Bob Dylan – Newcastle 1984 – Soundboard (Zion 245)

Bob Dylan, ‘Newcastle 1984 – Soundboard’ (Zion 245)

Disk one – Intro / Highway 61 Revisited / Jokerman / All Along The Watchtower / Just Like A Woman / Maggie’s Farm / I And I / Licence To Kill / I’ve Got To Use My Imagination / A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall / Tangled Up In Blue / It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) / Simple Twist Of Fate / Masters Of War / Ballad Of A Thin Man (79:28)
Disk two – Enough Is Enough / Every Grain Of Sand / Like A Rolling Stone / Mr. Tambourine Man / Girl From The North Country / It Ain’t Me, Babe / Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat* / Tombstone Blues* / Blowin’ In The Wind* / Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door* / The Times They Are A Changin’* – Bonus Track – Senor. (69:13)
Live at St. James’ Park, Newcastle, UK. 5th July, 1984. Bonus track from Alpexpo, Grenoble, France. 3rd July, 1984. *Feature Carlos Santana. 
This stretch of new soundboards from Bob Dylan’s show 1984 / 1986 has been the musical equivalent of picking grapes from the vine or the beers from the six-pack. As much as Columbia have managed to put out their stash of the 1966 tour (sadly edited from drug-dashed Dylan’s ramblings), the Rolling Thunder Revue tour (Stripped of a few shows) and, of course, the gospel tour (Highlights of which, essentially which seems unfair to the fans who DO like it) and then, that’s where it wraps up for now. The last live official Dylan compilation – at least from shows that were recorded with in 18 months of the shows on there was, what, 22 years ago now with the Japanese export, ‘Bob Dylan’ live. To have fresh new boots from a tour that was well mined for audience recordings already is a blessing. 

Though you might not want to go give away all your audience captures from these shows just yet – There’s something to be said for the mid-crowd-sound that you just don’t get with a soundboard or even a matrix sometimes, A stage eye view is something else. And so it comes to pass again with ‘Newcastle 1984’
Another great set from this cache of tapes, Dylan on stage in the North East of England with his sometimes hit and miss band, no doubt Dylan would also have been aware of the industrial past of this city and it’s surrounding areas – loose ties to Duluth surely evident, local lads done good Lindesfarne, sadly not included on the tapes, were the support of the bands tour, Santana were obviously not too far away either, Carlos would join Dylan on stage for the last part of the main show tonight.
The set list shows little deviation between the Slane show, beginning with ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ again, it means naturally that the band all get a bit of a showplate to begin on. This version – A much more careering, vegasesque take on the bones of the original is replete with a good handful of showy guitar solos, squidgy bass and the zippy piano. Its original intent might be lost under this showman ship but it’s a bold statement of the evenings intent. More suited to this feel is the reggaeish ‘Jokerman’ – one of the most recent stars from Dylan’s oeuvre. 
Back to fleeting tempo for ‘All Along The Watchtower’, Dylan doesn’t miss a beat, the swirling, mailable solos of Mick Taylor’s virtually curl up and spin round the pillars of the song before Mick repeals back to chiming in with Dylan on riffs. It’s great to hear Dylan excitedly grab back at his old catalogue again – Though the body belonged to Hendrix, the soul is still pure Dylan. The same goes for ‘Maggie’s Farm’, it’s wildly hypnotic drive kinda-second to the thrill that Bob seems to be enjoying as he spits out his excitement for the song again – The power is edged up by the coda where Dylan and Taylor flex with McLagan, all trading licks, punching higher and higher to get heard. 
Dylan uses more of the energy that he squeezes out during, ‘Licence To Kill’ where he sounds positively possessed – His delivery hotter and more fierce, he churns up a maddening storm, grabbing the song by the haunches and calling it for what it’s worth. 
Returning after Greg’s solo song, Dylan slips straight in to his acoustic section – coming off of the rock part, it sounds a little meek in presentation at first but it doesn’t take long to adjust to, ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’, it takes a jarring ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ with it’s re-written lyrics the whole song to settle in to. As we’re now settled with the BOTT original lyrics, it must have been difficult for Dylan to write out this new set of words on parchment and learn them all over again. Try as I might, I still struggle with the change. Thankfully, Dylan saw no reason to hide anything in the surreality of ‘It’s Alright, Ma’ and raspilly slings out word over word, it comes as a crux to the meaning as Dylan seems oddly unenthused by them, using his power in retaining the muscle-memory of remembering them. 
‘Simple Twist Of Fate’ has the band join Dylan back on stage again. Once again, he’s changing words, though, again, it seems that these twists and tweaks agree with him. There’s more emotion to this rendition, Bob sounds more compassionate, is racked and taut with emotions – This is all helped along of course by Mick’s fluid guitar. 
“I realise I changed a few of the lyrics on that last song, it still sounds recognisable though”, says Dylan coyly afterwards. Slipping the devil back in the detail, an oddly ghostish echo follows Dylan’s vocal through, ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’, making his vocals sound a little more possessed. 
The second disk starts with the rumbunctious, ‘Enough Is Enough’ – A definite highlight for me, this r’n’r styled rocker with it’s pastiche style riff-rolls is exciting enough but Mick Taylor’s bright blue solos are suitable foil to Dylan’s aggitated delivery and it’s a thrill to have – Between this and ‘Every Grain Of Sand’ there’s a sharp, unculous edit that sounds like a bit of cut and shut on the tape – It doesn’t affect the music though thankfully as ‘Every Grain ..’ is a fantastic rendition. 
To this end of the first part of the set, we turn to the classics that would make everyone’s “Greatest Hits”, beginning with a slower placed, whirling ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, the thuds of the bass-drum hit a little heavy here in the mix, it’s more of a side note than too strong an affectation but noticeable.
The encore finds Dylan returning to a brief acoustic set – ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ leads to ‘Girl From The North Country’ to ‘It Ain’t Me, Babe’, not much separates the latter two, the tempo, the style pretty much identical. It’s still a wonder to revel in Dylan all acoustically however, certainly with the respect of hindsight, it would be a very special event by which Dylan would talk himself in to doing this again. 
Finally, Carlos Santana leads by joining Dylan back on stage again and taking a hand in weaving his own magic in to the rest of the set – from the totemic guitar work on ‘Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat’, to some excellent jousting with Mick Taylor on ‘Tombstone Blues’. 
There’s an oddly plodding, ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ that no amount of guitar or harp seems to be able to save, though ‘Knockin’ On Heavens Door’ is slightly better, it’s much more “Las Vegas” in feel than it could be, ‘The Times They Are-A Changin’’ falls further towards better than the rest, the chiming, spiralling guitar work lights it up from underneath. 
The bonus track from Grenoble, a rich and delicious, ‘Senor’ where Dylan flies with full faculties – Santana’s chunky and fleetful soloing is deeply pleasurable and so well placed. 
The timings for these disks are packed full – Near to capacity, that’s a relief after a few years of labels scrimping their material to cover half or three quarters of a disks length. Here we have the full Dylan remit. The covers are beautiful again, a full colour Dylan on the front looking spookily possessed, the rear of the sleeve a full stage shot with Dylan in the middle.
One thing that I must mention – The version of ‘It’s Ain’t Me, Babe’ appeared on ‘Slane 1984 Soundboard’ (Zion-235) – A little crossing between these sets, padding out the disks – But does the inclusion of a bonus track at the end of disk two mean that THAT show is next in line to see release? A great show but not my favourite of the 1984 releases so far. Still eminently listenable and I’d certainly suggest worth a listen or two.

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