New Pony Records
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  • July 26, 1999 Tramps, NYC, NY
  • November 24, 2003 Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK
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Liner Notes

Halfway through a four month tour sharing the bill with Paul Simon, Dylan and his band stepped off the band wagon to play a club show on their own at Tramps in New York City. Beginning with the Dylan/Simon tour, Charlie Sexton replaced Bucky Baxter on guitar; Larry Campbell assuming Baxter’s more exotic stringed instrumental roles. Expectations were high among the nine hundred or so in attendance and they weren’t disappointed.

This evening, without Simon sharing the bill, Dylan and the band play a far longer set, adding seven songs not otherwise played during the tour which comprise the heart of the first half of this concert. As has been the pattern since the beginning of the year, Dylan and the band begin with an acoustic set, here kicked off with a cool, assured performance of Elisabeth Cotton’s Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie followed by a new interpretation of The Times They Are A’Changin which Dylan sings with a lullaby ease. The temperature begins to rise with Boots of Spanish Leather, a remarkable song from its inception, here showing Dylan’s storytelling prowess as a performer as well. Dylan’s phrasing, shifting between the awkward interlocutors in this tale of a lover’s deception slowly dawning, speaks to the ages, inhabiting these characters with an immediacy and depth which again underscores the fact his performing gifts fully match his immense songwriting talent.

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John Brown follows — another remarkable, harrowing tale — set to a stark riff and lacking any chorus, more a litany than a song. Accompanied by the mournful ringing notes of Larry Campbell’s bouzouki, Dylan’s voice, with the accumulation of his years apparent in his wearied tone, transforms the precocious anti-war statement of his youth into a knowing, wise reflection upon the terrible cost of war and the presumptions which manage to mask that cost from each successive generation.

Dylan and the band begin to stretch out on Visions of Johanna, which builds momentum with each stanza, becoming a classic performance among fans since the first recordings of this concert emerged. The performance simply swells as they settle into the graceful beauty of this melody, Dylan transposing “Madonna” for “Johanna,” tracing a syncopated rhythm with his manic tapping solos while the band maintains the billowing riff, like waves propelling the tale forward. Noted Dylan commentator and author Paul Williams prefaces his most recent book, Bob Dylan – Mind Out Of Time, with an entire chapter dedicated to this performance and what it tells us about Dylan’s living art as a performer.

An extended electric set follows, lead by a raw Seeing The Real You At Last from Empire Burlesque and a tentative, winning performance of it’s 1966 precursor, Most Likely You Go Your Way featuring the complementary styles of Sexton and Campbell on guitars. A series of strong performances follow, from a brooding Not Dark Yet, to a raucous Highway 61, to a razor sharp Love Sick, culminating in yet another excellent performance of Like A Rolling Stone evidence that Dylan can always surrender to the exquisite cadences of his best songs knowing, unlocked, they will fill the hall and every heart within it.

Returning to acoustic instruments, Dylan and the band delve deep into It Ain’t Me Babe, an extended jam capped by Dylan’s own extended, fluid harp solo. Here follows a stomping rendition of the Petty/Hardin classic Not Fade Away, a featured encore throughout 1999. The Garcia/Hunter rocker, Alabama Getaway, appears for the only time during this tour, though Dylan’s singing and the integrated three guitar attack show their well-rehearsed familiarity. As if the preceding two hours were not adequate, Dylan and band return once more, joined by Elvis Costello, for I Shall Be Released, complete with Dylan’s muffed intro, their incongruous pairing of voices strengthening with each chorus.

The patrons released, they no doubt hummed their ways home in the afterglow of a once-in-a-lifetime concert, and now you can too.

Disc One
oh babe, it ain’t no lie
the times they are a'changin
boots of spanish leather
john brown
visions of johanna
seeing the real you at last
ballad of a thin man
most likely you go your way
every grain of sand
tombstone blues
Disc Two
not dark yet
highway 61 revisited
love sick
like a rolling stone
it ain’t me babe
not fade away
blowin in the wind
alabama getaway
i shall be released

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