Bob Dylan “Man Of Steel And Constant Sorrow” (Rattlesnake RS 262/63)
Disk 1; Things Have Changed / She Belongs To Me / Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ / What Good Am I? / Pay In Blood / Waiting For You / Duquesne Whistle / Tangled Up In Blue / Love Sick (48:27)
Disk 2; High Water (For Charlie Patton) / Simple Twist Of Fate / Early Roman Kings / Forgetful Heart / Spirit On The Water / Scarlett Town / Soon After Midnight / Long And Wasted Years – Encore – All Along The Watchtower / Blowin’ In The Wind (56:09)
Recorded live at the Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, October 30th, 2013.
This would be Dylan’s 8th appearance in 10 years at the HMH in the south east of Amsterdam at it appears to have become a favourable venue for him as of late when he visits the capital. He played two nights over Halloween 2013 in the Netherlands sandwiched between shows in Geneva and Milan, skipping country to country still touring ‘Tempest’.
Tonights recording captures a great touring night, Dylan was still not deviating from the faithful set list but granted, as the album had garnered such great reviews there was no reason for him to do so. A set list that passed around his ‘classics’ and centred around the modern. The Dylan fans whom were expecting the breaks in the routine would still have to await Bob’s return to Rome in November in fact there are no variations to the set list at all tonight, but for the attendees tonight, well, the show would please as much.Capturing a very good audience recording in the HMH was going to be difficult as the Dutch are much more vocal than some of their European contemporaries by all accounts but the tape that the Rattlesnake label have presented to us is a great choice. Nice and close with enough audience atmosphere to give a feeling of intimacy rather than detachment.
Dylan sound in relatively good voice too. Rather than barking orders or muttering in to thin air, his phrasing sounds clear and sharp. Pronounced enough to be powerful and not too theatrical.
The set begins with a teasing acoustic start to “Things Have Changed” before it really sparks up, a pure gambler, there is a little audience noise around this rendition, conversations and claps, but it’s nothing too troubling. Possibly even funny if you know a little Dutch.
“She Belongs To Me”, a swooping, pounding update. It works seriously well – no fancy filaments, no apery – and sounds stunning. It’s of heightened excitement when Dylan whips out his harp and injects a little more flavour in to the mix too.
One of the highlights of the tour has been “What Good Am I”, a relaxed but yearning take on the ‘Oh, Mercy’ track. It works particularly well with Dylan’s latter-day gruffness as he sounds weary, down hearted and wan against the delicate ripple of the music.
“Waiting For You” sounds like a woozy waltz with Donnie’s steel, glistening under dark lights, while Dylan plays a ‘Hard Rain’ motif under the melody on his grand piano. What to follow that with but a much more, jump and jive, “Duquesne Whistle”, the soft patter of drum, dry-skipping with the bass, tousling and jostling with Dylan’s piano lines like a ’20’s dance standard.
“Tangled Up In Blue” could be tonights downside. It starts off beautifully, acoustically clear, Dylan’s having fun with the lyrics – not ‘paying his dues’ but ‘the radio was blastin’ the blues’, ‘I thought you’d never say hello’ turns to ‘You look like someone that I used to trust’. To reveal more would only spoil the surprise but then Dylan starts to play nursery-rhyme notes mocking the whole piece rather like he’s asked one of his grandkids to step in for him, practically ruining the rendition.
However, he redeems himself by stepping forward to treat us to a rather creepy, minimal “Love Sick”. One that drives one member of the crowd at least, to should out loudly in excitement. It’s a great version once again, Dylan pours the menace on thick, leaning right in to his microphone.
Once it’s over, Dylan turns to the audience, speaks (!) and tells them he’ll be back after the intermission ..
Disk 2 begins with a seemingly improvised intro in to “High Water”, as gloomily brooding at the message to the song, Dylan’s harp is a warning signal, Donnie’s mandolin is the sound that lifts the piece.
‘Blood On The Tracks’ brother piece, “Simple Twist Of Fate”, tonight fares a little better than the earlier piece, Dylan’s back on grand again but hesitates from playing his piano like a beginner.
Now “Early Roman Kings” rolls like Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man”. Full of strutting bravado, chiming listlessness, picking up it’s stride with each verse where as “Forgetful Heart” downplays the mood again. Dylan’s perched on his barstool, nursing the strongest liquor he can find, despondent, you’re the bartender, all you can do is listen and empathise. For the sound of the room, was it not for your neighbours talking, you could hear a pin drop. Quite rightly it gets one of the biggest applauses of the night.
Dylan ends the main set with a trio of latter day hits, all of them ballads and waltzes rather than teeth rattling rockers, “Scarlet Town” quickly became a fans favourite and all because Dylan really sings as he swings, he puts in his all. “Soon After Midnight” is it’s compadre, it’s friend and it’s equal while “Long And Wasted Years” has Bob worked up a little more but still railing against a regrettable past.
The encores tonight are the standards, the parts that no one want’s to home without hearing, “All Along The Watchtower” gets the rapt applause it deserves, Dylan rears up like a stranded animal only to let his heckles rise and wind him up before he snaps back, then the song falls like slow moving shattered glass allowing the audience a little participation.“Blowing In The Wind”, reinvigorated for the new year, the new folks in the audience and a chance for Dylan to take his bow.
This is a great show that the ’Snake has captured. Wrapped up in a very appealing package that’ll sit next to your ‘Tempest’ album with a full colour 8 page booklet and enthusiastic notes by the ever entertaining Gentleman’s Club of Spalding Treasurer.
Your choice is in the show you attended of course, there are Italian shows and British shows on offer from different labels but the Amsterdam show is a great choice for your collection for a taste of 2013’s shows.