Bob Dylan’s Live In 1966: 36 CDs and no I’m not reviewing em all…
36 CDs… indeed, and that amounts to 18 concerts, acoustic on one CD one concert, electric the second CD, the rest of the concert. Here is Bob Dylan in Stockholm, in Belfast and, of course, in Manchester-the highlight of the entire enterprise.It was in Manchester where Bob responded to an audience members shout of “Judas” (for going electric, but I’m guessing you know that) with an “I don’t believe you.” and then “You’re a liar.” Before advising the Hawks to play fucking loud. You can find it on CD 20 here, between “Ballad Of A Thin Man” and “Like A Rolling Stone”. Play fucking loud is what they do and the version of “Like A Rolling Stone” that follows the proclamation of freedom is more than a pleasantry, it is one of those defining moments.
If you have been listening to the 66 tour for the past 18 odd hours, it is a moment you’ve been waiting for though despite it’s inevitability and despite the consistent bang of the entire concert -even the acoustic half isn’t a peace offering, Bob’s terse anger is a scenesetter. for the rest of our lives: we know it’s coming but it is so unsettling, like a changing of the guard The you’re a liar finds his voice go from a sneer to a fury, and the song is that exact anger enacted as art.
Round about now, there is hardly a Dylan tour we haven’t heard represented to some degree or the other, but the pour on of Live 1966 is so relentless. in its personal responsibility post-protest antagonism, the constancy seems like an attack on middle class hypocrisy. The early acoustic set as much as the rock and roll firebomb.”It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” has never been an easy listen and night in and night out sounds less weary than exacted. All seven songs are mythic, none more so than the eleven minute “Desolation Row” -the only time he ever built to “where lovely mermaids go”. The move from “Visions Of Johanna” to “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” to “Desolation Row” through the heart of the first half of the evening is as great a moment in live music as I can imagine hearing. The only equal I am aware of is Gershwin’s first performance of “Rhapsody In Blue” at Carnegie Hall in the early 1920s.He even posthumously saves “Just Like A Woman” from Woody Allen’s hysterical grapefruit in the face personified in the asshole-ish “yes, you do.” improvisation. Musically, there is no finer sound than Dylan’s harp on “Mr. Tambourine Man”, at his quietest he is fucking loud., everything here is not protest, not folk ballads, maybe it is the birth of the singer-songwriter? The emotions are so on his sleeve but he is using his sleeve to clean the dirt off your face.
The electric set might have been more important but it sure wasn’t better. It wasn’t worse either. This is a cool tight hard rocking band of pros behind a man obsessed. Though the song selection is a touch strange, opening night after night with “Tell Me, Mama” -sure it is as overwhelming as anything you’ll here but with, say, “Highway 61 Revisited” just begging to be played, this seduction song as terror mindfuck sounds great (is that Robbie on the solo?) is great but not the greatest. “Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat” is a raw nerve blues and after hearing it many times (16 takes just last year), it is the first time I’ve glommed onto his cuckoldedness as the center of the song. He is upset about the doctor, “I don’t mind you cheating on me” sure implies the opposite. The dismissing of her boyfriend with a resounding “You think he loves you but I know what he loves you for…” is seething. He concludes by (sarcastically? I dunno, the audience sure were doing so) asking the audience not to clap so hard.
The sound isn’t enough to really gauge the audiences reaction to most of us this but for absolutely certain, they were cheering the “Judas” comment. But Dylan had the last word all the way here, “Ballad Of A Thin Man”, Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” (an incomplete take from Manchester, but many complete takes among the 36 CDs). This version of the Band is quite as strong as the band that would rock the US before the flood eight years later. The “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like we Never Have Met)” is the equal of the rocked out 1974 post-Nixon take.
Even with zero historic implications, this tour was an epic case of an artist well into it, at an early, undeniable peak, playing to audiences clueless as to what it was hearing and seeing.
How does it feel? It feels like the end of 19th century