By Tony Attwood
Pausing between writing up my review part one and the second section (imaginatively named, “part 2”), I saw a comment that had come in from a reader.
“It’s prerecorded. Disappointing. Staged. Would of been nice to see him unplugged & live. Mistakes and all. Good musicianship & arrangements but uninspired , faux playing & the band is wearing masks… does that mean they don’t get performance credits? Bummed this could be his last recorded “live” performance.”
I would agree that it was disappointing that the advertising was misleading, and I can’t see the point of that. Advertising is there to generate interest so that people buy, but I am surprised that anyone would think that calling the show one thing when it turns out to be another is going to help Dylan. £20 for the video? No, I wouldn’t say that is the best £20 I have spent this week.
Of course it may well be that the advertising agency had no idea what the show was going to be like and their brief was wrongly written because Bob told his management that it was going to be something else. That certainly happens.
And indeed maybe he started working on a live show and then changed his mind (just like on one tour when he rehearsed with a group of female vocalists for two months and then sacked them all two weeks before they went on the road).
Anyway, advertisements change as things develop, and we have what we have. So although I am not at all sure it was worth £20, I thoroughly enjoyed it as far as I got before my first break to post my thoughts and do the odds and ends a person running a website has to do.
So now to move on – still writing the review as I listen to the show for the first time.
To be alone with you
As I suspected earlier, this sound has been re-mixed, for it really doesn’t correspond with the movement of the musicians on stage. Not for the first time the bassist is playing away but we can’t hear her, until suddenly there she is. I’ve got no problem with that, but it just seems odd to let us see the musician play when nothing is there on the track.
And there is that business of Bob holding the guitar and not doing that much with it. Not my favourite song, but an OK arrangement for me. Just doesn’t move me much.
What was it you wanted
Now this is interesting for me (even if no one else) since I recently spent several days trying to place this song within the context of Dylan’s writing in the 1980s (“All Directions part 58”). It is one hell of a song, and musically very different from his normal writing, although the lyrics are very much in the context of the music, and this rendition does it perfect justice.
He only ever played it 22 times on stage (1990 to 1995 – so very spaced out one performance to the next), and yet it is such an amazing song from an exquisite sequence of writing.
Really – that is strange. The spooky final response to the “Visions of Johanna” that is “What was it you wanted” followed instantly by “Forever Young”. But then what do I know?
Maybe he is still thinking of the person in “What was it you wanted” and wanted to say “but no hard feelings”. Could be.
This rendition doesn’t really add anything to the song for me; the accompaniment is too picky and plinky plinky (technical terms, sorry).
Pledging my time
Plinky plinky introduction to this as well, which I don’t really understand either. Either my focus has gone or Bob and his band had lost the feel for the show. It can’t be them, so it must be me. I’m obviously losing it.
But I am redeemed for once into it, this really is enjoyable as a straight 12 bar blues. It’s a re-arrangement I can totally believe in, and believe in it so much it feels as if this how it was meant to sound from the start. A little too strong in the mixing of the lead guitar occasionally, for my taste, but that is me just finding something to say.
I should add that by this time in my first viewing of the show, I had stopped bothering with the film, and was just focused on the music. I am not at all a film critic, so ignore any of my comments on the visuals that gets through.
The Wicked Messenger
One of Bob’s favourites from the JWH album, and the re-working took me by surprise. Although I quickly got used to it and appreciated the new arrangement even by the end I couldn’t get the hang of the end of every other line with the extended last two syllables. Struck me that it could have been possible to hold interest in the arrangement by just having it at the end of each verse, but twice a verse seems too much.
Which is a shame for me (and as ever it is just for me) because otherwise I really enjoyed this.
Watching the river flow
An interesting insert here, given that we started with “Masterpiece” – the two great songs from 1971 while he was having a two year break from the heavy lifting in terms of compositional stuff. It’s a jolly bounce, but it doesn’t really give me new insights.
It’s all over now baby blue
Is it going to be slow all the way through? Well, yes, it is, which means we have a fair bit of listening to a set of lyrics that we have all known by heart through most if not all of our adult life.
So is there enough here to keep us alert? Is there a secret message?
Well, there could be a message for an unknown lover or friend, but for us… we know there are some new gigs planned now the lock downs are ending, so no it is not the end in that sense. No message – and not a lot of listening; just a short version of the song.
But we do get a chance to see that the bass player was Janie Cowan – and that is a worthwhile snippet, because that led me to this, which I really did enjoy.
I always try to take something from a show, and this time I didn’t have to try – she is there for all the hear – and the track above is something special.
As for Bob’s show, I enjoyed watching it this bright sunny morning, but I can’t imagine watching it again, nor will I buy it if it comes out as a video release. But it was fun, and I can certainly see why Bob invited Janie Cowan into the ensemble. Thanks for that Bob; I’ve found a new exciting talent to listen to.
You can read more about all our regular writers here
If you would like to read more commentaries, Untold Dylan also has a very active Facebook group: Untold Dylan.
If you would like to see some of our series they are listed under the picture at the top of the page, and the most recent entries can be found on the home page.
If you would like to contribute an article please drop a line to Tony@schools.co.uk