The Wicked Messenger

CJ's Review

It's taken the booters a heck of a time to latch onto the 1997 tour. Quite why this should be so is somewhat baffling, especially on the evidence provided by this disc. What an astounding performance! This is the new line-up, carrying David Kemper on drums and Larry Campbell on guitar. The different sound is a revelation. The overall feel is still fairly laid back, as it was at the close of '96 but there's an added texture to the music, a blending of country hick that flavours the rock rhythms, not tempering them but bending them in a slightly different direction. There's a bags more space there for the vocals to roam around in, even during the electric sets there's an acoustic undertone, less of a feel of a wall of sound. It's more like listening to it on the radio. There's room to move, a greater simplicity to the arrangements, a feeling of sparseness at times. It feels like those early studio recording sessions - with the instruments working together leaning into each other and then moving on before it gets staid. It's an invigorating feeling. So many times in the past few years I've thought - that's it, that's what we've been waiting for it doesn't get better than that. Now I am feeling rather than the end, this could be just the start. He's not so much drawing a line underneath his career as turning the page on a whole new blank page.
Right from the opening song - the bizarre selection of Not Fade Away, Dylan just melts into it. The vocals nuanced are all there. It's nota Rolling Stone's cover, he takes it for his own. And each performance of each song is approached with the same honest open naivity. I can't believe how good I feel after hearing this. WHat a breath of revitalised air. There's a real belief in the performances, a reawakening of the power within the songs. Masters Of War, with it's menacingly repetitive beat, forever pushing the song relentlessly forward, is sung with a gritty determination, an unstoppable force determined to be heard. And even Silvio and Watchtower have an added nuance to them. More space, less clutter. It's as if Dylan's given the songs a spring-clean.
Recording quality matches the performance - every nuance of the vocals is captured with superb dynamics. A phenomenal recording. How come it's taken so long!!!

Tfeb A (8)


19 April 1997 Hartford

Not Fade Away
I Want You
All Along The Watchtower
You Ain't Goin' Nowhere
Watching The River Flow
Roving Gambler
Masters Of War
Tangled Up In Blue
Seeing The Real You At Last
This Wheel's On Fire
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
I Shall Be Released
Don't Think Twice...
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

22 April 1997 Indiana

The Wicked Messenger

18 April 1997 Albany

Friend Of The Devil
Mr Tambourine Man
Hattie Carroll
Tombstone Blues
Ballad Of A Thin man
Highway 61 Revisited
Forever Young

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