True Confessions For Carol (Rattlesnake RS 124/25)
Entertainment Centre, Sydney, Australia – February 24th, 1986
Disc 1 (74:58): Justine, Positively 4th Street, Clean Cut Kid, I’ll Remember You, Trust Yourself, That Lucky Old Sun, Masters Of War, Bye Bye Johnny, Straight Into Darkness, Hard Rain, Girl Of The North Country, It’s Alright Ma, I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know, Just Like A Woman, I’m Moving On, Lenny Bruce
Disc 2 (71:14): When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky, Lonesome Town, Ballad Of A Thin Man, So You Want To Be A Rock-n-Roll Star, Refugee, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, Seeing the Real You At Last, Across The Borderline, I And I, Like A Rolling Stone, In The Garden, Blowin’ In The Wind, Uranium Rock, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
Bob Dylan’s collaboration with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which began at the first Farm Aid event in September 1985, continued with True Confessions tour in 1986 and Temples In Flames in 1987. True Confession began in early February with Dylan’s first visit to Australia since 1966 followed by his first trip to Japan since 1978.
The partnership existed almost solely as a live phenomena. The only studio output are the songs “Band Of The Hand” for the soundtrack of the film by the same name and “Got My Mind Made Up” on Knocked Out Loaded.
The visit to began with two shows in New Zealand before traveling to Australia for ten shows including four in Sydney between February 10th to February 13th. After the third and final show in Melbourne, they returned to Sydney for two shows at the Entertainment Centre in Sydney on February 24th and February 25th which were both professionally filmed and recorded and that summer were broadcast on Westwood One Radio and on the HBO network.
Subsequently the telecast was released on VHS called Hard To Handle. The first Sydney show yielded “I’ll Remember You,” “Girl From The North Country,” “Just Like A Woman,” “When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky,” “Ballad Of A Thinman” and part of “In The Garden” to the telecast.
Perhaps the earliest title with material from this show is Precious Memories (Three Cool Cats TCC003) a copy of the Westwood One radio which came out in 1990. It was followed by Duelling Banjos (Papillon 016) in 1991, Bye Bye Johnny (Sarabandas On Stage series CD 12043) in 1993, and both True Confessions (The Swingin’ Pig TSP-CD-107) and Live Adventures (Sounds Alive SA 24.019) came out in 1994. Hard To Handle (Aborigine Records ABOR 335) was released in 1996 with six tracks from this show and Live USA (Imtrat imt 900.042) have several tracks from this show edited with songs from other concerts.
The first shot at a complete and definitive release was released on Lonesome Town (Watchtower WT 2001007/8) in 2001, but there were several problems. The sound was a bit muddy and the vocals distant and it ran at the wrong speed. In November 2002 Rattlesnake released True Confessions For Carol and corrected the mistakes on the Watchtower. It runs at the correct speed and the soundboard recording is crisp, sharp and well balanced. The only significant cut in the tape is the beginning of Tom Petty’s “So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star.”
The only misstep Rattlesnake makes is labeling the show February 15th in Adelaide. Although originally attributed to the February 24th Sydney show, there has been some debate and speculation about the actual source of the tape with some even suggesting it’s an edit from various shows from Australia. However, it is indeed the complete first show in Sydney with no editing from any other source.
The show opens with “Justine,” a minor hit for The Righteous Brothers in 1965 followed by “Positively 4th Street,” Dylan’s own hit that year.
They follow with three songs from the new album Empire Burlesque. “Clean Cut Kid” hits a nice groove and “I’ll Remember You” is pretty and sentimental. Dylan prefaces “Trust Yourself” by confessing that “sometimes it’s hard to find people who understand me.” Before Dylan leaves the stage they play “Masters Of War” which Dylan refers to as “folk song” from his “protest period” and it “seems to hold up pretty well.”
The Heartbreaker’s first set consists of two songs, the Chuck Berry cover “Bye Bye Johnny” and “Straight Into Darkness” from 1982’s Long After Dark. His latest album Southern Accents and his last big hit “Don’t Come Around Here No More” are unfortunately ignored.
Dylan returns for a three song acoustic set. This is the most variable part of the show and Dylan chooses to begin with “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” followed by “The Girl From The North Country.” Before the final solo track, he clowns around a bit with the crowd saying that “Well, I just read another concert review the other day. It said ‘Bob’s sounding like a parody of himself. He sounds just exactly like he’s imitating himself.’ I would like to know who I’m supposed to sound like, you know? I know it’s hard when so many people sound like me these days. But someday, somebody got to tell these people that I’m still here. Well, I can’t sound like anybody else. I don’t know how to. If I did, I would.”
After an intense “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” Tom Petty joins him onstage for a duet on “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know.” It’s a singular moment in the set when Dylan shares his interest in the roots of American music with Petty, another musician with the same appreciation. Dylan tells the audience “we used to hear these songs all the time when we were growing up. You can’t hear them anymore. Very seldom you hear real songs anymore. Well, we were lucky to grow up, when you could hear them all the time. All you had to do was switch on the radio and you could hear them.”
The band returns for “Just Like A Woman” and the Hank Snow cover “I’m Moving On.” Before “Lenny Bruce” Dylan gives a long explanation about the song, saying “Here’s a song I wrote a while back about one of America’s greatest forgotten men. This man was just a little bit before his time. He said some things which got him into trouble with the wrong people. But there’s a lot of people right now saying a lot of things much worse than he ever could have dreamed of. And of course they’re making millions of dollars and they’ve got nice houses and drive fast cars. And they got lots of pretty women. He didn’t have none of that stuff at all.
Dylan overstates Lenny Bruce’s talent and is misguided in portraying him as some kind of martyr. But Dylan is correct in pointing out the irony that, in the twenty years since his death, much more “edgy” comedians arrived on the scene. The mid-eighties were a time when stand up comedians like Eddie Murphy, Andrew Dice Clay and Sam Kinison become as popular as rock stars, selling out arenas and selling tons of records. “Lenny Bruce” is still a weak song with cringe-inducing lyrics, but he sings it with undeniable tenderness.
“When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky” still drips of 80’s cheese, but sounds much better in the raw, live environment. After “Ballad Of A Thinman” The Hearbreakers return for two songs, a cover of The Byrds’ “So You Want To Be A Rock N Roll Star” and “Refugee,” arguably their most recognizable hit at the time.
At the end of the show Dylan gives his long “hero” speech, saying before “In The Garden,” that “We got to go. It’s way past my bedtime, I don’t know about you. Anyway we always sing this last song here. It’s about my hero. Everybody’s got a hero. Some people got a hero, lots of different heroes. Money is a hero, success is a hero. To lots of people Michael Jackson’s a hero. Bruce Springsteen, John Wayne, everybody’s got a hero. Shut up you! Well, I wanna sing about my hero, I don’t care about those heroes. I have my own hero.” They play the song a bit more up-tempo than in the past.
They return for three encores, “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Uranium Rock” and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.”
True Confessions For Carol is packaged with a thick booklet with an interesting essay on the tour and performance. Given how great this sounds and the attention to detail, this is a true masterpiece by Rattlesnake and is one of the essential Dylan titles.