Bob Dylan & Van Morrison – Someday Everything Is Gonna Be Different (Godfather Records GR 745/746/747)

Someday Everything Is Gonna Be Different (GR 745/746/747)

When Under The Red Sky failed to match the critical acclaim of Oh Mercy!, Bob Dylan and the NET hit a very rough patch.  Celebrating his fiftieth birthday and going though a divorce, he certainly disappeared in a haze of substance abuse.  “Dylan’s tours in 1991 have been considered to be rather hit & miss affairs” claim the liner notes for Someday Everything Is Gonna Be Different and the tapes contained on this release certainly illustrate this point perfectly.  

Not only were the performances rocky, Clinton Heylin suggests in Behind The Shades that Dylan himself would serve as his own saboteur, oftentimes intentionality trying to mix up his band and prompt them to play poorly.  Not many of these shows have been pressed onto silver in the past precisely for this reason. 

The two Italy shows on this title aren’t the worst shows from the tour (that would be June 17th in Stuttgart).  But they are certainly interesting.  The Godfather label give both Rome, which is the first night of the Summer tour of Europe, and Milan make their silver pressed debuts.  Both tapes offer the complete concerts.  Rome sounds a bit more clear than Milan, but they are both very good to excellent recordings. 

But what it offers are two gutsy performances.  Neither is perfect, but they both have great atmosphere and energy that is rare even for an early NET Dylan show.  There is a recklessness in the arrangements and execution which threaten, and at times actually do, derail the performancesUnfit for official documentation, these are the perfect shows for the unofficial label and is one of the most interesting Dylan titles to be released this year.   

Palaeur, Rome, Italy – June 6th, 1991

Disc 1 (79:00):  Intro, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Lay Lady Lay, All Along The Watchtower, The Man In Me, Gotta Serve Somebody, Wiggle Wiggle, Bob Dylan’s Dream, Homeward Bound (Paul Simon), It Ain’t Me Babe, Mr. Tambourine Man, People Putting People Down (John Prine), Everything Is Broken, Man In The Long Black Coat, Shooting Star, Highway 61 Revisited, I Shall Be Released, Like A Rolling Stone, I Want You

Bob Dylan toured the US in the spring, ending on May 12th in Amherst, Massachusetts.  After a three week rest, they began touring Europe on June 6th in Rome.  The Rome setlist is similar to Amherst, except instead of beginning with “New Morning” he changed to “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” 

It’s first appearance during the NET, it is the first live performance of the song since it was played in Copenhagen on September 21st 1987, it is quite appropriate since Rome is mentioned in the lyrics.

They follow with “Lay, Lady, Lay,” the most popular second number.  Dylan’s delivery is very sloppy.  He misses his cues, is behind the rest of the band for much of the song and throws in a lazy harp solo in the end almost as an afterthought.  Truly the worst performance of the song ever. 

Cursory versions of “All Along The Watchtower” and “The Man In Me Follows.”  Ian Wallace on drums lays down a heavy rock beat for “Gotta Serve Someone,” played in a g0-go dancer slutty arrangement.  Despite the ironic musical arrangement, it sounds quite interesting and is followed by “Wiggle Wiggle,” which Dylan calls “my latest hit off of my latest record. This song usually gets played for about maybe a day or two, we’re just gonna play it for a little while!”

The four song acoustic interlude includes the first performance of Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound.”  It displays a bit of respect for Simon (despite the lackluster cover of “The Boxer” on Self Portrait twenty-two years before) which would show itself more years later when Dylan would tour with Simon.  The interlude ends with “Mr. Tambourine Man” which he calls “one of the first anti-drug songs ever written.”

Afterwards is a cover of John Prine’s “People Putting People Down,” played for the first time by Dylan.

Three songs from Oh Mercy! follow starting with a sloppy “Everything Is Broken.”  As they start “Man In A Long Black Cloak,” Dylan cryptically says, “Sometimes you just got to say things the way they are you know.  Lots of people came down on me for writing this song, but that’s the way it is.”  It is played uptempo, removing the gloomy dread of the studio recording.

Afterwards they play “Shooting Star,” which Dylan describes as “about what happens when you just watch people pass you by. They just seem to come from out of nowhere, you know sometime, pass you right on by.”  Unlike the previous two songs, this sounds very tight and moving.  

A lame arrangement of “Highway 61 Revisited” is followed by “I Shall Be Released” and “Like A Rolling Stone,” closing the set.  Before the final song Dylan, who had trouble hearing anything all night, jokes “anybody out there just wonders how Beethoven used to feel? Just imagine standing here in my shoes!”  The only encore is “I Want You” played in an arrangement dominated by grand piano.

Palatrussardi, Milan, Italy – June 8th, 1991

Disc 2 (78:36) Van Morrison :  Instrumental Intro, It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World, And The Healing Has Begun, Help Me / Band Intro, See Me Through, Cleaning Windows, Buona Sera Signorina, Star of the County Down, Summertime In England, Whenever God Shines His Light (with Bob Dylan), Enlightenment (with Bob Dylan), Gloria.  Bob Dylan:   Intro, New Morning, Ballad Of A Thin Man, All Along The Watchtower, Shelter From The Storm

Two nights later, after a stop in Bologna, Dylan traveled north to play in Milan.  The show was originally scheduled for the Arena di Milano, but was moved to the Palatrussardi.  Dylan was also joined by Van Morrison who was (sort of) promoting his new double LP Hymns To The Silence

The liner notes point out that  “Van isn’t a natural tourer & prefers to perform rather than go out on tour if he can help it. The same can also be said of Van as Dylan – catch him on a good night & the effect can be sizzling, catch him on a night when the mood is shallow & you can grab your coat & flag down the next taxi home. Much like Dylan though, Van almost insists that he won’t perform a song the same way twice, respecting the maxim of the jazz improvisational technique & placing his voice & his mind at a different point with regards to the song’s position.”

His hour long set begins with a spectacular jazz-funk instrumental leading into “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”  But the band really rev up for “And The Healing Has Begun,” a song some claim to be the focal point of Morrison’s career.  There is a certain bite by the way the hammer the familiar melody and is punctuated by the horns and organ melodies.  It is an apocalyptic performance, perhaps the highlight of the entire collection. 

The starkness glides effortlessly into the Sonny Boy Williamson blues “Help Me.”  After “Cleaning Windows” he plays to the crowd with a cover of Louis Prima and “Bona Sera Signorina.”  Continuing in an ethnic vein, he follows with the Irish jig of “Star Of The County Down.”  The sophisticated Milanese audience actually react more loudly to the latter than the former. 

Bob Dylan joins Morrison onstage for to play harp on two more recent songs, “Whenever God Shines His Light” from 1989’s Avalon Sunset and “Enlightenment” from 1990’s Enlightenment.  Van Morrison closes his set with a perfunctory version of “Gloria,” his earliest hit. 

Dylan’s set begins with a limp, rambling “New Morning” followed by an equally uninspired “Ballad Of A Thin Man.”  But things improve with “All Along The Watchtower,” which he says is “a song that Jimi Hendrix, the late great Jimi Hendrix recorded” and adds, rather cryptically, “You listen to it now, you’ll see what it means.”

Disc 3 (78:21):  Gotta Serve Somebody, Wiggle Wiggle, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Mr. Tambourine Man, The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll, One Too Many Mornings, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Just Like A Woman, Man In The Long Black Coat, Highway 61 Revisited, I Shall Be Released, Like A Rolling Stone, Blowin’ In The Wind, Maggie’s Farm.  Bonus Track, Arena Parco Nord, Bologna, Italy – June 7th, 1991:  A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

The final disc begins with “Gotta Serve Somebody,” played in the same arrangement as Rome, sounding very much like The Doors’ “Peace Frog.”  At the beginning he calls it “one of my anti-religion songs,” in reference to the belief that Jesus’ incarnation meant an end to religious dogma. 

Dylan begins the four song acoustic interlude with “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”  The audience respond loudly to this part by singing along.  In fact, during the second song “Mr. Tambourine Man” Dylan jokes “you can sing all my songs for me.” 

A sloppy version of “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll” follows.  The interlude ends with “One Too Many Mornings.”  All four date from his mid sixties peak lending an air of nostalgia to the short set. 

A surprise follows with the second performance in 1991 of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.”  The audience, just like with the preceding set, sing along with Dylan to the familiar tune.  The same is true for “Just Like A Woman.”  In fact, their singing is so energetic during the chorus that he stops singing.

“Man In The Long Black Coat” is, along with “Wiggle Wiggle,” the only songs in the set from his recent output Oh Mercy! and Under The Red Sky.  It seems, unlike in Rome, Dylan wanted to focus upon his older songs.   

The set ends with “Like A Rolling Stone.”  When they come out for the first encore, Dylan tells Milan that “Blowin’ In The Wind” is “a song Joan Baez used to ask me to sing.  She said ‘you keep singing this song, boy, you’re going to be a star.'”  The second encore is “Maggie’s Farm” played in a country style inspired by Carl Perkins.

Godfather include “Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” as a bonus from the Bologna show.  The sound quality is merely fair, but it’s interesting because it was performed as an acoustic number in the middle of a rainstorm.  The irony isn’t lost on the audience members by the recorder who sing and laugh along.  It’s not essential, but is a fun track to hear.

Someday Everything Is Gonna Be Different is packaged in a tri-fold cardboard sleeves with various photographs from the shows on the cover and inside and with insightful liner notes in the middle.  Given the quality of the performances, it is a brazen move on the label’s part to issue these tapes.  Not many titles from this tour have been pressed in the past twenty-one years, but this is a good one worth having.  

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