Bob Dylan – Pescara Jazz 2001 (Golden Eggs Egg 80/81)
Disk 1; Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie / Mr. Tambourine Man / It Ain’t Me Babe / If Not For You / Man In The Long Black Coat / I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight / Mama You Been On My Mind / Masters Of War / Tangled Up In Blue / Watching The River Flow
Disk 2; Not Dark Yet / Cold Irons Bound / Everything Is Broken / Love Sick / Like A Rolling Stone / My Back Pages / All Along The Watchtower / Forever Young / Highway 61 Revisited / Blowin’ In The Wind / Rainy Day Women ﹟12 & 35
Pescara, Italy, Teatro D’Annumzio, July 22, 2001.
Remember the time when Bob Dylan bootlegs on silver disk were proliferate on silver CD. You couldn’t move for them at fairs, swop meets, at online retailers, etc. Anything the man did was pressed it seems and I often, loosely, remember the quote in Howard Sounes’ biography , the story of Dylan’s absent day in court because, as he attested, if he was to appear on video, this semi-appearance would get bootlegged. Exasperated, the judge sent out a lackey in to the head stores of New York to see whether Dylan was right. Said staff returned around an hour later with armfuls of the illicit artifact to which the judge had to acquiesce to.
Also, remember the times when Dylan would stand towards the front of the stage, pretty much exclusively play guitar and sometimes, even talk to the audience, crack a joke, maybe. After a long absence, we can revisit these days with this release from the Golden Eggs label, ‘Pescara Jazz 2001’ from the festival and town of the same name in Italy, a couple of months before the release of “Love And Theft”.
One of those shows where Bob would shift his band from the stage for at least 45% of the show to perform acoustically, his renditions still showing regard for the original structures of his songs. The label use a fantastic audience recording for this release; Nice and close to the action – The acoustics are phenomenal for an audience tape, the crowd intruding in to the mix in a warm way, still audible but not so much that it becomes offensive. There’s a little settling of the tape through, ‘Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie’ as the tape becomes a little more muted but broadens out to a wider stereo, that’s where it seems to settle. People have debated the merits of this show – Particularly Bob’s opening positions as being like he was elsewhere and fumbling. I don’t hear it, however, I think that Bob starts well and gets better.
Standout renditions from the set include ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’, a full band version that surprises as just the second song in the set (It was the rolling classic part of the setlist, the third time that the track had taken that position), ‘Man In The Long Black Coat’ sounds as dark as the coat must appear with David Kemper’s furious, bullet-like drumming a thrilling backdrop though it jars stood so closely next to ‘I’ll Be Your Baby tonight’. ‘Mama, You Been On My Mind’ has that carefree irresponsibility about it before the mood turns again ‘Masters Of War’. This song seems to go down best with the audience – Some 2,500 people clapping along it’s beat at the beginning.
’Tangled Up In Blue’ seems to suffer from “forgotten song” syndrome as Dylan begins to play though Charlie and Larry don’t seem to have been at rehearsals and it takes a few seconds longer for them to catch Bob’s eye then catch up. Once it gets going however, it’s a great rendition – Unfortunately, it’s acoustic solos rather than the harp – I can’t help but feel that had that have been introduced, we’d have had better foundations.
The pleasant, lazy rock of ‘Watching The River Flow’ bounces along merrily with a hushed bunch of solos by the guitarists punctuating the middle eight. It comes as stark contrast to the rejoining, ‘Not Dark Yet’, which features some of Dylan’s clearest lines of the night and some crackling guitar beds.
The ever-appealing ‘Cold Iron Bounds’ appears next and, true to form, doesn’t disappoint. The hollow drum beat that keeps the track swaying and clears the groove, launches some spooky, chiming guitar work before it bubbles up to a chilling assault. There are pockets within the song that seem to be hidden from time to time but Dylan always pulls out something new when he revisits, as, as the time of playing, the track is still relatively new, we’re having fun investigating what can be stretched and ‘Everything Is Broken’ is a suitable mate for this version, it’s drive is directed slightly differently but the energy is pretty much the same.
‘Love Sick’ gets a rapturous applause by only the first few bars. It’s sparse construction aided by a couple of chimes which I found to be a little distracting, it’s too florid a touch to these ears and could have been scaled back a little better. ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ has the same call and response guitar stabs that were unnecessary on ‘Love Sick’, here however, they’re playful and add a little more puckish charm to the track.
We have a very linear approach to ‘All Along The Watchtower’. Hendrix in form though a lot more acoustically shaped, there are elements of a quiet electricity that bubble underneath, bustling, trying to emerge. This is followed by a beautifully delicate and wildly endearing ‘Forever Young’ – Gorgeous guitar crescendos flutter like butterflies and chorus harmonies soar. It’s a beauty! Running almost 7 minutes, it’s very easy to lose yourself in to too.
We wind the set up with a differing clutch of classics, ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ being the first. Full of the songs potent, bullish energy – plenty of full throated howling, box-‘o-frogs drumming and restless guitar propulsion, next is ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’, suffering from microphone problems for the first minute, rendering it almost instrumental, each time Dylan hits the right notes, he’s met with an explosive cheer from the audience. It’s at around this time that the crowd get a little more vociferous, however, the band blow those cares away with a set of magnificently primed choruses where their collective voices just soar.
Finally, it’s time for the band to wrap up but not before a slunky, breezy, bar-jam take on ‘Rainy Day Women ﹟12 & 35’, where Dylan throws out some wonderful phrasing, a solid solo before turning his back on the night. It’s a better way to tie up loose ends than pretty much anything else that might fall in to the final spot but no surprises here either. Just a great selection.
The packaging, it must be noted, is great – A smiling Dylan to the front cover over the Pascara Jazz 2001 colours, inside the gatefold, a mixture of press shots and various concerts shots (Not all from the same gig) – A very pretty little package.