The Backyard 2010 (Highway HW-011/12)
The Backyard, Austin, TX – August 4th, 2010
Disk 1 : Introduction / Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat / Lay Lady Lay / Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues / Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again / Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ / Tangled Up In Blue / Rollin’ & Tumblin’ / Tryin’ To Get To Heaven / Cold Irons Bound / Workingman’s Blues / Highway 61 Revisited / Can’t Wait [ 79:06 ]
Disk 2 : Thunder On The Mountain / Ballad Of A Thin Man / [ Encore Break ] / Like A Rolling Stone / band introduction / All Along The Watchtower [ 32:05 ]
Early August found Dylan arrive in Texas for the first show of the American leg of his tour at “The Backyard” in Austin, Texas also known as ‘Tips Arena’. The show would be notable for the guest joining them on stage this evening – Ian Neville, son of Arron Neville – famous as singer, songwriter & Grammy winner for his duet with Linda Ronstadt with the songs “Don’t Know Much” & “All My Life”.
Unfortunately the tape that is used for this show is clear but has some serious problems with bass & while it can still be tempered with a modest home stereo system it loses a little of it’s life in doing so & could have been treated better in the mastering process.
We’re treated tonight to the long into – Slated by some for being over used & tedious but for most that are attending – Original Bobcats, their kids & their grand kids a brilliant opening gambit & tension raiser.
The shows opening track “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” champs at the bit to get out. A tethered & wild stomper fit for purpose at this venue. As with other renditions this year it’s not a great shade away from the version that has been played out before but the band play it so well then there’s no real use in bending, stretching or beating the formula. The audience tonight are enraptured not just by Bobby but have also come to see the main players of the band – one attendant seems more than pleased to shout his enthusiasm for all to hear – whooping for Charlie Sexton, bellowing the songs titles & generally ensuring that everyone hears how good a time he’s having. Understandable if you’re going to a Dylan show though – Who knows how long the Never Ending Tour will go on for?
“Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues” thunders on a-pace in a great variation of it’s regular airing. Chiming & rasping guitar chords echo side by side. Dylan flits between muttering the lyrics & howling them out at the top of his voice. This is also the first of three tracks where Dylan decides to jump back on to guitar & give the crowd a glimpse in to pre-organ Bobby
Back up to the future & Dylan presents us with “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'” from ‘Together Through Life’ & the first track to feature Ivan playing Bobby’s keyboard while also benefiting from a lazy trumpet played by Donnie Herron. Dylan seems to be a little more spirited by this point & the song seems to wave like a raunchy flirt or a carnival groove.
The track is topped off by a comical yell for “Cold Irons Bound” for the vocal audience member but instead Dylan goes much further back & pulls a glistening “Tangled Up In Blue” in to the set. The arrangement in not unfamiliar to this year but the phrasing – Dylan’s stop / start mangling like he’s being fed half a line at a time does get frustrating almost like we know the lyric better than he does & you find yourself wishing him on to get to the point to just to grab his harp ( which he doesn’t ) to get him to stop shuffling out words like playing cards.
“Rollin’ & Tumblin'” speeds us back to Dylan’s present catalogue & is at least a solid, jostling knees up that keeps the set list apace with the feel in the venue. “Cold Irons Bound” follows a lackluster “”Tryin’ To Get To Heaven” by stabbing pointedly at the air in the venue with a renewed enthusiasm – This, it would seem, is where the show takes a turn & things get a little more exciting. The song has always been a great, throbbing force of sound & this version is no different – cascading with a brutal & steely push the bands focus is reformed & they seem to know what to do again. The metallic sounds from the harp whistle through the air cementing the sound of Dylan within the place. The following silence from the band give the crowd a little more space to show their appreciation for the ring leader shouting such things as “Cold Irons Bound”, “Bob, Yeah” & “Cowboy Bob” – Heaven knows what Dylan must think to this but when you’re given the space of a few spare seconds to attract the attention of one of your heros then anything goes.
“Workingman Blues #2” is a breather to the set that sounds brilliantly delicate & for once suits this recording as it lays behind the bassy thump & gives us precious time to appreciate the softer side of the canon before “Highway 61 Revisited” drops to blow the rest of the cobwebs away.
This version features a skewed organ jam for the sections that are usually reserved for the guitar parts. Spirited it may be but fulfilling .. not so much as the strange fills only serve to highlight the clumsy choices of notes that Dylan picks out when setting himself up for a solo.
“Can’t Wait” comes out lurching for the shadows fully formed – Late Beatleesque & sullenly brooding this ‘Time Out Of Mind’ track has the crowd in the palm of it’s hand & rather like the rest of Dylan’s love songs act’s like a love song to the audience just as much as one to an unseen intended. Ivan is much better supported on this track than on “Beyond Here ..” & his subtle organ lines push gently on underneath the fluid guitars & the short but sweet gasp of Dylan’s harp.
“Thunder On The Mountain” is jive in extremis that skittles around with giddy abandon – Dylan is right on the ball with his ragged lyrics but then they were written with this voice in mind. The furious beat won’t let up & the crowd have started to pick up the vibes from the stage & get increasingly louder throughout the track. Even Dylan’s random organ boogies seem to fit this time & serve the propel the song ever skyward.
The next regular to sprint out is a fantastic “Ballad Of A Thin Man” – Another of the clearer recordings from the set & an audience favorite judging from the noise this one receives. Subtle & ‘Like A Rolling Stone-ish’ licks come in to play to exacerbate the feeling, Tony’s bass parts are even notable as almost sounding like you could be stood next to him on stage but once Dylan grabs his harp you know the game is up & nothing could tear your ears away from the weeping brilliance that hums & ebbs within.
As seems to be the norm with these releases Highway have decided to leave in the encore break for the show which tonight lasts over 5 minutes! If that much applause floats your boat or you want to treat this as a real gig & go get yourself a beer or make you way to the bathroom – no queueing! – then that’s your perogative.
“Like A Rolling Stone” breaks the spell & enters the two song encore. A calmer & less rapturous theme than before, it’s not without some of it’s magic but dresses in different clothes this time. One might wish for the euphoric, bleeding heart, bustler of years gone by but this is a wonderful, hands in the air, hold-your-partner-closer special that serves to bring Dylan that good few foot closer to the crowd – if only in spirit at least.
The band introductions are quite sweet in their own way – each introduction to each band member is alighted by a different chord chosen at random on Dylan’s keyboard. The band aren’t with out their love but the organ swirls prick the ears a little.
“All Along The Watchtower”, the shows closer, allows a little more showman ship to the fore – More soloing, heavier drumming & more eyes on the boss as the band wait for any indication that they’re free to speed along with a small infliction or they have to change to suit Dylan’s mood in the split of a second. It’s a fine way to end the night & as if anything else needs to establish the power of a night like this then it would more than seal the deal.
In all fairness despite the terrible thin paper used on these releases then the artwork on this release is very nice indeed – Using a very hi-def stage picture of Dylan in red velvet for the cover but a seemingly meaningless picture on the back ( but a nice line in clear font & attractive layout ) it’s one of the nicer covers that Highway have produced this time round.