By Mike Johnson (Kiwipoet)
Every year of the NET we can find outstanding concerts, and some are memorable beyond their particular year. We remember Prague of 1995, Berlin 1996, Glasgow 2004 and Brixton 2005 as important milestones along the way. For 2010, the ‘best ever’ concert would have to be Padova, Italy, 15th June, notable for Dylan’s swirling, bluesy-jazz organ playing and overall energy. Dylan and band are on fire.
I’m going to work my way through that concert, with some comparisons to other performances. We’ll hear some great sounds, but also have a chance to see how Dylan was structuring his concerts at this stage of his performing career.
He likes to start with a warm up, something fast and familiar to his audiences, usually an early song like ‘Maggie’s Farm,’ ‘Rainy Day Woman’ or, in Padova, ‘Leopard-skin Pill-box Hat.’
Leopard-skin Pill-box Hat (A)
It pumps along and gets the blood moving but there’s not a lot to distinguish it from this one a few days later in Dornbirn, 19th June.
Leopard-skin Pill-box Hat (B)
Dylan likes to follow up the opener with something quieter and more reflective, also from his early years.
The Padova number 2 was ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ which we heard in the previous post, where I also covered number 3 on the setlist, ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,’ one of Dylan’s warmest songs, and one which he’s still performing. I’m going to replace that with this mystery recording of ‘The Man In Me.’ My sources have this as coming from Belgrade, June 6th, but it does not appear on the setlist for that concert. It’s a fine version of the song, however, another centre stage performance, this time with harmonica.
The Man in Me
As he did at Linz (see previous post) he stays centre stage for ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ at number 4 on the setlist, which, in 2010, he tends to play without the harp, focusing instead on the guitar.
Tangled Up In Blue
Only when we get to number 5 on the setlist do we find a more recent song, in this case ‘The Levee’s Gonna Break’ from Modern Times. It’s a chuggy blues. With the first line repeated, it’s the third line that does the hard work:
Well, I look in your eyes, I see nobody other than me I look in your eyes, I see nobody other than me I see all that I am and all I hope to be
There’s a lot packed into that last line.
When Dylan switched from piano to organ in 2006, the keyboard sound was very much in the background, almost subliminal, and he rarely attempted an organ break, but 2008/9 saw Dylan increasingly confident of his organ sound and, while his playing would never be as melodically complex as, say, the rich jazz sound of Freddie Roach on his Hammond, by staying within his vamping, tempo-driven, ‘primitive’ style, he was able to deliver an exciting, jazzy, pulsing, organ break in ‘Levee.’ This must come close to a ‘best ever’ performance, rocking along for an epic eight minutes.
The Levee’s Gonna Break
That really got the joint jumpin’, while the next up number, the ominous ‘Masters of War,’ takes us back to the old ‘protest’ Bob without any loss of intensity from ‘Levee.’ Since 2003 Dylan has been playing a slow, funereal ‘Masters’ that can chill the blood. This Padova performance is just one in a long line of outstanding performances. The perfect song for the circus barker. Note how he repeats the last line of each verse, adding a chord. (For my ‘best ever’ version of the song in this style, check out the Berlin performance of 2005, see NET 2005 Part 5).
Masters of War
For number 7 on the Padova setlist, ‘I Don’t Believe You,’ Dylan pulls out the harmonica for the first time that evening, and once more goes centre stage. The sound is weighed towards the bass and Dylan’s voice is pure gravel.
I Don’t Believe You
Dylan returns to the keyboard, but keeps his harp handy for a moving performance of his elegiac masterpiece, ‘Workingman’s Blues #2.’ Interesting to note that of the eight songs delivered so far, this is only the second from his later work, another from Modern Times. All the rest, except ‘Tangled’ have been sixties classics. You have to be in the mood for ‘Workingman’s Blues.’ Coming close to the middle of the concert, it’s the slowest song of the evening, and the most contemplative. The Padova audience is happy to welcome it, however. Wonderful vocal from Bob, with whimsical harp interjections.
Workingman’s Blues #2
Number 9 on the Padova setlist is a relentless, pounding performance of ‘Cold Irons Bound,’ from ‘Time Out Of Mind.’ This blistering rocker, a total change of pace from ‘Workingman’s Blues,’ might well be the stand-out performance of the evening.
Cold Irons Bound (A)
NET 2010 Part 2.2 will follow shortly.