Laughter Down On Third Street (Tambourine Man Records TMR 152/153)
Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA – September 3rd, 2008
Disc 1 (77:53): Intro., Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, It Ain’t Me Babe, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Mississippi, Things Have Changed, Spirit On The Water, Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Tryin’ To Get To Heaven, I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met), Ballad Of A Thin Man, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, Beyond The Horizon
Disc 2 (36:18): Highway 61 Revisited, Nettie Moore, Thunder On The Mountain, crowd applause, Like A Rolling Stone, band intro., All Along The Watchtower
Laughter Down On Third Street documents the first of the final four southern California “homecoming” shows on Bob Dylan’s summer tour (the other three shows were in Temecula, San Diego and Santa Barbara). The reviews from this particular concert point out this is Dylan’s first show in the venue since the fabled 1979 first gospel tour. They also mention that the sound was extremely loud and muddy, hindering the enjoyment of the performance. The tape TMR use sounds very good with the music being very clear. Perhaps the taper was in an ideal spot, but none of the problems mentioned by the reviews is apparent on the recording.
Reviews also correctly point out that the arrangements of the classics tend to favor a heavy 4/4 rock beat throughout the entire show. This is an increasing trend examining the documents to circulate from the 2008 tours. He opens the set with a very recognizable and heavy performance of “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” with the audience joining on the “everybody must get stoned” chorus. “It Ain’t Me Babe” is giving a blues-rock arrangement as well and again the audience are audible singing along in the choruses. It’s natural that “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” would be included since it shares the rock he is emphasizing in the setlist. Dylan clips the words in the chorus, a habit he’ll continue throughout the show.
“Spirit On The Water,” which when added to the setlist two years ago was played as a gentle serenade to the audience, is played at a quicker tempo than before. “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven” was played fifteen times in 2008 after not appearing in any set for almost three years. This Time Out Of Mind track most definitely is one of his most mature works, with the understanding it is a meditation of an older man. The mechanistic view of the world has been transferred into the value of the human life with the noticeable affect of deadening speculation, wonder, and the search for holiness which older generations took almost for granted. It is discouraging how many never think about the purpose of their existence and their destiny and the notion of happiness is reduced to mere pleasure.
The song is a product of a culture which is described by Meic Pearse: “The truth is that we, in our hyperprosperity, may be able to live without meaning, faith or purpose, filling our threescore years and ten with a variety of entertainments-but most of the world cannot. If economics is implicated in the conflict, it is mostly in an ironic sense: only an abundance of riches such as no previous generation has known could possibly console us for the emptiness of our lives, the absence of stable families and relationships, and the lack of any overarching purpose. And even within us, the pampered babies who populate the West, something-a rather big something-keeps rebelling against the hollowness of it all. But then our next consumer goodie comes along and keeps us happy and distracted for the next five minutes. Normal people (that is, the rest of the world), however, cannot exist without real meaning, without religion anchored in something deeper than existentialism and bland niceness, without a culture rooted deep in the soil of the place where they live. Yet it is these things that globalization threatens to demolish. And we wonder that they are angry?” (Why the Rest Hates the West, p. 29). “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven” is a sacred meditation upon the confusion of one’s priorities and knowing the end is in sight, to find bliss. It is an exemplary song and Dylan’s delivery of the title at the end of each verse is both accusatory and melancholy.
“Nettie Moore” also has a slight change in the arrangement. When it was first played live it was slow, stately with the mournful violin line hovering over the words. But now it is slightly faster in pace and the violin is buried deeper in the mix and the emphasis is upon the guitar. “Thunder On The Mountain,” which as previously served as opener and first encore is now played as the closing track of the show. Two and a half minutes of cheering follow before the first encore “Like A Rolling Stone.” Bob’s band introduction is also tracked separately before the final encore “All Along The Watchtower.” Laughter Down On Third Street is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with pleasing inserts on thick paper.