Roman Holiday (Godfather Records GR 639/640)
La Scalinata, Rome, Italy – July 5th, 1998
Disc 1 (46:55): Gotta Serve Somebody, Man In The Long Black Coat, Cold Irons Bound, Born In Time, Can’t Wait, Silvio, Rank Strangers To Me, Desolation Row
Disc 2 (53:35): One Too Many Mornings, Tangled Up In Blue, Make You Feel My Love, Till I Fell In Love With You, It Ain’t Me Babe, Love Sick, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, Blowin’ In The Wind
Bob Dylan spent six weeks touring Europe in the summer of 1998. Many of his shows were at the most visible festivals including Rock Im Ring, Roskilde Festival and Glastonbury. He reached a milestone on July 3rd at the 32nd Montreux Jazz Festival when he played the 1000th show on the Never Ending Tour.
Several nights after the milestone Dylan played at Scalinata Del Palazzo Della Civilta E Del Lavoro in Rome. Not a venue per se, it is an outdoor location on the steps outside of the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana. The steps (scalinata) were used for many other concerts, including Deep Purple and even Dylan in 1989 when he played a gig with Edie Brickell And The New Bohemians on June 20th that summer.
Roman Holiday is the first silver pressed edition of this show to be manufactured. Godfather use a very clear and powerful audience recording. It is one of the best Dylan tapes they’ve released.
Startling about the setlist for the Rome show is the emphasis upon latter day tunes. Perhaps, after releasing his first album of original songs in four years and winning several Grammy awards, Dylan felt it wasn’t necessary to touch the classics from the sixties. The first half hour is dominated by songs from the preceding fifteen years and only five total songs from his sixties peak are played.
After the introduction Dylan starts off with “Gotta Serve Somebody.” The old gospel nugget won for Dylan his first Grammy award and was played for the first time in seven years a few weeks before Rome. The rocking gospel number, with the simple message that we do not live on religiously neutral ground, is followed by “Man In The Long Black Coat.” The suggestion of the narrative that the titular character is the devil himself provides an interesting foil to the set opener.
Two songs from Time Out Of Mind, “Cold Iron Bound” and “Can’t Wait,” flank the rarely played “Born In Time” from Under The Red Sky. This would actually be one of the last appearances in a Dylan show (the last time is August 17th, 2003 in Wallingford, Connecticut).
“Rank Strangers To Me” is the first of the three song acoustic interlude in the middle. The closer on 1988’s Down In The Groove, this is one of its final live appearances and marks a rare time that two songs from that album would find its way into the same show.
A surprisingly up-tempo rock arrangement of “Desolation Row” follows, and someone by the taper really likes “One Too Many Mornings” and sings along. “Tangled Up In Blue” starts off a bit mellow but leads into a loud crescendo after the opening lines, a melodramatic arrangement used during these tours.
“Make You Feel My Love” and “‘Till I Fell In Love With You” close the actual set. Four encores follow including acoustic versions of “It’ Ain’t Me Babe” and “Blowin’ In The Wind.” Between the two are the newest classic “Love Sick” and a sloppy but fun rendition of “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.”
Roman Holiday is another great Bob Dylan release on Godfather worth having. The label has done an exemplary job in releasing shows from Italy which had been pretty much neglected by the other labels. The packaging is up to the label’s high standards with every informative liner notes on the artwork.