JULY 05, 2008
1. Watching The River Flow
2. Lay, Lady, Lay
3. The Levee's Gonna Break
4. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
6. Rollin' And Tumblin'
7. Workingman's Blues #2
8. Things Have Changed
9. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
10. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
11. Spirit On The Water
12. Highway 61 Revisited
13. Ballad Of Hollis Brown
14. Summer Days
15. Ain't Talkin'
16. Thunder On The Mountain
17. Like A Rolling Stone
As there were no concerts in Ireland or our native Germany (or anywhere in
between) during this fine European summer tour of 2008, my wife and I flew
from Cork to the southern part of Spain, to see the shows in Jaén, Jérez,
and Mérida. After strolling through some beautiful old towns amidst
rolling hills covered with millions of olive trees in the beautiful Jaén
province, we made our way to the fairground to see our first Bob Dylan
concert since Düsseldorf and Frankfurt in April last year.
Going to multiple shows can be coupled with unrealistic expectations to
see rare nuggets and a sometimes creeping inability to enjoy the numerous
regulars, especially if one is listening to the newest and latest field
recordings, as I am in the habit of doing, I admit. And in a time when
those field recordings are available for download online sometimes faster
than the set lists of the shows, it almost seems futile to write and read
But since I have been putting some personal impressions into writing since
2000, I might as well continue to do so, especially with a free internet
connection in our hotel room here in Arcos de la Frontera, and the sun
still hot outside. All but two of the songs I saw in Jaén I had seen
before in recent years, but even the oldest war horses sounded fresh and
crisp in the second row underneath the left speakers.
The band was as good as they get, and I must say that Tony and especially
George have way too much fun for this to be considered work. It was a
pleasure to behold. Unfortunately I did not see a lot of Denny (only heard
his brilliant guitar solos), as the stage speakers blocked the view, a
vantage point I will try to avoid tomorrow in Jérez. Songs like “Rollin'
And Tumbling'” and “ Summer Days” are not exactly the desired nuggets
mentioned above, but these musicians took them to quite another level.
Also to see the crowd reaction during strong performances of “Highway 61”
and “Like A Rolling Stone” made me realize once more that it is for the
vast crowd of the audience Bob Dylan plays these songs, and not that
people like me might hear their 37th or 52nd version. Anyway, the songs I
liked the most of course were those songs I had not seen that often,
including the two oldest songs of the show, my 7th “Ballad Of Hollis
Brown” and my 6th “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll”, the last verse
and refrain of which we were deprived of however due to a microphone
failure during the last word of the penultimate refrain.
Also very enjoyable for me was my 8th version of “Moonlight”, especially
the way Bob sometimes only sings “Meet me” instead of “Won’t you meet me”.
Which brings me to my favorite three songs of this fine Jaén concert,
which for me stand head and shoulders above the rest. The first peak was
song number three, “The Levee's Gonna Break”, which I saw twice already
last year, but which on stage keeps getting better and better. The studio
version for me was and remains already the best rock song recorded by Bob
since 1981, and for my money this song is the finest rock song by far in
Bob Dylan’s current concert repertoire.
Peak number two was song number seven, “Workingman's Blues #2”, one of my
favorite songs from “Modern Times”, which I had never seen live before,
and which I had hoped to hear at least once during my three Bob dates down
here in Spain. I have listened to and enjoyed most versions of this gem on
field recordings, and uploaded many an mp3 of it on notdarkyet.org; and I
sure am glad to have witnessed now for myself an outstanding version of
this extraordinary masterpiece of a song. Everything from then on in the
show had a hard time to top this peak, and I actually did not expect
anymore anything better than this song, which was already worth the plane
flight, the rental car, and the hotel accommodation.
But then, as song number fifteen, another one of those songs I had never
seen, another one of my “Modern Times” favorites I had hoped to see at
least once, before I have to leave Spain, and one I did not expect to hear
in Jaén, as I knew Bob played it on both previous shows. To top even “The
Levee's Gonna Break” and “Workingman's Blues #2”, I did get to hear an
absolutely jaw dropping version of “Ain't Talkin'”. Having listened to
most previous versions on sometimes stellar field recordings I expected
the experience to be like that, only live. But no, standing there looking
at the greatest living artist performing this wonderful masterpiece was an
altogether different thing. The deliverance by Bob Dylan and his band was
nothing short of commanding, captivating, simply awesome. Performing art
delivered from any stage, experienced live in concert, does not get any
better than this.