Live In Japan Vol. 3
(Tarantura TCDBD-3-1, 2)
Budokan, Tokyo, Japan – February 23rd, 1978
Disc 1 (69:52): Monitor Check / Opening, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (Instrumental), Lonesome In My Bedroom, Mr. Tambourine Man, I Threw It All Away, Love Minus Zero/No Limit, If You See Her Say Hello, Ballad Of A Thin Man, I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Met), Maggie’s Farm, Girl Of The North Country, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, To Ramona, Like A Rolling Stone, I Shall Be Released, Going Going Gone, Announcement / 20 minutes interval
Disc 2 (76:38): One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later), Blowin’ In The Wind, Just Like A Woman, Oh Sister, You’re A Big Girl Now, All Along The Watchtower, Simple Twist Of Fate, All I Really Want To Do, I Want You, The Man In Me, Tomorrow Is A Long Time, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Band Introduction, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Forever Young, The Times They Are A-Changin’, Announcement
Bob Dylan always sought to reinterpret and rearrange his songs. But the 1978 Street Legal era remains one of the most interesting and radical. Although Dylan began the year with his first trip to Japan for eleven shows, the most recent releases from this year document the European and American shows from later in the year. Even the releases in the past decade documenting the Japan tour focus upon the Osaka and Tokyo shows from later in the tour.
Dylan played the first three shows at Budokan in Tokyo. Audience tapes have been in circulation, but none have found their way onto any release. Tarantura have rectified the situation by releasing uncirculated Mr. Peach tapes for these shows. Live In Japan Vol. 1, which will be a four disc set once released, covers the February 20th show and Live In Japan Vol. 2 covers the February 21st show.
February 23rd captures the third night in Budokan in excellent stereo with a minor tape flip in the middle. It is a good but nervous performance. Dylan himself sounds self-conscious and make several quips through the performance. Before “Love Minus Zero / No Limit,” commenting on a mistake in the lights, jokes “we left the light show home tonight” and after a sloppy “Like A Rolling Stone” he jokes “Thank you! We almost played that one right.”
All thirty songs are taken from his past catalog or are covers. The only new Street Legal song to be played on the tour is “Is Your Love In Vain?,” but it would be played for another week.
Like the preceding night the band kick off the night with an instrumental version of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” The audience applause as Dylan walks onstage. He takes his place at the front of the stage and sings “Lonesome In My Bedroom.” This cover would be played only one more time before being replaced by “Repossession Blues” and “Love Her With A Feeling.” It’s followed by a lush “Tambourine Man,” an arrangement of “I Threw It All Away” which echoes the pain of the original and “Love Minus Zero/No Limit.”
“Love Minus Zero / No Limit” has a very quick paced, happy arrangement much like “Mr. Tambourine Man.” The excellent (and late?) Dylan website Warehouse Eyes singles this tune out for particular criticism when the author writes, “‘Love Minus Zero’ could have been really enjoyable were it not for Steve Douglas’s irritating flute playing (this is a concern throughout).” Personally I love the flute part. It lends an air of joy and spontaneity to an otherwise cynical and depressing song.
“Shelter From The Storm,” which was played the previous night, is dropped and the band continue with “If You See Her, Say Hello.” The heartbreak of the original is replaced by contemplation and seems to echo the sentiment of the final scene of the 1977 Academy Award winning Woody Allen film Annie Hall.
“I Don’t Believe You (You Act Like We Never Have Met)” is played for the first time in its new disco/heavy metal arrangement and would soon become a regular in the set. Slow and majestic versions of “I Shall Be Released” and “Going, Going, Gone” close out the first half of the show.
After a twenty minute intermission the band returns with a catchy arrangement of “One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later).” A serious state of stagnation threatens the show with a bizarre version of “Oh Sister” and “You’re A Big Girl Now.” But they follow with one of the truly live pieces from the 1978 tour “All Along The Watchtower.” More than just trying to duplicate Jimi Hendrix’s famous cover, both David Cross on guitar and David Mansfield on violin take turns scorching the stage. It will become more incendiary as the year progresses.
The show comes to grand finale with nice versions of “The Man In Me,” “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” and especially “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” using the flute set to a reggae beat. The set ends with “Forever Young” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” It is a very good, but not classic, performance. They are still trying to learn the new arrangements and have not yet introduced any new songs to the set.
But now having this great recording reveals much charm in the band trying and succeeding on many levels. It will be fascinating to hear volume one, when it finally comes out, and if Mr. Peach taped any of the Osaka or later Budokan shows.
Live In Japan Vol. 3 is packaged in a cardboard gatefold sleeve utilizing heavy glossy paper and using various tour photos for the artwork and an obi strip. It is an historically interesting recording worth having.