Bob Dylan – Madison Square Garden 1978, First Night (No Label BD92978)

Bob Dylan – Madison Square Garden 1978 1st Night

Bob Dylan, “Los Angeles 1978 Last Night” (No Label BD 6778)

Disk 1: My Back Pages / I’m Ready / Is Your Love In Vain / Shelter From The Storm / Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues / Tangled Up In Blue / Ballard Of A Thin Man / Maggie’s Farm / I Don’t Believe You (She Acts like We Never Have Met / Like A Rolling Stone / I Shall be Released / Love You Too Much / Going, Going, Gone / One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) / It Ain’t Me Babe (71:31)
Disk 2 : Am I Your Stepchild? / One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below) / Blowin’ In The Wind / I Want You / Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power) / Masters Of War / Just Like A Woman / Baby Stop Crying / All Along The Watchtower / All I Really Want To Do / It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) / Forever Young / Changing of The Guard (Bonus Tracks) Love You Too Much / True Love Tends To Forget

Live at Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY. 29th September 1978 (Bonus tracks from Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena, Binghamton, NY, 24th September, 1978 and Civic Centre, Springfield, MA 26th September, 1978)

Following the warm up shows in L.A. and a series of residency shows throughout Europe, Bob Dylan brought his ‘world’ tour back to the States and took the band back on the road for the next four months. The tour was still crawling through the trivials of the changes that Dylan had put in place. Presumably a lot happier than he was on the Rolling Thunder Revue, much more at ease with his career, his joy was abundant in the new style of his music.

From the two nights at Madison Square Garden in New York, approximately 1/3rd of the way through this American tour, Mike Millard appeared again to record Dylan – of course its difficult to tell how many concerts Mike caught Dylan at as his tape logs were destroyed by Mike eventually and the traders that Mike trusted to keep his legacy with are all rather respectful of his wishes so a lot more of these tapes are still unaccounted for. Happily for us a small stash have been made available recently and several companies have targeted these recordings for pressing on silver disk. The No Label company and Empress Valley are the likeliest companies but with Empress titles difficult to find outside of Japan, the No Label project is certainly the easiest to put your hands upon.

Thankfully, the tapes need no tweaking either – Mike’s tapes being what they are – they are of the highest quality – not always soundboards but of a damn fine audience quality. I found tonight’s to be a touch bassy but not so much as to ruin the quality of the acoustics.

It fades up shortly after the beginning of the instrumental ‘My Back Pages’, quickly succumbing to a leery ‘I’m Ready’, close reggaeish bass lines, electric eel guitar, screaming saxophone – it’s lusty, bragardish but also, at the end, maybe just a little self congratulatory.
The hits continue to flow almost none stop, scant words of thanks between from Dylan before he continues along on his way. ‘Shelter From The Storm’ is given lift by the Queens even if Dylan’s phrasing almost slips in to self parody from time to time.

‘Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues’ performed with flute still sounds odd to these ears but ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ drawn out to it’s maximum seems to be Dylan projecting just how far he can take it all, a slower pace, gentle, gossamer thin notes peal through the air.
‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’ fades in sharply – could this be Mike’s cut? Maybe we’ll never know. Shame it happens on of the sharpest tracks on the tape, built for the type of sound that Dylan was now building, not even the wave of saxophone that punctures the middle dulls the atmosphere as it could very easily do – the same with ‘Maggie’s Farm’, Dylan relishes spitting out the words and is solidly backed up by this mighty choir and build and fall waspish guitar line.

Another cut affects the beginning of ‘I Don’t Believe You’ and there are fluctuations to the sound levels though it takes nothing away from the music. This rendition is placid in contrast to the previous few and doesn’t bring in the thrill. One of the biggest cheers of the night is reserved for a delicate “Like A Rolling Stone”, the music is pared down precisely as to not bury or dissuade the lyrics. Towards the end Dylan really starts to feel the vibe and begins to slip inside his showman suit, pulling force from the air. At this point it becomes apparent that someone has an air horn in the audience an it begins to sound but thankfully, they keep this to a minimum while the songs are playing.

“Love You Too Much” is announced as a new song and for it’s romping beat, is lapped up by the audience. A furious dash, hearing something new that hasn’t been thrown off of kilter yet must be great for a swathe of the audience to hear.
A close, intimate, “It Ain’t Me, Babe” gets the second biggest cheer of the night. Dylan and acoustic guitar only, it can’t be what Dylan was considering when he was putting together these shows but the roar from when he steps to the harmonica is captivating.

“One More Cup Of Coffee” is one of the most startling transitions of the night, a shade between Springsteen’s “She’s The One” and the original, much better suited to a concert of this kind, dare I say it sounds like an improvement over the original.
“Masters Of War”is also given a shake up, cowbells rattle, a vicious guitar solo runs underneath a relentless rhythm guitar, bolstering the urgency of the message, the brief but cutting sax solo adds a little more heft to the propulsion. After all that, “Just Like A Woman” and “Baby Stop Crying” with their lilting movements come as a sweet respite, maybe not ‘Songs For Swinging Lovers’ for the late 70’s but a chance for the crowd to get a little closer together.

A florid “All Along The Watchtower” follows, it’s folding to an extent before it sharply runs towards more bluster and staunch rock stylings, the wildness ageing of Jimi’s version is represented not just by wild guitar histrionics but by violins lurching towards a racy anger, “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) is proceed by chatty and jokey introductions by Dylan but then cascades in to a bullishly throbbing powerhouse of might, it’s not as quietly seething as it once was but still builds in to a climactic force.
“Forever Young” and the the still recent “Changing of The Guard” close the show. “Changing ..” fading up very quickly at the being of the track.

The Bonus tracks represent the premier performance of “Love You Too Much” from the Broome County Memorial Arena, Binghamton, NY on the 24th of September, 1978, the still unreleased cowrite with Greg Lake and Helena Springs – apparently written for Rick Danko and Mike Bloomfield. Dylan’s version has a heady charge about it, a propulsive rhythm and demonic undercurrent that’s almost quasi-disco.
The final bonus track is “True Love Tends To Forget” recorded on the 26th of September, ’78 at the Civic Centre, Springfield, MA, one of the few times it would be played live and it hasn’t been seen after this tour.

The No label group have used their exceptional hand with the graphics once again. This is an attractive package with easy to read text, silkscreen print disks in a slim jewel case. Despite Mike’s reputation – it’s not the best tape from this tour but certainly worth the price of collecting.

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  1. As Mike Millard never recorded outside California why are you convinced this was his recording?

    • I really dropped a bollock with this. Utterly convinced as it was released at the same time as some of the other Millards were being released, I was caught up in the fantasy. I’ve since been corrected (Though the heavy cuts on the tape should have been a monumental give away really). I’ll update the review ASAP.


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