Bob Dylan, ‘USA box • Volume 2 – Rough And Rowdy in Albuquerque & Portland and Oakland’ (Crystal Cat 1139-44)
Albuquerque – Disk 1; Intro – Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 / Watching The River Flow / Most Likely You Go Your Way / I Contain Multitudes / False Prophet / When I Paint My Masterpiece / Black Rider / I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight / My Own Version Of You / Crossing The Rubicon / To Be Alone With You (54:48)
Disk 2; Intro / Key West (Philosopher Pirate) / Gotta Serve Somebody / I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You / Melancholy Mood / Mother Of Muses / Goodbye Jimmy Reed / band introduction / Every Grain Of Sand / To Be Alone With You (4/3) / When I Paint My Masterpiece (30/3)/ band introduction / Friend Of The Devil (15/6) (63:26)
Kiva Auditorium, Albuquerque, 3rd March, 2022
Portland – Disk 1; Intro – Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 / Watching The River Flow / Most Likely You Go Your Way / I Contain Multitudes / False Prophet / When I Paint My Masterpiece / Black Rider / I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight / My Own Version Of You / Crossing The Rubicon / To Be Alone With You (57:22)
Disk 2; Intro / Key West (Philosopher Pirate) / Gotta Serve Somebody / I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You / Melancholy Mood / Mother Of Muses / Piano improvisation / Goodbye Jimmy Reed / band introduction / Every Grain Of Sand / thanks the audience / Key West (Philosopher Pirate) (27/6) / Introduction band / Friend Of The Devil (14/6) (67:27)
Arlene Schnitzer C. H. Portland. 31st May, 2022
Oakland – Disk 1; Intro – Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 / Watching The River Flow / Most Likely You Go Your Way / I Contain Multitudes / False Prophet / When I Paint My Masterpiece / Black Rider / I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight / My Own Version Of You / Crossing The Rubicon / To Be Alone With You (58:11)
Disk 2; Intro / Key West (Philosopher Pirate) / Gotta Serve Somebody / I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You / Melancholy Mood / Mother Of Muses / Goodbye Jimmy Reed / band introduction / Friend Of The Devil / Band introduction / Every Grain Of Sand (5/6) / That Old Black Magic (7/6) (54:35)
Fox Theatre, Oakland, 11 Jun, 2022.
I pity the poor Bob Dylan fan. Love it or hate it, one good night is all you need to have fire in your belly again as a fan, who can afford to hunt Dylan around the world however and pit night against night, waiting for the concert where he thinks ‘screw it’ in the afternoon rehearsal, turns to his band and say, “You know what, I’ve been thinking about this song ..” only to drop it in without fanfare and to the shock and clear glee of the audience. Most likely you’ll hear a night that’s different to the night before, marginally maybe, different definitely and as Dylan sprints around the world, now half way through his “Rough And Rowdy” world tour, each and every night could be the one.
The Crystal Cat label, already having presented us with one box from the first US leg of this tour, return with another from the next, a lengthy 74 date tour that takes Dylan through March to July, zipping and shipping around the States. This time, three separate nights, via three different months, along the way, each presumably chosen for either their excellence or how well they were recorded. Each of these shows are perfectly captured – As I’ve mentioned before, were we to encounter a soundboard at this point, I think we’d be baffled. That’s not to say that we would’d accept it with cowboy hats tilted, Dylan’s gale-force-nine enthusiasm while playing the piano sometimes allows for a couple of sneaky faux-pas’ to sound less frightening when they’re masked by an excellent audience recording.
Three different shows with subtle differences slotted in between – Whether they feature a sleight of Dylan picking up his guitar, treating us to a blast of the harmonica when he feels like giving that a shot or, as referenced, when he decides that now’s then time that that track from rehearsals feels his streak and he plays it out. As owners of the last set that Crystal Cat put out know, the dates change, but the shows continue to amaze. Dylan, the fire in his belly lit, is playing for the blues bars, the honky tonk clubs as opposed to any folk relief, he’s borne as the old blues boys and girls that he appreciated when his best years were still before him. His legions of fans still praise him, the undeliverable still besmirch his name for ungamely never speaking. What can you do?
Albuquerque rocks at the Kiva auditorium with a sharp set for the first pair of discs – Dylan whips out the harmonica for ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’ and ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ – A particularly pulverising take on this typically sweet flirt, the latest incarnation is a lot more leg-trembling than leg trembler, it’s howling lust as compared to puckish come-hither like a beer-buzzed man (in this case), releasing his urge. ‘My Own Version Of You’, maybe the least trusted track from ‘Rough And Rowdy’ because of its cartoonish, tacky lyrics really ramps up its campy, ghoulishness. The breakdown as it reaches its third part and the music starts to fall away from the body is delicious – As ridiculous as it all appears in print, live it’s an awesome presence.
‘Key West (Philosopher Pirate)’ is one of the blessings of the first recordings – This sounds almost like a soundboard – there’s a little chatter from one of the tapers neighbours firstly, a couple of whoops at the odd occasion but apart from that, it’s as quiet as a pond in Spring and at 10 minutes long, lovingly calm, though soon after comes ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ like a beefed up truck to over tip the calm. It’s very presence is like a big red shadow over the show and has Dylan phrasing in a wild way. It’s coda is steely huge too.
‘Mother Of Muses’ is another break in the set – Stone-quiet, it seems pretty much each person in the audience holds their breath and listens intently, there’s not a murmur or whisper to be heard anywhere from the room. It’s also a gorgeous version of the song.
Post, ‘Goodbye Jimmy Reed’ Dylan begins his band introduction, “Well, thank you, e’vrybody. Last time we were here, eer, my bass player Tony and I went, we went to see the Bullsnakes. Bullsnakes still around here? I wonder what their record is? (Laughs)” before the band slip easily in to an easy, ‘Every Grain Of Sand’.
Bonus tracks are included here in recordings that aren’t quite as clear as the main performance. ‘To Be Alone With You’ features harp at the beginning before Bob turns back to the piano, an almost discordant ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’ that falls before the first hurdle before gamely struggling on. Finally a rare outing for ‘Friend Of The Devil’, this version on piano, a superb rendition.
Portland next, Dylan arrives here over two months later, accustomed to the road again, singer and his band having bedded themselves in for the long run.
Ostensibly, the chatter between audience members close to our taper is kind of knowing, one of our neighbours is inferring to his friend that Bob will be on piano, “trust me”. Out marched Dylan on to the stage to play a version of ‘Watching The River Flow’ on, ah, guitar before he moved on to the piano. According to the written accounts, the stage was almost in darkness as Dylan walked on while Dylan and the band jammed. A reoccurring theme of the night as ‘You Go Your Way ..’ takes almost the same route.
This recording is around a paper leaf above the last disks bonus tracks, it falls short of the quality of Albuquerque by a short distance, however. I have to assume it was included for its instrumental panache – Dylan seems much more comfortable with the piano, throwing out flourishes, lines, effortless elements where before he was concentrating on his vocals.
That said, he returns again to the guitar for ‘False Prophet’, a call and response feel gesturing around an oldies rock n’ roll vibe, Dylan feeds upon the change and gets rowdier and happier, turning up his playfulness for the crowd. You can pinpoint that very moment as the crowd explode with a flurry of applause. This trick plays off as Dylan intended – A visual twist as opposed to assuming that someone might sneak in a recording device and get it released. The appearance might mean a little less to the listener as Dylan’s guitar playing is more, ah, ‘diminished’ than earlier form. Still just about audible but not much beyond that.
‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ is ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ incarnate. The same shuffle, ascending bass line – A brilliant, grinning coda that floats and blends like oil in Water – before shuffling to a peaceful finish. ‘Key West (Philosopher Pirate)’ is gently tinkling, wan and warm – Charley Drayton’s quietly doomish bass-drums thunder round the quiet auditorium.
‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ throws a lot of people off with it’s almost acapella style, the band act like creeping tigers, as Dylan keeps them to a side for the first two verses, finally allowing them to join along as his co-conspirators, less wild scripture, more boiler. The second half features an impressive jam section before returning to normal scheduling. The return from the audience shows a mighty load of respect.
After ‘Mother Of Muses’, just before ‘Goodbye Jimmy Reed’, Bob thanks the audience before leading the band through a meandering, off chord piano instrumental – It’s very brief, hardly in requirement of being titled and tracked to be fair but Crystal Cat assumed it worthy of note, obviously.
‘Every Grain Of Sand’ tops off the show as standard, another simple, easy coast through this oldie. Again, ‘Thanks the audience’ as a tracklisting, is erroneous. Beside last minute calls for ‘Lay Lady Lay’, Dylan bows and leaves the stage without comment. All the track is is audience noise.
The bonus tracks begin with a chatty Bob Dylan thanking the audience and saying, “Here’s a song about one of my most favourites places in the world” before a well sung version of ‘Key West’, this amazing version lasts for over 12 minutes – Pretty much twice the length of it’s regular standing. The sound, as you ask is a very good audience recording, very slightly muffled.
The following band introduction comes from the same night as the next song, ‘Friend Of The Devil’, one of those rare outings for the track, even rarer, when he grabs his guitar again for the second version of ‘Friend Of The Devil’ this tour. Dylan acknowledges the fact that the first take went down well the previous time, so they wanted to play it again. Bob starts out on piano, before moving to guitar a little later on down the track. Not as obvious from the audience but it’s certainly there when it happens.
And then there was Oakland. A few days shy of the end of the tour, a way after the beginning. Dylan starts to through things around tonight – Back on electric guitar for ‘Watching The River Flow’ – The long intro precedes it before Dylan starts to sing. For ‘Most Likely You Go Your Way’, we begin with another long intro to the song before Dylan sings, it doesn’t take him long to start changing the lyrics too. “200, 300, 400 pounds, too much weight to be carried around” replaces the regular, second paragraph, before the song follows up again as normal, not without Dylan throwing out some odd phrasing along the way.
‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’ retains it’s long intro (a few of these tonight), the choruses are evenly shipped apart for more instrumentation too as Bob gets stuck in his love for simply playing around. The tune concludes to Dylan saying, “Well, thank you all you art lovers out there! I’m an art lover too.”, ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ follows the theme of the last part of the tour, bassy
The song that get’s most mentions through out this review, ‘Key West’ gets rapturous attention tonight in Oakland (The other side of the country), his heroes named checked elicits a small amount of excitement too.
‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ has that lovely slow start but ultimately lacks a little of the punch that the other outings had more of – it has a wonderful rumba-sway about it and the trammelling guitar line that punctuates verse after verse. ‘.. Jimmy Reed’ is a slinky-cat, prowling and creeping, curiously shimmying around. Ponderous bass-lines, slap-brush drums, clasp-eyed guitar lines are the drive here.
The concert wraps up with the first outing for ‘Friend Of The Devil’ on the tour – As opposed to the set list, Dylan plays it like it hasn’t been sung before. Bright, well-sung, almost box fresh, you can tell this song has only just left rehearsals, the band are tighter than they are on other standards. The string of the guitar line is threaded neatly and gamely throughout. The song is recognised almost instantly by the crowd.
The bonus tracks on this last disk include a version of ‘Every Grain Of Sand’, one with two, long, lingering, lovely harp solos punctuating different points within the song. This adds an extra veneer of brilliance to an already beautiful track. The final track, a very rare outing this year for ‘That Old Black Magic’, presented as a variation on “Twenty Flight Rock”, this would be the only time it gets an airing this time around – Dylan feeling the fleeting mood of the Sinatra’s again that he wouldn’t get back to on this leg of the tour.
I will, of course, mention the packaging – six discs, three sleeves, one laminated slipcase. All beautifully presented – Though it’s a lot harder to slip a camera under your jacket apparently than a recording device, we get a few grainy shots of Dylan on stage this time, more shots of his whisky and his paintings among the reviews that have been lifted from online.
This set also comes with an additional booklet, like a souvenir from the tour itself, beautifully done from the only label that appears to be putting out modern-day Dylan nowadays.
Excellent and detailed review, Stuart. You really capture the sound and feel of these shows as presented by crystal cat. Though I am a Bob-freak myself, I stopped collecting his shows after about the 2011 mark of his concert career. I guess there are too many other earlier shows that compete for my attention (and wallet!). As you suggest, his Bobness can be erratic or brilliant depending on the night or even the individual song, so you never quite know what you are in for these days … But long may he run!
Thanks Dude! I appreciate your comments. I’d love to go see Dylan live again. Certainly when I saw him last in 2017, he was entertaining but this new lust for performance makes me wish I was going to see him NOW. I went back to 2005 immediately after this and got excited again too.
I hold out for more after hearing about the recent Japanese shows.
Thanks for your reply, Stuart. It is extraordinary that Bob is nearly 82 and ‘still on the road, heading for another joint …’ The last time I saw him play was back in 2007. A great show – I recall a particularly fine version of ‘Mississippi’ – recast as a slow electric blues. That capacity for creative reinvention on stage never seems to fade for Bob – as you document above!