New Pony Records
Title for oct1988
cd pic for oct1988
  • October 19, 1988 Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY
  • October 30, 1991 Brady Theater, Tulsa, OK
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Liner Notes

Within weeks of concluding his 1987 world tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Dylan was conducting rehearsals for a new band and tour. Launched on the heels of recording sessions for the Traveling Wilbury’s, Volume 1 and the release of Down In The Groove, the tour features a stripped-down band comprised of G.E. Smith (guitars) and Christopher Parker (drums) from the Saturday Night Live house band and Kenny Aaronson, an accomplished session musician on bass. Gone are the backing singers and keyboards of the previous ten years. Gone, too, are the stadium-sized venues as Dylan and his new band tour mid-sized theaters and universities. This is the final concert of the 1988 tour and the last of four consecutive concerts at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.

Dylan opens this concert — as he has every night of the tour — with Subterranean Homesick Blues. It immediately establishes the spare, harder sound of this band, highlighting Christopher Parker’s deceptively straightforward drumming and G.E. Smith’s gymnastic lead guitar playing which alternates between rhythmic emphasis and sudden hyperactive melodic flights. Dylan’s singing has an entirely different character from the 1987 shows and this tour marks a permanent shift in his singing style towards a more economical phrasing and register which continue to this day. On louder songs, Dylan’s vocals seem purposely restrained – almost compressed – as he explores the possibilities within a “less is more” approach to melody. This approach is especially apparent in Stuck Inside of Mobile as Dylan flattens the sweeping range of the original recording in his own inimitable way; embodying the bewildered unease of the lyrics in hi s phrasing, while dispensing with the bemused quality of the original instrumentation and melody.

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If Dylan’s phrasing seems bent on a minimalist reinterpretation of his songs, G.E. Smith’s guitar playing is equally dedicated to burning down the building every night. A fluid, crowd-pleaser, capable of adapting to most any style, Smith’s choices here are fascinating and, at times, tremendously successful. The synchronization of the two acoustic guitars during the acoustic sets is uncanny, with Smith’s guitar providing an understated, lyrical counterpoint to Dylan’s chopping percussive playing. Smith nails a perfect guitar phrase during a solo at the center of Like A Rolling Stone which he reprises nearly every night this tour and unleashes another scorching solo during In The Garden, which again suggests this song has yet to fulfill it’s fascinating, off-beat structure.

Lest anyone imagine Dylan’s voice had forsaken him, he returns to a more familiar phrasing and singing style during four acoustic performances at the center of the concert, with wonderful results. Accompanied by G.E. Smith on acoustic guitar, Dylan delivers a jaw-dropping rendition of Gates of Eden with a strength and richness to his voice that gives lie to any doubts the man can sing with the very best. Dylan follows with a plaintive With God On Our Side and a wearied, entrancing One Too Many Mornings. He concludes the four-song set with the traditional Barbara Allen, a tragic ballad of love gone wrong which Dylan makes his own.

This acoustic interlude between largely electric sets yet again testifies to Dylan’s substantial gifts as a performer. With Gates of Eden — hardly one of his more accessible songs — Dylan’s command on his audience and simultaneous complete abandonment to song itself creates a mesmerizing flow of words and spare music which accentuate the silence he brings to a concert hall; leading us to a timeless place where one voice can create an entire world for those who take the time to listen.

Listen, too, to Dylan’s lovely, haunting performance of the traditional ballad Wagoner’s Lad which highlights his superb, depthless phrasing and a wonderful guitar playing between Dylan and G.E. Smith.

So here it is, the final concert of Dylan’s 1988 Tour; dubbed the “Never Ending Tour” and considered by many to continue to this day; preserved for you and posterity through the conscientious efforts of resourceful tapers and dedicated collectors over the intervening years. Now it’s your turn. Enjoy.

Disc One
subterranean homesick blues
just like a woman
masters of war
shelter from the storm
bob dylan’s 115th dream
stuck inside of mobile
gates of eden
Disc Two
with god on our side
girl of the north country
i shall be released
silvio
like a rolling stone
waggoner’s lad
to ramona
knockin on heaven’s door
in the garden
all along the watchtower

Click this symbol to hear one-minute samples of these selected songs. These are 128kbps samples which, depending upon your connection speed, may play instaneously on high broadband, but may take several minutes to begin playing for dial up connections.

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