared to the Bournemouth show several weeks before when Dylan emphasized songs from his latest albums.
“Highway 61 Revisited” is one of the heaviest songs in the set, but Sexton gives it a strong country flavor in the solo at the end. He follows that up with a hauntingly gorgeous performance of “Forgetful Heart” from Together Through Life. Donnie Herron’s violin contributes to this standout performance, the only song from the latest album to find its way into the set.
It is an extraordinary performance followed by Dylan’s latter day reflection in “Thunder On The Mountain.”
They continue with “Ballad Of A Thinman” and, without a encore break, proceed with “All Along The Watchtower,” the band introduction, and “Like A Rolling Stone.” Dylan rewards Rome with an encore, playing “Blowin’ In The Wind” featuring Herron’s violin in the arrangement.
The Saturday performance in Rome coincided with Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation as Prime Minister, ending an anomalous 17-year era in Italian politics. Across town a professional ensemble broke out into a chorus of Handel’s “Halleluia” chorus from the Messiah in front of Rome’s Qurinale president’s palace and thousands of Italians poured into the center of the Italian capital in a euphoric atmosphere.
The news was heard during this concert prompting cheers from the audience. It’s not clear on the tape exactly when this occurs (there is cheering all throughout the show). Author Salman Rushie, who was in the audience, Tweeted, “Listened to Bob Dylan sing in Rome as Berlusconi finally fell. That felt right.”
The eight bonus cuts come from the other three Italian shows from the tour and half feature the contribution of Knopfler.
The November 14th Milan show yields four tunes from an excellent audience tape. The first, “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” features Knopfler adding his talents to the piece. The others, “Tangled Up In Blue,” “The Levee’s Gonna Break,” and especially “Simple Twist Of Fate” are all quite common for the 2011 tours but weren’t played in Rome. The Milan performance of “Simple Twist Of Fate” is especially poignant. Dylan’s vocals give such a tragic and heartbreaking tone to the song’s narrative.
Padova on November 9th is the first of the Italy shows. Again from a great sounding audience tape, Knopfler joins on the first two songs “It Ain’t Me Babe” and “Mississippi.” The artwork lists the next song as “Man In A Long Black Coat” but is really “Ballad Of A Thinman.”
The final song is “Girl From The North Country” from the November 11th show in Firenze. It is the third of only three performances in Europe and again features Knopfler on guitar.
The artwork contains many up close photographs from the shows showing the band dressed in black and looking appropriately scary and unwashed. They are a strange looking group of musicians playing very interesting and challenging music.
Godfather reprint the same liner notes as found on Down Every Street. While well-written and interesting, the analysis of the Bournemouth and Nottingham performances don’t really apply to the Italy shows. The track listing also has the mistake in the Padova show, listing “Man In A Long Black Coat” instead of “Ballad Of A Thinman.”
Despite these gaffs, In The Eternal City is a very solid release worth having.