Over The Umeda Sky (Thinman 117/118)
Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan – February 17, 1997
Disc 1 (75:21): Crash On The Levee (Down In The Flood), Señor, All Along The Watchtower, Under The Red Sky, It Takes A Lot To Laugh, Silvio, Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie, Tangled Up In Blue, To Ramona, Seeing The Real You At Last, I Shall Be Released
Disc 2 (76:54): Maggie’s Farm, Like A Rolling Stone, My Back Pages, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35. Bonus tracks, Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan – February 18th, 1997: Positively Fourth Street, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Masters Of War, Everything Is Broken, I And I
Bob Dylan started the 1997 Never Ending Tour with eleven dates in Japan from February 9th to February 24th. Thinman, following the March release of the February 16th Nagoya show on In Another Lifetime (Thinman-104/105) have now issued the following night at the Festival Hall in Osaka on Over The Umeda Sky. The label utilizes another sterling stereo audience recording of the entire show with no cuts in the music.
The February 17th concert, the first of two in Osaka, is the most notable and unique of the eleven with rarely played songs. It begins with “Crash On The Levee (Down In The Flood)” as does a majority of the shows but is followed by the somber, stately “Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)” played for the only time in Japan. The chords are instantly recognizable under the slippery notes from Baxter’s slide guitar as they deliver a convincing version of the only song from Street Legal to have any kind of endurance in Dylan’s live repertoire.
“All Along The Watchtower” by contrast has been played on almost every tour it seems and again Baxter makes the slide guitar integral to the sound which takes away some of the bite of John Jackson’s guitar. “Under The Red Sky” is another surprise inclusion in the set, making its only appearance on the tour. Dylan’s voice achieves an elasticity which wraps around the narrative and spins it to such delight that it’s a puzzle why the song was criticised upon release in 1990. It followed by the scarcely played “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry,” played for one of three times.
A three song acoustic (with the band) set begins with the Elizabeth Cotton cover “Baby It Ain’t No Lie.” It was played in most of the dates effectivly replacing the Grateful Dead cover “Friend Of The Devil” as the emotional yet catchy classic which recalls Dylan’s muse. “Tangled Up In Blue” is played for the second of three times and the psychadelic “To Ramona,” where he hammers the dactyls in his voice, is played for the only time.
“Seeing The Real You At Last” is the second of two of his eighties mid-life crisis songs to find its way into the setlist and is followed by “I Shall Be Released,” another song unique to this show. The show closes with a strange arrangement of “Maggie’s Farm.” “Like A Rolling Stone” begins the encore set and is followed by the only “My Back Pages” in Japan. The encores close with a long, fun version of “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35.”
Thinman include five bonus tracks from the following night in Osaka. “Positively 4th Street” was played early in the set that night, but the rest of the numbers comprise two-thirds of the acoustic interlude and the following two numbers. It is interesting these songs are chosen since they highlight two of the better songs from his eighties output. “Everything Is Broken” from Oh Mercy is played at a quick pace and Dylan’s vocals highlight the absurdity in the lyrics. “I And I” from Infidels follows and is again a special performance of powerful track. This arrangement slows down the tempo and emphasizes the narrative. Overall Over The Umeda Sky (Umeda in the title refers to the Osaka business district) is another quality release by Thinman.