Bob Dylan – Live At Hop Farm Music Festival (Godfather Records GR 552 / 553)

Live At Hop Farm Music Festival (Godfather Records GR 552 / 553)

Hop Farm Festival near Paddock Wood, Kent, United Kingdom -Saturday July 3rd, 2010 

CD 1:  1. Introduction 2. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 3. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right 4. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again 5. Just Like A Woman 6. Honest With Me 7. Simple Twist Of Fate 8. High Water (For Charley Patton) 9. Blind Willie McTell 10. Highway 61 Revisited 11. Workingman’s Blues #2 12. Thunder On The Mountain 

CD 2:  1. Ballad Of A Thin Man 2. Like A Rolling Stone 3. Band Introductions 4. Forever Young 5. Mr Tambourine Man 6. I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) 7. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue 8. Leopard-Ski Pill-Box Hat 9. This Wheels On Fire 10. I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight 11. Tangled Up In Blue 12. Cold Irons Bound 13. What Good Am I?

Picture the scene – Britain is basking in one of the hottest summers for a few years, England’s expectant hopes of a royal win at the world cup are growing by the day & the scene is set for  the third of Vince Power’s Hop Farm Festival at Paddock Wood in Kent. Hopes were high for this beleaguered festival as after it’s inaugural triumph from this folk based festival of a few summers ago a few grumbles had set in due to an inflation of the ticket prices & a second rate indie – rock line up had tarnished the joy of Neil Young’s appearance at the first.

With U2 having to withdraw from Glastonbury this year after Bono’s back injury then hopes must have been high for Hop Farm after they secured one of the biggest names in rock who still tours with probability rather than possibility & the name that would make this festival stand tall among the many others that fill the market these days. 

It was well received in most circles – New acts intermingle with more established acts, most of the crowd seem to lap up the fun that is being had by the various acts, some of the guests are at odds with the playfulness of the scenario & Ray Davis from the Kinks seems to see red more than some others – taking potshots at Vince Power & Bob Dylan ( evidently feeling that his nose is being put out of joint by being stepped down to ‘second place’ on the bill ) before stepping back from his comments about the promoter & wrapping up his set as asked & leaving some punters without “Waterloo Sunset” which was evidently on their list of expectations.

Bob Dylan stepped out on to the stage 20 minutes later ( a curse by some accounts considering the time spent waiting for beverages ) leaving people to guess on his mood & the kind of set that he might decide to play tonight. It would seem that some minds were already made up – the reviewer for broadsheet newspaper The Guardian headlined their review as “Dylan tests the patience with grunting country ramble” where as some people have suggested that could be a close minded, preordained slight by someone whom was never a fan in the first place.  

Godfather have used their own, unique, tape of this festival ( Recorded & mastered by Ossie ) & not the hastily uploaded recording of the set that was evenly pilloried & praised after is was upped to the internet. It’s a lovely, wide stereo tape that places you right in the middle of the crowd with out too much participation from the rest of the audience but just enough to feel the influence from the day – stick yourself under a heat lamp & grab yourself a beer & you could, with a small stretch of the imagination, be there clapping along. 

The band can’t wait to get started & launch almost immediately in to a crunchy, ballistic Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35. Bobby’s voice is a little under par tonight & will take a little time to warm up but it is unmistakably Dylan all the same. He’ll start firstly toying with his keyboards & then marches straight to center stage to show his face to the crown & play guitar ( This could be a pointed reference to Davis’ comment & to show that Bobby is still ‘one of us’ or it could be that Dylan just wants to regardless. ). The song changes gear within the second half & really thrusts itself along  A sweet & swinging “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” follows & fits the pop – folkish feel of the festival perfectly. It casts no portentous misery nor does it want to wade in its own self but rather it seems to swing in it’s own new clothes & shows the young & up & coming just how it could be done.

“Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again”  crashes along with a pulverizing pace while Dylan throws the words to the wind. It’s almost as if we have something to prove here today as we’re playing outdoors rather than inside the usual arena that you might find Dylan in but the playing is possessive & raw – owning the stage with it’s purchase. “Honest With Me” gets an airing tonight & is another psyched out stomp. Another chance for Dylan to almost plead an unseen enemy or someone he can’t get to the back of the mind of & really fleshes out the stones of the song. “Simple Twist Of Fate” doesn’t stand as one of the highlights of the night. An unbelievably mournfully sad see – saw rhythm casts back & forth through out. While it was no doubt very well intentioned it slips between hopeful & devastatingly sorrowful therefor killing off one of the songs that should be a millstone within the set. 

“Blind Willie McTell” – One of the most feted tracks from Dylan’s catalogue gets a fond airing tonight but it’s reception is more muted with regards to some of his better known or ‘commercial’   songs. It’s still a great force here & gives rise to a chilling harp solo from Bobby as the lead out of the song. “Highway 61 Revisited” follows & is it’s standard ‘straight out of the traps’ speed.

Bobby is back on guitar for this one which always seems to throw the cat amongst the pigeons nowadays & has the audience expecting something else as opposed to his standing solo or his many piano meanderings and this version won’t disappoint no matter how many times it gets played out. “Workingman’s Blues # 2” has Dylan going back to the keyboard & taking down the speed. This also suffers from the ‘unspun’ effect & would only seem to be of interest to the Bobcats in the crowd.

The musicianship is beautiful, the phrasing is as Dylan is conversing to one person alone it sounds so intimate & the harp sounds like magic but unfortunately the chatter from the audience makes one or the other seem out of place. “Thunder On The Mountain” takes up the reins again & sounds like a ’50’s R’n’R hop as it spins itself in to a frenzy. It’s heart-stopingley brilliant & swoops between the instruments that make it’s structure before cumulating in to a beatific lurch that sends the audience wild

Disk two begins with a fire & brimstone version of “Ballad Of A Thin Man” where the band shift from rampant good time to apocalyptically demonic. It would be the perfect song for a sun setting, summer night & is a fantastic end to the set proper as it raises the game no end. 

So, how to end? With a customary finish & a certain crowd pleaser “Like A Rolling Stone” has the audience in the palm of it’s hand – no matter the age of the attendant then they probably know this chorus & can follow it word for word. Dylan knows the power invested in this track & does his best to shuffle the phrasing, tease the track out & skip around the audience rendition but at the same time drinks it in & towards the end leaves the crowd & the band to do their own work while remembering that he is still the main attraction ( Sorry Ray! ) & joins in when he judges best. 

Tonight has been a fantastic night – Dylan never sinks in to the ‘best of the best’ formula & still wants to confound his fan base by throwing around his catalogue & seeing where it falls open. After his thanks to the crowd & to his band he doesn’t simply turn away but throws down a wonderful, warm “Forever Young” – a helping hand to his audience & a reminder to each & every one of his attendees that they enjoy the time afforded to them. Just like a British summer it won’t last forever. 

The Godfathers specially selected bonus tracks feature songs from a good if slightly distant audience tape from Zagreb, Croatia – both “Mr. Tambourine Man” & “I Don’t Believe You” feature Dylan’s outre style of pushing all his words in to as short-a-space-as-possible but “I Don’t Believe You” does feature a stunning guitar line & a breezy harp solo. The track from Lyon, France sounds almost like the previous two in atmosphere if not a little brighter.

“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” flows very well & brightens up towards it’s second half. The remaining tracks come from Nice, France and are the best of the bonus tracks – An unlisted “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” starts off this section – One of Dylan’s funniest & waspish songs that shows a brush off to some of the higher classes that he must have endured within his meteoric rise to fame. A rare “This Wheels On Fire” makes an appearance here – slowed down to “Ballad Of A Thin man”  speed it’s interesting to hear & nice to hear that Dylan remembers all the words to it too!

“Tangled Up In Blue” is an odd but unfortunately not rare rendition, using a cockerel-crow of a guitar line to punctuate some of it’s lines & “Cold Irons Bound” is a demonic, pulsating version that chugs along with a quasi – disco beat that pushes it roughly along.   

The final word has to go the beautiful foldout packaging that could almost take the mantle of an official release. It utilises graphics that were used officially for the festival with the front & back cover a brilliant & bright cartoon festival scene amended for the setting of this CD. Inside is littered with multiple pictures of Dylan & band at the festival, more of the cartoon advertising & a full run down of the track list & the various instruments that Bobby played. The center features the usual listing of Dylan & his band & the instruments that they played. 

It’s another score for the Don. A unique tape coupled with superb packaging. That it’s a brilliant evenings gig is just a wonderful bonus.  

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  1. Thanks a lot for this review! I really like this gig and the way it is presented by Godfather.
    A review by Uncut editor Allan Jones can be found here:
    I have an Uncut subsription and when I was reading this review, I was hoping that Godfather would put on the market their own version of it. And as this version is better than the one I downloaded from the net, I’m even happier.


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