Bob Dylan, ‘That Old Black Magic’ (Eat A Peach EAT 184/185)
Things Have Changed / To Ramona / Highway 61 Revisited / Beyond Here Lies Nothing / Why Try To Change Me Now / Pay In Blood / Melancholy Mood / Dusquesne Whistle / Stormy Weather / Tangled Up In Blue.
Early Roman Kings / Spirit On The Water / Love Sick / All or Nothing At All / Desolation Row / Soon After Midnight / That Old Black Magic / Long & Wasted Years / Autumn Leaves / Blowin’ In The Wind / Ballad Of A Thin Man.
Bournemouth International Centre, Bournemouth, England. May 4th, 2017.
Security to Bob Dylan’s UK concerts (The ones that were of the most interest to me knowing that Dylan was previously apt to dropping that exclusive singular rarity or even, god forbid, the full set. Plenty of scribes noted the attention paid to the heavies at the London palladium for example scurrying up and down the aisles should a crisp packet rustle or someone take out their phone to check what time the pub shut over the road and could they find the time for a quick pint after the show before they had to catch the tube.
Doubtless, the men and women in black were very much the same at Bournemouth – a typical little seaside town in the UK where heads from the London area might enjoy their holidays in the 50’s or 60’s were they not able to afford the exclusivities of a flight to that little sun hotspot, Italy – drifting up and down the gaps between the seats, noisily hushing, tutting and silencing anyone who dared to shuffle in their seats but, despite this over-control of restlessness, the Eat A Peach label have managed to secure another excellent recording from Ozzie, one of their regular contributors, who has managed an excellent, clear, only very, very slightly distant, recording with the band as clear as the vocals, the audience a respectful understudy.
The other thing that you might read about Dylan’s shows was that everyone thought they were uniformly excellent. The success (!) of ‘Triplicate’ warming the press to Dylan’s latest phase and bringing their thoughts around to his way of performing. Mainly stood paddling about on the piano keys, occasionally stood like an anxious 8 year old at the front of the school auditorium, reading out from the pages of “Hamlet” – as, despite the years and years of stage work, he’s still naked without his guitar and stands uneasy, like he might just throw himself off for a stage-dive at any moment.
This recording shows justification to the warm words of the press as, well, Bob’s in good form. A fuller voice (Nice to think as we enter the 20th anniversary of the heart attack as there can’t be many who could have managed that!), a set of songs that we’re quite used to being chopped up and rearranged by now (No surprises) bunched with the songs that Dylan now feels represent his age as they also did with so many of the contemporaries of his age (Or the era if they didn’t get to live this long.)
Highlights from the evening span between a clopping, cowboy-movie-esque, ‘Things Have Changed’, a jumpy ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ that revels in a mood and style that’s close to Dylan’s ‘90’s vibe. The freak-burlesque trot of ‘Beyond Here Lies Nothing’ has a steely eyed stare and, thankfully, Bob manages to keep his piano flourishes pretty even without going off chord.
‘Why Try To Change Me Now’ salutes the arrival of his crooning phase and is a gentle lead to those that are wary of the latest albums – Nothing as grim as some of the attempts that have passed our ears and a relaxing change for aching legs in a standing venue. ‘Pay In Blood’ gets the toes tapping again, a fan favourite, this is gun-toting-bar room-brawling Bob with a menacing sneer. Another blast from the very recent past, Dusquesne Whistle shuffles, skirts and shoves that funky rhythm around. Dylan’s phrasing is wild and wandering as he goes to some unusual if brilliantly set places.
‘Tangled Up In Blue’ springs from a confused intro but quickly rightens itself again. Dylan places the protagonist outside of face and writes the song from afar, the couple splitting ‘on a sad dark night, somewhere way out west ..’. ‘Early Roman Kings’, an obvious blues, stamps it’s mark upon the stage, while the largest applause of the night is saved for ‘Love Sick’, a muted and resigned rendition but don’t think that Dylan’s not alert, that’s just the feeling of wistfulness as Bob rues the troubles in his love life. The aching guitar solo almost melts through the air.
‘That Old Black Magic’ which gives the sets it’s title is a skippy tousle of joy. The polar opposite to ‘Love Sick’, this is the happy, jittery goodtime of falling under the spell of romance and runs out the bad feelings anyone might have towards Bob’s affectation to the previous past.
The set finishes with a gentle, ‘Blowing In The Wind’ and doomish, ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’. The latter I prefer to the former but both solid renditions that fit the form of the night perfectly.
The packaging to this set is a uniform EAP best – though obviously there weren’t many photos to be had from the night that are of press quality – presented as a miniature LP with a picture CD plus that extra photo booklet – the liner notes by Joel Nohn good but seemingly, the author fell asleep in the middle, woke up and started writing again .. not from where he left off either as we’re missing a sentence somewhere.
From the tour this year, I’d certainly recommend this piece for it’s affordability and ease of availability. How it’ll compare to Crystal Cat’s European box or relatively democratic American set remains to be heard but, as usual, the EAP label get it right.