The Dogs Are Barking (Thinman-068/69)
Feijenoord Stadium, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, June 23 1978
CD1: A Hard Rain´s A-Gonna Fall/ Love Her With a Feeling/ Baby Stop Crying/ Mr. Tambourine Man/ Shelter from the Storm/ Love Minus Zero-No Limit/ Tangled Up in Blue/ Ballad of a Thin Man/ Maggie´s Farm/ I Don´t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)/ Like a Rolling Stone/ I Shall Be Released/ Going Going Gone.
CD2: Rainy Day Women 12 and 35/ One of Us Must Know (Sooner of Later)/ You´re a Big Girl Now/ One More Cup of Coffee/Blowin´in the Wind/ I Want You/ Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)/ Masters of War/ Just Like a Woman/ Don´t Think Twice It´s All Right/All Along the Watchtower/All I Really Want To Do/ It´s Alright Ma (I´m Only Bleeding)/ Forever Young/ I´ll Be Your Baby Tonight/ The Times They Are A-Changin´.
Thinman are certainly to be praised for bringing to us some first-rate concerts from Dylan´s 1978 tour, in silver-pressed Cds and in very elegant packaging: for those of us interested in 70´s Bob, these are not-to-be missed gems. With the benefit of hindsight, this period must inevitably appear to most of us as “pre-conversion Dylan”. But independently of his later conversion, what really mattered in this period is that he was really into rediscovering himself as a live performer, approaching his back catalogue with an innovative, soulful spirit. It is certainly an immensely rich period in its own right, and the “Street Legal” album itself seems to be gaining more canonical status as the years go by.
Some critics have referred dismissively to the large backing group for the 1978 tour as a “big-band”, as if the players were anonymous, but it was truly an assembly of first-rate musicians: Alan Pasqua (keyboards), David Mansfield (mandolin, violin, guitar), Steve Douglas (saxophone) Jerry Scheff (bass) or Ian Wallace (drums) were first-rate performers on their own right at the end of the seventies, and this ensemble (along with Steve soles on rhythm guitar, Billy Cross on lead guitar and Bobbie Hall on percussion) should perhaps be regarded as a supergroup, uniquely assembled to give new life to the older songs of Dylan, who gave some of his best-ever live concerts that year.
When first reading the title of this Cd, I promised myself a wonderful rendition of “One Too Many Mornings” (“Down the Street the dogs are barking / And the day is a-getting dark…”) but there is no version of that song here. The curious title of this bootleg is justified simply because the first thing one hears on it is…the barking of dogs among the audience in the Feijenoord Stadion in Rotterdam, where the concert took place on June 23, 1978! These dogs are mostly a curiosity, as they seem to move away from the taper (or the taper away from them) before the concert begins.
This material had in fact been released earlier in a Cd-r project entitled “Rotterdam 1978”, but it´s great to finally be able to have it in silver and, moreover, in a package as elegant as this one provided by Thinman, with such a wonderful image of Dylan in action on the cover, along some glossy period photos. This is simply a nice audience recording, but one which has enough depth to allow one to hear the instruments quite distinctly, and with Dylan´s voice, eager and enthusiastic, predominating over all. In terms of sound, it does not quite reach to the standards of the two mythical “Border Beneath the Sun” volumes (documenting Dylan´s 1978 Paris concerts), but the performance more than makes up for any minor complaints that one might have.
The evening begins with a powerful instrumental version of “A Hard-Rain´s A-Gonna Fall”, without Bob, who enters the scene with a fiery rendition of Tampa Red´s “Love Her with a Feeling”, to the absolute hysteria of the audience, who remain wildly enthusiastic throughout the show. From that moment onwards, the beauties of the evening roll on, one after another, and it is difficult to choose among the myriad of memorable moments. “Mr.Tambourine Man” is performed over a powerful, optimistic, infectious rhythm, with Alan Pasqua’s Hammond organ decorating the ensemble and the girl backing vocalists lending soul to the song.
The arrangement for “Love Minus Zero-No Limit” is also wonderful, with the piece turned into a lively, uplifting pop tune carried upwards by David Mansfield´s accompanying violin, and with Dylan putting his soul in the performance, slightly modifying the intonation for every line, and crowning it all with a harmonica solo. “Tangled Up in Blue” is done without the rhythm section, with Dylan reciting the lines in truly incandescent fashion and Steve Douglas giving a virtuoso sax accompaniment all through the piece. “Like a Rolling Stone” is offered as a powerhouse performance, advancing steadily and majestically, and with overlapping solos by David Cross and the great Steve Douglas at the end. The first Cd comes to its conclusion with “Going Going Gone”, which Dylan presents as as “a song I recorded with The Band, a few years ago”; but he has changed the lyrics completely and turned it into a song about a sentimental breakup with no regrets (even reaching the point of matter-of-fact indifference, as he sings “I can find another woman, you can find another man”. That´s OK, Bob: no major emotional problems in sight for anyone!).
The second Cd, corresponding to the second part of the concert, is chock-full with delights. “One of Us Must Know” is performed in a bouncy, rhythmic, dynamic version, with Alan Pasqua offering a magnificent organ solo at the end. “You´re A Big Girl Now” is solemn and majestic, with the whole band ensemble emphasising the dramatism of the lyrics. The version of “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” is truly soulful, with the chorus adding emotional depth to Dylan´s emphatic, intense performance, which surpasses by far the studio version. The rendition of “Just Like A Woman” is quite similar to the one included in “Live at Budokan”, but with a significant difference: the added pleasure of a scorching saxophone solo by Steve Douglas, which erupts at the end of the verses, with Dylan adding his own harmonica before the end. One of the most spectacular moments corresponds to David Mansfield´s amazing violin solo at the end of “All Along the Watchtower”; this song was a major highlight in the 1978 shows, and it is here explicitly dedicated by Dylan to “the late, great Jimi Hendrix”.
The final section of the concert inevitably evokes the last part of the “Live At Budokan” album, as it practically reproduces the same numbers; but the advantage of the performance must clearly go to this Rotterdam concert. “It´s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding” is rhythmic and rotund, and comes preceded of Dylan´s introduction of the whole band (in which once again, as in other occasions in this tour, he mistakes the name of his future wife Carolyn Dennis presenting her as “Carolyn Douglas”).
The version of “All I Really Want To Do” shows Dylan at his most enthusiastic and funny, letting himself go, every time changing the intonation of the verses. Steve Douglas really shines in the passionate reading of “Forever Young”, at the close of the show; and the encores display the combination of wonderful musicianship and passion that were representative of this tour: first comes a relaxed, easy-going version of “I´ll Be Your Baby Tonight”, and then a hearfelt rendition of “The Times They Are A-Changing”, one of the best that this reviewer has heard.
It´s a real pity that not a lot of soundboard recordings should exist from this tour, as it corresponded to one of Dylan´s most brilliant periods as a live performer. But in compensation we have audience recordings as endearing and full of life as this one: “The Dogs are Barking” must clearly be saluted as a major release, truly indispensible to anyone with even a passing interest on Dylan´s live output in the decade of the 1970s.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)