Disc One (73:09)
- Drifter's Escape
- I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
- Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
- Just Like A Woman
- It's Alright Ma (I'm only bleeding)
- Girl From The North Country
- Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll go mine
- Ballad Of A Thin Man
- Floater (Too much to ask)
- Highway 61 Revisited
- It Ain't Me Babe
Disc Two (41:33)
- Honest with me
- I Believe In You
- Summer Days
- Don't Think Twice, It's Alright
- Like A Rolling Stone
- All Along The Watchtower
Label : no label
Venue : Barrowland, Glasgow, Scotland
Date : June 24, 2004
Quality : audience recording (A+)
Comments : Excellent audience recording of a fantastic show. Highlights of the evening are Just Like A Woman, It Ain't Me, Babe and Like A Rolling Stone, three songs that were massively sung along by a lively Scottish audience. And Bob really enjoyed what was happening. The Barrowland concert is one of the all-time great Dylan concerts. Recommended !
Review from The Bottom Line : Bob Dylan plays his smallest gig in over a decade - and its brilliant. The "historic gig" is a cornerstone of popular music mythology. There is the tale of Jimi Hendrix's Isle of Wight show, where his black Stratocaster was sacrificed to the flames. There is The Beatles' final fling on the rooftop of their Apple headquarters. Oasis at Knebworth Park, Pink Floyd in Pompeii, The Stone Roses at Spike Island, U2 in Sarajevo, The Stones at Altamont, Nirvana's 1992 Reading Festival appearance.
The list goes on, but it must be acknowledged that the vast majority of these shows have taken place in the fairly distant past, during what some would call rock's glory years. Popular music doesn't seem to inspire the same calibre of legendary performances these days. We're aware of the stories of this apparent golden era, we hear the ruminations of those who attended these occasions, but it seems uncommonly rare for one of these gigs to take place now, in our era of Britneys, Didos and Justins. But if you're lucky, and choose your gigs wisely, you may be lucky enough to attend one good enough to be described as classic.
On Thursday 24th June 2004, Bob Dylan was due to play his smallest venue in over 15 years, at the legendary Glasgow Barrowlands. An ex-ballroom which holds about 1900 people, it is located in the Gallowgate region of the city, an area that could be described as being “full of character”. The gig was a last-minute addition to the UK leg of his tour, and the chance to see Dylan up close in such a small venue ensured that the tickets sold out within minutes of going on sale. I wasn’t to be dissuaded, and ended up paying handsomely through that handy thing called Ebay for 2 tickets for my Dad and myself.
But the omens weren’t good. The previous day, Dylan had picked up an honorary doctorate in music from St Andrew’s University, the oldest in Scotland, only the second time he has ever accepted one. The news footage showed Dr. Dylan looking bored and tired throughout the ceremony, and the following day one tabloid newspaper, apparently irked at his refusal to give an interview, headlined with “Hey Mr. Damn Boring Man” (geddit?). So one might be forgiven for thinking that Dylan may not have been in the best of spirits.
On the Wednesday night I attended his show at the cavernous steel and concrete box of the SECC centre, a sit-down gig with as much atmosphere as a punctured lung, and though the show was solid, I was too far away to be really engaged, the sound scattered by the dismal acoustics, his voice veering between a disinterested honk and a bronchial splutter. So, would the Barrowlands gig be the legendary occasion we all hoped it would be, or a disappointing anti-climax in the style of his Live Aid appearance?
The answer is that Bob Dylan’s Barrowlands show is the best concert I've attended. The audience was here so close to Dylan, so near to the flesh of the myth, that as one journalist put it the next day in his gushing review, it's like having Picasso paint your living room. As he strolls out to rapturous applause, we see that Bob Dylan is actually a human being of surprisingly short stature,with a lined face, narrowed eyes and an eye-catching gold cowboy hat.
Sometime in the 90's his voice finally waved a white flag and collapsed from 30 years worth of touring, wine and weed. Many performers might have thrown in the towel at that point, their primary instrument broken, but not so Dylan. The voice first introduced on Time Out Of Mind, a husky rasp, now tackles the verbal landscapes of his back catalogue with an entirely different method of phrasing, timing and inflection. No other voice would sound right singing the semi-comical backwoods shuffle of Floater the way he does tonight, or rattling through the chicken-wire sharp slide fest of Honest With Me. It’s a voice that has earned its right to sing of the entire range of human emotional experience, contained in his mountainous songbook, and tonight, it’s a riveting instrument.
He and his band launch into Drifter’s Escape, and we’re off: 2 hours of magnificent music. We get the country swing of I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, the nursery rhyme absurdism of Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, a beautifully fragile Boots Of Spanish Leather, and a stomp through the 50’s rockabilly of Summer Days. The band is tighter than a tightly tightened tight thing, with multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell adding shades of colour by switching between acoustic and electric guitar, pedal steel, mandolin and violin throughout.
It’s Alright Ma is a scorched-earth blues hymn, driven by guitarist Stuart Kimball’s molten riffs, and there is a touching rendering of Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, more lovelorn resignation than the defiant sneer of the original. The Scottish crowd bark their approval with shouts of “Gaun yersel’ Bobby!!” (translation: “Go on yourself Bob!”, meaning, “Go Bob!”).
So what is it about this particular concert? I’ve been to a few gigs in my life but this is probably the one I will remember above all others. Firstly, the awestruck thrill of seeing Dylan perform in such a small atmospheric venue will automatically ensure that the Barrowlands gig will go down in Dylan annals as one of his most memorable.
Secondly, there is the realisation that Dylan, despite any talk to the contrary, is an utterly committed live performer, never trotting out a workhorse soundalike version of a song. He bends, shapes, moulds and recasts his works with invention and, occasionally, bizarre but compelling audacity, making him a unique stage artist.
But here’s the main reason. To appreciate it, you really would have needed to be there, but I’ll describe it anyway. A Glasgow crowd is usually raucous, and a Barrowlands crowd is as good as it gets. The ballroom has been named by many bands as their favourite British venue due to the bonhomie and charge the place generates, and it is hard not to suspect this is why Dylan added the gig at the eleventh hour.
The third song in is Just Like A Woman, and Bob, as ever, sings it entirely differently to the recorded version, meaning the crowd can’t sing along, but they collectively decide to fix that. As Dylan reaches the chorus, he starts to sing, “She takes…”, and the crowd, as one, holler “Juuuust liiike a woman!!” They completely drown out the music and Dylan can’t help letting his stoic demeanour crack and grinning from ear to ear, abandoning the rest of the line. And it gets better.
Like A Rolling Stone is the penultimate song of the evening, and Dylan is again trying to ensure no one can sing along by reinventing the melody as he goes. And the crowd, determined to outfox him, simply take over the chorus. A colossal roar of “HOW DOES IT FEEL??” flattens the band across the back of the stage, and Dylan is laughing fit to burst and shaking his head, letting the crowd own the song.
He is visibly delighted, singing along with the audience rather than the other way around. It’s a transcendent moment, and at the song’s climax he quips: "I must say, you're the best singing audience we've ever had! We musta played that a thousand times, and nobody could ever sing with it!”
The crowd bellows its approval, and Dylan goes on to deliver an incandescent version of All Along The Watchtower. At the end, to ear-shattering applause, he stands stage centre, bows, and exits, pursued by the adulation and foot-stomping of 2000 Scottish souls lucky enough to have seen a brilliant representation of all that popular music was and is supposed to be.
The success of this gig lies in the fact that Dylan played
the kind of venue that all bands and performers should play - atmospheric, small and intimate enough to allow a genuine level of communication between band and audience. Dylan doesn’t want to play vast barns filled with beard-stroking trainspotters noting down how many times on this tour he’s played Ballad Of A Thin Man. He wants to see the crowd enjoying themselves, to see young faces as well as old. This was a gig of the kind of quality that all musicians should aspire to. And he’s probably coming to a town near you soon.