Tangled Up In Charlottesville (Highway HW-037/38)
John Paul Jones Arena, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. November 10, 2010.
Disk One : Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 / It Ain’t Me, Babe / Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again / Love Sick / The Levee’s Gonna Break / Desolation Row / Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum / Simple Twist Of Fate / High Water ( For Charley Patton ) / Tangled Up In Blue ( 64:14 )
Disk Two : Highway 61 Revisited / Workingman’s Blues #2 / Thunder On The Mountain / Ballad Of A Thinman / ( Encore ) Jolene / Like A Rolling Stone. ( 41:28 )
Recorded at the John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia, tonight’s show is a pared down affair. Dylan sounds like a little tired – Some would say understandable of a man nearing 70 years old & someone whom is accustomed to touring around 150 shows a year – but then again each & every night showcases a different Dylan. One night could showcase a hyper excitable Dylan who fairly swings around his instruments, taking in the crowds enthusiasm like misted water & happily taking time to exude his power through the set.
Other nights will find him quietly poised & nonchalant but it’s not to say that these nights don’t show Dylan at his best – After all he still has his band to pick up the air in the spaces that Dylan leaves behind but this taught atmosphere can also bring out subtleties in the performance that can usually be missed during the expedited nights.
Highway have found a slightly muffled & clear enough audience recording to present to us for this show. We’re right within the middle of the crowd who, despite a few hollers & hand claps, are respectful enough towards the performers but lively enough to draw you in with them.
Following the near standard opener “Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35” a long & lethargic “It Ain’t Me, Babe” follows. At moments it’s pretty enough but it feels like a rested Dylan is speaking the song rather than throwing his weight behind it. The band put a tentative pace behind him, throwing no fancy trickery out there, quietly tending to the job at hand.
There are obvious attempts to try throw some enthusiasm round the arena as “Love Sick” begins but these are attempts by the audience rather than by Dylan & the band. The song slouches along, heart broken & sunken. Throughout the instrumental parts there are tricky & pretty guitar flourishes that creep in while the band play around evidently ready to break out a little.
“The Levee’s Gonna Break” is usually a change to put the foot down & start steam rolling through the faster part of the set but tonight this too is taken at a mid pace although the jam band instrumental section in the middle proves a little more excitement & the song almost takes off.
A long “Desolation Row” fits the mood perfectly. Delicate & keen, Dylan must have been looking forward to putting this one out for attention as his words are more pronounced & he begins to really sing ( or as far as he usually gets to singing at least .. ) This rendition appears to be one of the highlights for the bulk of the fans that attended, not least for the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it harmonica blast that Dylan taunts the fans with before deciding against it all together instead concentrating on his organ playing.
One of the highlights of the evening is the skittering & juggley “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” morphs for a jungle drumming pattern & prowls like a leopard. which in turn changes in to a 50’s jive ( With a touch of the ‘Stones “Not Fade Away” ) while Bobby begins to whisper the words half distractedly. A few rolling guitar lines are let loose that spiral around & away like fireworks. It’s the sound of Dylan breaking out a little & having some fun.
Another track that always tends to heighten the pleasure is “High Water ( For Charley Patton )” and tonight is no different – Once again it thumps & bumps along with glee. The bluegrass touches that Donnie brings out on his banjo are once again proudly affecting & finally Dylan whips out his harp & blows for the attention of the audience. Short bursts of urgent power between the verses that growl & wheeze.
Out of them all “Highway 61 Revisited” comes across hardest – We know where we stand with it & Dylan hardly disappoints. Some hard as nails, ringing guitar work exudes throughout the track as the band jostle with each other to be heard loudest. Both Tony’s bass & Charlie’s guitar seem to have slipped into different tones – The bass a slapstick, plodding rumble & Charlie’s guitar heavier, more metalish & rude.
“Workingman’s Blues #2” is peacefully smart. For Dylan’s new crooning phrase then it’s right on the money & suits him to the ground. His passion for it is obvious & come the final chorus he really spills out his heart for the cause.
To wrap up the main leg of the show we once again close with “Ballad Of A Thin Man” – This spin on the track is almost pin drop quiet throughout the choruses & then thrustingly loud after the chorus. It also brings out Dylan’s best singing of the evening as he holds on to his notes & relishes being able to sweep his voice out over the audience rather than recite lyrics verbatim in his scattershot way.
“Like A Rolling Stone” is a beauty. Halfway between the recitation & the sung versions the musicians peek behind the curtains & start to tweak out some of the mechanics of the track. Gorgeous & winsome guitar lines embroider the work while Dylan plays at the keys & produces a fluid & delicate backbone for the song to stand with. Apart from one momentary glance when the band seem to think that the track has finished too early or that they run out of steam then the track is faultless & loses nothing of it’s joy despite it’s umpteenth appearance in concert.
The tape continues for a good few minutes after the track has finished, the band come together for their collective bow &, according to someone who was there, Dylan wordlessly bend down & gave his harp away to a 12 year old girl in the front row. We’d miss nothing if the recording faded out after the track but listening to the audience for those precious few seconds can sometimes makes just that little more of a deal to the concert.
This tape is just as good as a lot of the tapes that have appeared from the current tour & is a lot better than some of the rest. It may not warrant a silver disk release due to the clarity not being quite up to par but it is a nice recording to have all the same.
Very nice review, Stuart. I attended this show, positioned closely eough where it felt as though I was sitting in Bob’s living room as the band was grouped tightly together on stage. Your comments about the variances in performance are dead on; I’ve never witnessed a bad show from Bob, just some that laid a little flat or listless. The nights previous to Charlottesville at Pitt and Penn State were slick and professional affairs, truly satisfying in every way, whereas this one struck middle ground. Based on audience response the crowd loved it, though, and it’s hard not to understand the reasons why.