Upper Darby 1988 (Thinman-139/140)
Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA – October 13th, 1988
Disc 1 (60:51): Subterranean Homesick Blues, Absolutely Sweet Marie, Masters Of War, You’re A Big Girl Now, Shelter From The Storm, Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream, Highway 61 Revisited, With God On Our Side, Girl From The North Country, Don’t Think Twice, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
Disc 2 (53:38): Silvio, I Shall Be Released, Like A Rolling Stone, One Too Many Mornings, Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll, Barbara Allen, Times They Are A-Changin’ All Along The Watchtower, Maggie’s Farm, Every Grain Of Sand
The third part of Bob Dylan’s first Never Ending Tour in 1988 was the shortest. It contained six shows: two at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, outside of Philadelphia, and four at Radio City Music Hall immediately afterwards. Like the others it features his first NET band of GE Smith on guitar, Kenny Aaronson on bass and Christopher Parker on drums.
Upper Darby 1988 on Thinman is the first release of the first night of this short tour. The label utilizes and excellent stereo audience recording of the entire concert. There is a tape flip after “Silvio,” after “Like A Rolling Stone” and after “The Lonely Death Of Hattie Carroll” but no music is lost. Early pressings contained an error on the first disc, replacing “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” with “Barbara Allen,” but a repressing corrected this. The misprinted disc has “Thinman-139 (DS1)” in the bottom inner circle, but the corrected disc says “Thinman 139R.”
Like all the other shows, this begins with the adrenaline rush of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” acting as a circus screamer, followed by “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” a song which held some importance in early NET.
“Masters Of War” continues to hold the bite of the heavy metal 1978 arrangement, even if Smith cannot inject Billy Cross’ same fiery intensity. “You’re A Big Girl Now” has a very good arrangement, capturing the catchiness in the tune but “Shelter From The Storm” sounds horrible. The upbeat hard rock beat sound wooden and sucks any emotion and all profundity from the lyrics.
But following is the first live performance of “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” from Bringing It All Back Home. This is one of his more surreal and bizarre songs in the catalogue and a live version seemed almost unthinkable before. It starts off without the false start of the studio version, and continues with the narrative of the Mayflower and Captain Ahab.
After “Highway 61 Revisited” Dylan plays a short acoustic set. He start off with “With God On Our Side.” This is the first performance of the song since July 8th, 1984 in Slane, Ireland and now contains a new verse about the Vietnam war: “In the nineteen-sixties, came the Vietnam war / Can someone tell me, what we were fighting for? / So many young men died, so many mothers cried / Now I ask the question, was God on our side?” This verse was included in The Neville Brothers’ cover released the following year and some speculate was written by them. It also includes the references to Nazi Germany and the Russians that would be omitted from later performances.
“Girl From The North Country” is given a breezy arrangement and is followed by “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” which segues into “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” The rest of the band join Dylan during this number and help him complete it. “Anybody out there I know tonight?” Dylan then asks. “Do I know anybody out there? But, there’s just one person I do know.”
“Like A Rolling Stone” closes the set. They play an arrangement that is mostly orthodox, but Smith, Parker and Aaronson hit upon a disco/funk beat several times throughout the song.
Most shows feature three to four encores, but in this show Dylan rewards the audience with seven songs. This is the longest encore set of the year and starts off with a slow, solo acoustic rendition of “One Too Many Mornings.”
After “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll” Dylan asks, “Anybody wanna hear a folk song? I’ll see if I can remember it.” The traditional folk tune of choice for many shows this year was the Scottish song “Barbara Allen.” This would be its final performance of the year and would be replayed by “Wagoner’s Lad” in the New York shows. A quick version of “The Times They Are A-Changing” is the final acoustic solo song of the encore set.
Smith starts off a raucous version of “All Along The Watchtower” which is followed by “Maggie’s Farm.” The show ends with only the fifth version of “Every Grain Of Sand” of the year, played in the same thumping hard rock beat this band favors in their arrangements. The beauty of this song isn’t as diminished as is “Shelter From The Storm.” Dylan’s vocals are delivered with sincerity and is effective.
Upper Darby 1988 is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with thick inserts common for many releases on Thinman. This label have been laborious in producing quality silvers from Dylan’s gospel period and early NET shows and this is another quality title worth having.