Bob Dylan – Power Of Recall (Tambourine Man Records TMR 197/198)

 Power Of Recall (Tambourine Man Records TMR 197/198)

Ramat Gan Stadium, Tel Aviv, Israel – June 20th, 2011

Disc 1 (74:28):  Introduction, Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Things Have Changed, Tangled Up In Blue, Summer Days, Simple Twist Of Fate, Cold Irons Bound, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Highway 61 Revisited, Forgetful Heart, Thunder On The Mountain, Ballad Of A Thin Man

Disc 2 (75:33): Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower, Blowin’ In The Wind. Star Hall – KITEC, Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong – April 13th, 2011:  Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking, It Ain’t Me Babe, Things Have Changed, Tangled Up In Blue, Simple Twist Of Fate, High Water (For Charley Patton), A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, If You Ever Go To Houston, Spirit On The Water, My Wife’s Home Town

Much like how Bob Dylan visited places like Hong Kong and Singapore earlier in 2011, places he’s not visited in almost twenty years, he likewise played in Israel for the first time since 1993.  The Tel Aviv show comes in the middle of a two week tour of Europe between dates in London and Milan.  

Power Of Recall presents the complete show in very good to excellent sound quality.  Ramat Gan Stadium is the city’s outdoor soccer stadium with a capacity of 40,000.  The tape picks up the show very well but there is the “wavering” commonly found on tapes made in outdoor venues.

There are faint audience conversations throughout the show (in both English and Hebrew) and some funny out-of-tune singing during songs like “It Ain’t Me Babe,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” and “Blowin’ In The Wind.”  

The setlist for Tel Aviv is identical to the previous concert in London on June 18th, a rare occurrence for Dylan.  The AP review stated that “legendary rocker Bob Dylan has played a much-awaited concert in Tel Aviv, reprising his famous hits but disappointing thousands of fans by not addressing them and refusing to perform encores.  Twenty-one-year-old Daniel Levy said she came to hear the Dylan classics. She called his music ‘more real, more authentic, more powerful than what we have today.’  But Yosef Speizer, 28, said Dylan’s apparent detachment was bizarre. ‘The whole thing was strange,’ he said.”

People who attended the show didn’t find the latter to be much of a problem, preferring Dylan to address the crowd through his music than through empty gestures or inane little speeches.  Comments from attendees point out that the show was “real special. Dylan’s voice was nothing short of superb and more important, convincing and truthful. Every on of them words rang true, but not the words of the Italian poet, but Dylan’s words. I felt that he means and really cares, that it is important for him to be on the stage and sing these songs, that he relates to the songs, old and new alike.”

It’s apparent to anyone who attends Dylan’s shows, and who can gain a good view of him in performance, that he’s engaging his songs with extreme enthusiasm, gesticulating and giving non-verbal comments to the old lyrics.  The opening two songs, “Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking” and “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” are especially potent.  He gives interesting little grunts in the latter, for example ending the line “The highway’s for gamblers / you better use your sense” with a loud snort.

The middle of the show is a bit weak.  A mellow arrangement of “Cold Irons Bound” doesn’t really take off like it should.  And “Highway 61 Revisited,” which is one of this strongest live numbers, sounds pale and limp.  A reviewer wrote that the first line “God said to Abraham / Kill me a son” was omitted, but it is present on the tape.

But a beautiful, semi-acoustic arrangement of “Forgetful Heart” redeems them.  Dylan pours his guts into the words and Donnie Herron plays the most mournful violin in a heartbreaking duet with Dylan’s harp.  It’s one of the best performances of the piece and and the definite highlight from Tel Aviv.

“Ballad Of A Thin Man” is the set closer, and Dylan rewards the enthusiastic audience with three encores.  “Like A Rolling Stone” is good, but the new arrangement of “All Along The Watchtower” sounds uninspired.  But “Blowin’ In The Wind” is an excellent way to close a very good show.  

The rest of disc two is filled with a big selection from the April 13th show in Hong Kong.  Some overlap in the setlist is apparent, but there are enough unique songs to make it worth hearing including “High Water (For Charley Patton),” “If You Ever Go To Houston” and “My Wife’s Home Town.” 

Power Of Recall is another excellent TMR release worth having.

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