Rollin’ And Tumblin’ In The Plaza (Look Back Records LBR 001/002)
Centro de Tecnificación, Alicante, Spain – July 2nd, 2008
CDR 1: Maggie´s Farm / It Ain´t Me Babe/ Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again/ Positively 4th Street/ High Water (for Charlie Patton)/ Rollin´ And Tumblin´/ Spirit on the Water/ It´s All Right Ma (I´m Only Bleeding)/ Workingman´s Blues n.2/ Things Have Changed/ My Back Pages
CDR 2: Highway 61 Revisited/ Love Sick/ Summer Nights/ Ain´t Talkin´/ Thunder on the Mountain/ Like a Rolling Stone
Chronologically, this is the first of the five concerts compiled in the Cd-r series published by Look Back Records, commemorating Bob Dylan´s major Spanish tour of 2008. The packaging, favouring black colour and with classy pictures, is truly elegant, but the title in this particular case is completely erroneous, since this concert was not held in a “plaza” or Bull-ring, but in the Centro de Tecnificación of the city of Alicante, a centre which is often used as a sports ground (nothing to do with bullfighting there!); the concert took place on July the 2nd, 2008. This is an audience recording, like the rest of the recordings for this series, and it is a particularly good one, allowing each instrument to be heard clearly and with Dylan´s voice dominating the enemble, making for a very interesting listening experience.
The concert begins somewhat inauspiciously with a steady-rocking version of “Maggie´s Farm”, perhaps too steady, and lacking the raucous fury that this piece has had in the past. But it only takes a snare beat from George Recile to change everything: all the band jump into “It Ain´t Me Babe”, lead by the steel guitar work of Donnie Herron, to make the concert come fully alive. Dylan sings the choruses with conviction, emphasising the sense of disdain that this song has always had, but it is the instrumental arrangement that really shines out here; George Recile´s elegant drumming is also a delight to hear in the final, more accelerated section. Next comes a blistering version of “Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”, energically played, but which does not receive the same hysterical acclaim that it would receive, just a few days after this concert, in several Andalusian cities.
But nothing could have prepared the crowd (or the listener of this CD) for the surprise that comes next: a slow-marching, highly melodic version of “Positively 4th Street”; Dylan sings it in a lower key than the original, but with full intention, elongating the last word in each of the verses, driving his point home every time. Denny Freeman´s majestic guitar figures decorate every instrumental passage between Dylan´s verses, and George Recile´s dextrous work on the cymbals gives a magnificent sparkle to the whole performance. This is truly one of the great highlights, not only of this concert, but of the whole of Dylan´s Spanish tour of 2008. Having experienced this magical moment, the audience is fully ready for rotund rockers such as “High Water (for Charlie Patton)” and “Rollin´ And Tumblin´”; the delicate “Spirit on the Water”, on the other hand, provides a necessary respite, and is celebrated with screams of pleasure both during and after its performance.
After this series of songs form the noughties comes an authoritative, rotund version of “It´s All Right Ma, I´m Only Bleeding”: here Donnie Herron´s frenzied banjo sustains Dylan´s voice, and Danny Freeman riffs powerfully as the strength of rock dominates the stage again. Still spellbound by this demonstration of sheer power, several voices are heard whispering with pleasure, saying repeatedly “Qué bonito!” (“How beautiful!”) as soon as they hear the instrumental introduction to “Workingman´s Blues n.2”, with the marvelous combination of Donne Herron´s fiddle and Stu Kimball´s steel guitar, in a truly virtuoso performance. After such a delicate interpretation, it must be said that the version of “My Back Pages” included here is, to a certain extent, a missed opportunity. The instrumental accompaniment is top-notch, as one could expect from this true super-group, but Dylan himself, always eager to play around with the songs, seems to want to experiment too much with the lines, singing them in a jaunty, jumpy, brisk rhythm that really does not fit the evocative, self-critical mood of the original. Dylan collectors will no doubt remember the majestic version from 1994, available in the Moonlight “Completely Unplugged” double Cd, and compared to that magical rendition (or even to the extraordinary version of “Positively 4th Street” in this very CDr), this one is a bit of a letdown.
There is a radical change of mood at the beginning of the second CD, as the band jump into a fiery, adrenaline-charged version of “Highway 61 Revisited”: Dylan is clearly enjoying himself here, singing the song with intense passion, and the guitar work between Danny Freeman and Donnie Herron is simply breathtaking. The final section of the concert hovers towards more atmospheric, evocative pieces, with a sweaty “Love Sick” and a richly textured, intense “Ain´t Talkin”: once more the solemn, meditative atmosphere of this piece song provides a wonderfully suggestive ending for the concert. There is no doubt as to Dylan´s full commitment to this recent masterpiece, as he injects each of the lines with special intention, reaching major clarity and emphasis as he slowly pronounces the most vidictive, even aggressive words: “If I catch my opponents while they are sleeeping…I´ll just SLAUGHTER -THEM – WHERE – THEY- LIE”. This is Dylan at his most uncompromising and true. A long pause follows as the audience cheers loudly and waits for the encoures, with one audience member particularly intent on asking for “Like A Rolling Stone”(which he will of course get), and a couple more, perhaps inevitably in a Spanish concert, calling Dylan “Torero” (bullfighter!; perhaps the most unlikely of possible occupations for Dylan). A dynamic “Thunder on the Mountain” provides the first encore, and a triumphant “Like A Rolling Stone”, with Bob letting the audience take over in the chorus (rather than leading them along, as he would do in the Andalusian concerts a few days later) bringing the show to its vibrant, apotheosic conclusion.
This is perhaps not the very best of the five wonderful CDrs documenting Dylan´s Spanish tour of 2008; it is nevertheless a very interesting document of a great performance (especially in terms of the varied setlist) and, given its scarcity (only 100 copies issued) it is certainly a very worthy addition to any Dylan collection, and of course indispensible to those wanting to have this excellent series as a whole.