New Pony Records
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  • November 16, 1979 Warfield Theater San Francisco, CA
  • December 3, 1980 Paramount Theater Portland, OR
  • July 25, 1981 Earls Court London, England
  • October 17, 1987 Wembley Arena London, England
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Liner Notes

Dylan spent the early months of 1981 in a variety of L.A. recording studios cutting tracks for what would become the Shot of Love album. That summer, Dylan hit the road with largely the same band he had toured in 1979 and ‘80.

In their third year touring together, Dylan and band have developed a more rhythmically complex and powerful sound, presenting new arrangements built on a solid base of comfort with one another. Dylan himself presents some of his most adventurous vocal performances — some among the finest in his career — taking pure pleasure in the strength of his voice, the power of the band, the versatility of his backing singers, and the seemingly endless variety of approaches possible to his canon of songs.

After two concerts in France, they arrive in London to play six consecutive dates at Earls Court. This concert opens with several gospel standards performed by the backing singers — Regina Havis, Carolyn Dennis, and Clydie King — a feature of Dylan’s concerts dating back to 1979. Sadly, many of these sets have been edited from circulating tapes over the years, but they are presented here in their entirety, including a gem, It’s Gonna Rain, performed a cappella through the 1979-81 period to stunning effect.

Dylan’s set begins with Gotta Serve Somebody, showcasing the band’s new sound — power chords over a shuffle beat with a percussive refrain – sounding confident and energized. I Believe In You carries forward the new sound, emphasizing a percussive cadence at the tail of each stanza, indulging a bombastic organ sound building the tension of each phrase of the chorus over Jim Keltner’s flowing drumming. The triptych is complete with a marvelous interpretation of Like A Rolling Stone, which, as unlikely as it may seem coming on the heels of a devotional song, compares favorably to the original recording. The overblown organ carries forward from I Believe In You, underscoring the rave-up character of this arrangement, but the real star here is Dylan’s singing. He savors the rhyme scheme as he draws out each stanza with staccato phrasing and an otherworldly tone to his voice, oddly flat but utterly compelling. In this performance, Dylan reinhabits the song, fashioning an entirely new perspective from the words without altering its essential meaning. The overall effect is mesmerizing and deepens a defining classic of twentieth century popular music.

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Referring to this three-song set as a triptych is not an overstatement. Dylan follows Like A Rolling Stone by stating they’ll slow things down, introducing Regina Havis to sing a luminous ‘Til I Get It Right while Dylan moves to the side of the stage, abruptly breaking the tremendous momentum he’d just established. Musing over Dylan’s purpose in setting apart these three songs — musically unified, but so different in their voice and intent — is just another of the many pleasures available to us thanks to the illicit recording of these performances. At it’s most explicit, Dylan’s challenging the audience directly; stating, with Gotta Serve Somebody, that freedom is having a choice of masters; that he’s chosen “the Lord” (I Believe In You); and anyone who chooses otherwise is Like A Rolling Stone. Perhaps this explains the meticulous, imploring phrasing of his singing on Like A Rolling Stone as he resolves each phrase upwards, neutralizing the ferocious dismissive quality of the original.

Dylan’s vocal pyrotechnics continue on a stomping Maggie’s Farm with Clydie King rasping high harmony on each chorus, a song Dylan introduces, following Man Gave Names to All The Animals, as “another animal song, a man animal.” Two songs later, Dylan presents Dead Man, Dead Man, still unreleased at the time of this concert, again with Clydie King’s voice prominent on the chorus. Later, Dylan unleashes a blistering rendition of Ballad Of A Thin Man sounding like the finger’s pointed right at you, followed immediately by Slow Train Coming set to a chugging beat.

But it’s not all fire and brimstone. Mister Tambourine Man is recast along the lines of Like A Rolling Stone, the words and melody now a plaything to Dylan’s restless prodding voice. The concert also features yet another beautiful version of Just Like A Woman, sung almost as a lazy afternoon daydream, but for a rousing interlude, reminding one of the regret at the center of this love song. Taken as a whole, this is a remarkable concert and invaluable moment in Dylan’s performing career. A gifted and committed artist is at work this evening and, but for surreptitious audience tapes, his creation would be lost to the ages. Thank the tapers.

Disc One
come on in this house
it’s gonna rain
show me the way
saved by the grace of your love
gotta serve somebody
i believe in you
like a rolling stone
till i get it right
man gave names to all the animals
maggie’s farm
simple twist of fate
dead man, dead man
girl of the north country
ballad of a thin man
slow train
walk around heaven all day
Disc Two
let’s begin
all along the watchtower
lenny bruce
mr. tambourine man
solid rock
just like a woman
in the summertime
masters of war
forever young
when you gonna wake up
in the garden
blowin in the wind
love minus zero/no limit
knockin on heaven’s door

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Buy These Official Releases Now
Saved
Slow Train Coming — August 20, 1979
Shot of Love
Saved — June 20, 1980>