By Tony Attwood
Seattle, (6th October 2001)
In his review of this concert Mike Johnson, who continues to undertake the monumental task of tracking the Never Ending Tour through is decades-long existence says, “The crossroads of my doorstep is an intriguing image as it suggests choices and decisions, to turn back or to go on, but in the end we’re all just ‘one too many mornings and a thousand miles behind’.
“The song is heavy with the sense of fate. This performance from Seattle, (6th Oct) does the song full justice. Larry’s steel guitar works like a string section, providing a more lush backdrop to Dylan’s superb vocal.”
And yes of course Mike is absolutely right. This version is unusual for Dylan by having an instrumental verse as an introduction before Bob comes in with the vocal. And here he avoids his occasional habit of singing the same melody over and over. Instead he repeats melodies sometimes – but not all the time, leaving us (whether we notice the exact details of the melody or not) with a sense of uncertainty admist the feeling of everything just moving on at its own pace, and nothing new happening.
Bob then moves straight into verse two with no instrumental break so that he retains that feeling, of endlessly moving on while reminding us of the deep, deep sadness in the song.
Meanwhile the music continues on without significant change into the instrumental break, beyond the way the acoustic guitar is played. It is like a life that continues without any change except a few minor details of day by day – an incredibly difficult effect to achieve. Music that represents repetition is hard to replicate without itself becoming tedious.
But throughout we remember that in that opening line he sings “And the day IS a-gettin’ dark.” Yet it is getting dark there is no escape…. as is emphasised by the fact that we move immediately on to verse two at once.
And this really is a clever arrangement – everything is moving at a very slow pace to emphasise the words, and yet we move on to emphasise the similarity of everything, day after day, before we get the instrumental break.
I fear that many people who listen to this arrangement will just hear it as another Dylan minor re-write but it is far more than that. For it is easy to forget just how the song sounded in its early days….
In the original the song is above all gentle, but this is a young man singing – he still has thousands of more adventures to undertake. Yes there is sadness in leaving and moving on, but a whole life is still to come in the years beyond. It is whistful, inevitable and unknown at the same time. As emphasised indeed by the fact that the instrumental at the end contains not one but two verses.
And just compare the speed at which the original moves with this live version. Now we have the feeling that Bob really has moved on. Indeed when he recorded the live version at the top of the page he was sixty years old. And I think quite a few people will agree, when one becomes sixty, it has an effect. It changes perspective. And between that original recording and this live performance there is a real change of perspective. The lyrics and much of the melody remain the same. But everything else has changed. It’s a different Bob singing.
Maybe I am influenced by being, like Bob, of an older vintage, but I really appreciate this change of perception of what age does. I feel it myself.
Previously on “The Never Ending Tour, the absolute highlights…”
- 1: John Brown 1987
- 2: Desolation Row. 1990.
- 3: She Belongs to Me
- 4: Tangled up in Blue
- 5: I and I – power without meaning
- 6: It ain’t me babe – go lightly.
- 7: Perfection in desolation – Gates of Eden
- 8: Girl from the North Country.
- 9: When He Returns
- 10: It’s alright Ma
- 11: Satisfied Mind
- 12: Visions of Johanna
- 13: Dark Eyes
- 14: Man in the long black coat
- 15: Don’t think twice (2000)
- 16: Silvio (1998)
- 17: Gates of Eden (2000)