The Wicked Messenger In Osaka (Stringman Records SR 099 – 100)
Osaka, Japan. Kosei-Nenkin Hall – March 6, 2001
Disk 1 : Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie / To Ramona / It’s Alright, Ma ( I’m Only Bleeding ) / Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues / Tears Of Rage / Watching The River Flow / My Back Pages / Mama, You Been On My Mind / Tangled Up In Blue / Standing In The Doorway ( 66:00 )
Disk 2 : The Wicked Messenger / Rainy Day Women 12 & 35 / Love Sick / Like A Rolling Stone / If Dogs Run Free / All Along The Watchtower / Girl Of The North Country / Highway ’61 Revisited / Blowin’ In The Wind. ( 53:58 )
Another night of Dylan’s 2001 trip to the Far East is presented here on Stringman’s centenary release. Once again Bob turns the set list around and throws caution abound upon his arrival in Osaka. The first 13 songs are not repeated from the previous evening and, if anything, dig deeper in to Dylan’s extraordinary set of past lyrics.
Once again we have a great, clear sounding tape that features music and voices upfront but also captures a few unfortunate coughs and whoops along the way.
The show begins with a bountiful, jangled, full band version of Elizabeth Cotten’s standard “Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie” – a song that Dylan first attempted in 1990. This is immediately followed by an Italian sounding “To Ramona” that wouldn’t sound out of place in the soundtrack to the Godfather trilogy. Bob’s heartfelt gushing of the lyrics sound like he could be down on one knee, serenading his beloved from the streets, singing to a barely lit balcony.
“It’s Alright, Ma ( I’m Only Bleeding )” is an early success, the audience click on before the track really begins and then the tension is brilliantly built when David and Tony slide up their parts on the instrumental sections giving the song a heavy presence in reflection to it’s quiet asides. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” is our first electric song of the night. Somehow, it seems to fall short after such an exciting precedent.
“Tears Of Rage” is another new song to the tour. Much more quietly paced than its predecessors it makes for a well timed breathing gap. “Watching The River Flow” gets as much of an enthusiastic response as “It’s Alright, Ma”. The free spirited, poppy chords show a band at ease and happy to be there. Dylan sounds he’s ready to shout out and the ‘wig out’ instrumentals are icing on the proverbial cake.
We step back to acoustic for “My Back Pages”, a lilting, far away version that Dylan seems to take heed from this latter day looking back and reminiscing to make the song sound like the soundtrack to a man making his weary way home. We also hear the first sound of Dylan’s harp this evening too – this comes after a dishearteningly bad bit of soloing from Bob so comes as a welcome respite for more reasons than one.
There’s a strong version of “Tangled Up In Blue” here tonight. Played almost exclusively acoustically Dylan throws around his phrasing, stopping, starting, running through phrases, elongating his words. It is a strange one though as the rendition starts fast but then, ever so slowly starts to slow down but it happens throughout the duration of the song. It’s a strange sensation to the ears as you can’t help but think that you’re feeling a little sea sick as the pace ever-so-slightly starts to drag towards a full stop. The debilitating soloing is still around too but it isn’t as worrying as the guitar playing in “My Back Pages”.
The TOOM track “Standing In The Doorway” finishes up this disk after a strange gap in proceedings ( presumably a tape flip that’s just faded down to make the whole thing a little less obvious. ) There are no flurries of soloing here this time and everything is kept as straight as one might expect. Not an especially thrilling outing but a good addition to the set list merry-go-round.
Disk two begins with a speedy thrash through “The Wicked Messenger” passing in to a ramshackle “Rainy Day Women 12 & 35”. It would seem David struggles to find his beat as he begins which leads the whole band to suffer but once things fall in to place they lock back together again and the track continues as intended ( The soloing has also picked up by this time although, to be fair, it’s not Dylan thats leading this charge. )
“Love Sick” is phenomenal as we’ve come to expect. Realistically, it should now be a mast-head for Dylan’s shows as much as the next track or “Blowin’ .. ” No matter how old Bob gets or as far from his deft political views of the 60’s this is still the feeling that takes us through our teens and beyond. “Like A Rolling Stone” brings the exuberant mood back and ushers in the old favorites ( bar the unexpected stop-gap ) that the crowd have come to expect. “If Dogs Run Free” makes it’s second appearance this week and once again the crowd lap it up and, strangely enough, seem to expect that he’ll play it.
The set ends on a fast – slow – fast structure though still giving the audience an easy ride. As if the tension-chords of “All Along The Watchtower” weren’t enough Dylan delivers this adaptation like a man who has just bust through the swing doors of a saloon. His aim is true and he expects people to shut up and listen. Once he gets his gear and the band explode he really starts to get a little more animated and beefs up his howling. “Girl Of The North Country” is it’s polar opposite, sparse and intimate. Dylan’s gentlemanly figure is restored.
“Highway 61 Revisited” is, as usual, a rollicking thumper that gets the crowd on their feet in praise to the band while “Blowin’ In The Wind” is the gentle settler and fond farewell.
Another contender for keeper and also ran for a silver disk release, this is a very cheap, alternate way to collect Dylan but really deserves better.