Monday, April 30, 2007

Dylan in Zurich

I was going to write one of my verse "essays" as a review of the Dylan concert (see my "essays on jazz" on Ron Carter and Dave Holland), but the verses I began writing took on a life of their own and have evolved into a poem in their own right (i.e., no longer a review of the concert) that I will have to do a bit of work on to get right. So these few words in prose will have to do as a review.

Dylan continues to blow the roof off with his live performances. This is a working band of the finest quality. I was especially struck by Denny Freeman, whose guitar work had never really caught my attention before (he joined the band in March, 2005, and I heard him with BD in Zurich in November of the same year, plus I've heard him on quite a few bootlegs). His playing was eye-opening, especially on the ballads, above all on a gorgeous rendition of "Visions of Johanna," where he played the sparsest, slowest of melodies, with a couple of slightly bent double-stops as climaxes.

The setlist:

1. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
2. The Times They Are A-Changin'
3. Watching The River Flow
4. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)

I missed Larry Campbell's bouzuki here, but it was still a powerful version.

5. Girl Of The North Country

The current arrangement of this one is so poignant that it continues to bring tears to my eyes.

6. Rollin' And Tumblin'
7. Visions Of Johanna

I mentioned Freeman's soloing here; Dylan began the tune with a painfully beautiful harmonica solo, too.

8. Things Have Changed
9. When The Deal Goes Down
10. Highway 61 Revisited
11. Spirit On The Water

This was the one I was looking forward to from Modern Times. Great to hear it!

12. Tangled Up In Blue

Absolutely blew the house down. Freeman was brilliant here, too; again, nothing with virtuosic speed, just beautiful melodies, especially in the guitar's low range. "Some are mathematicians ..."

13. Nettie Moore

Even more haunting live than on the album.

14. Summer Days

Serious Dylan fans are sick of this one, but I hope they listened to it last night, because the band just took off with it. As powerful as Neil Young with Crazy Horse—and like CH, also threatening to lose control, but never quite doing so.

15. Blowin' In The Wind

An unusual, surprising almost rock-n-roll version. This one was for all those who complain about how Dylan rearranges his tunes, because this rearrangement was absolutely first-rate.

16. Thunder On The Mountain

Faster than on Modern Times, much more rock-n-roll drive.

17. Like A Rolling Stone

The first Dylan show I have ever attended where he did not play "All Along the Watchtower"!


Donald Brown said...

Visions of Johanna! Never was present for that one, I don't think.

Things Have Changed and When the Deal Goes Down would've made me very pleased.

Watching the River Flow -- the first song on the first Dylan album I bought (Greatest Hits, vol. II).

It's always great when you get to hear the song you most want to hear.

Andrew Shields said...

Visions of Johanna: my first live version of this was the Dead at the Berkeley Community Theater in March, 1985. Then they largely put the tune aside until 1995, when I caught it at what turned out to be my last Dead show, in Philly in March 95. That version was released on the "Fallout from the Phil Zone" CD.

And Bob's graced me with it several times over the past few years. This time it brought tears to my eyes, what with the exceptional harmonica solo, the ever-gripping words (quite clear from where we were sitting), and Freeman's low-key but show-stopping solo. People were cheering for many of his ballad solos, as if he were playing a jazz club.

The ghost of 'lectricity howls in the bones of her face

SarahJane said...

That's such a beautiful song. Lucky you.

Unknown said...

I saw him last year for the first time in Pittsfield, Mass. He played Visions of Johanna, a song I've of course always loved but apparently had come to take for granted. It was so beautiful--it was a revelation. I had the tears, too.

I'm totally hooked. I'm going to see him again on July 1 in Essex, VT.


Andrew Shields said...

From my perspective, Bob is in New England three weeks too early. If he were there sometime after July 23, I could go see another Dylan show with my brother-in-law Bruce; we went to see Dylan and the Dead at the Oakland Coliseum back in 1987. For both of us, that was our first Bob.