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Saturday, 7 November 2009

Freewheelin' Revisited! Which albums should Bob perform live in their entirety?

In recent years several artists have been giving shows that consist mostly of a single album, played in its entirety. Van Morrison not so long ago played Astral Weeks live to critical acclaim, even releasing the result as a cd Astral Weeks Live At the Hollywood Bowl and a DVD (exclusive to Amazon: see inset).

A few years ago Elvis Costello gave a performance of his first and most widely loved album, My Aim Is True, even reuniting with the original musicians.

And in 2002 David Bowie played the whole of Low in one set and then came back to perform his then latest album Heathen in a second set.

Rufus Wainwright even performed the whole of Judy Garland's Judy at Carnegie Hall.

Anyway, you get the idea.I started off by thinking that Bob would never do something like this, then I suddenly realized, he already has -- exactly 30 years ago this month he started the first of two tours on which he performed the whole of Slow Train Coming and the then-unreleased Saved in their entirety (barring 'Satisfied Mind' off the latter, which can be regarded as a sort of 'bonus track.' Also, 'Are You Ready?' only emerged as very a late addition to the second tour, and was then played throughout the third gospel tour, when Bob dropped some songs and added others, some of which remain unreleased to this day).

So once again, Bob was way ahead of the pack. Except of course, the context was different. One album was Bob's latest release and the other would be his next album, and both were informed by his religious belief, giving him a burning desire to perform them to audiences. I cannot see Bob doing a show in which he rattled off the whole of Highway 61 Revisited and then came out and did all of Blood on the Tracks. And even if he did, of course, the songs would be unrecognizable from the versions on the original albums, and the musicians would be different (even if all the original ones were still alive, I can't see him choosing to play with the same people again). And of course, whereas someone like Van Morrison sounds much the same as he did in 1970, Bob's voice has gone through umpteen changes.

So this blog is purely for fun. Tell me which two albums you would pick to be played in their entirety for your fantasy, one-off Dylan live show. Also, who would you like to play with him for these revisited versions (stick to living musicians, please, just to make it a little more plausible)?

I'll go first. These aren't necessarily my favourite albums, I just think that they would make for a fantastic show.

First off, Bob should do the whole of Freewheelin'. Firstly, that will give us a few live debuts -- I don't believe that he's ever performed "Bob Dylan's Blues", "Down the Highway", or "I Shall Be Free" live at all, while there is just one circulating live performance of "Oxford Town" and "Corrina, Corrina" and two of "Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance" (ignoring home recordings). "Bob Dylan's Dream" hasn't been heard since 1991, and "Talkin' World War III Blues" since 1965.

And this half of the show should at least predominantly solo, because we haven't seen that for a while. Maybe he could be joined by some backing musicians on a couple of songs -- maybe we could even finally get to hear what the rocked up "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" might have sounded like (backing musicians are said to be on this track on the Freewheelin' liner notes! No such version has ever surfaced. There is even a rumored "Dixieland" take!) And while they were out there, they could perhaps play on the live debut of Mixed-Up Confusion... The only other "outtake" from the Freewheelin' album I would include in the show would be the all-time great love song Tomorrow Is A Long Time (strictly speaking, it was not recorded in the Freewheelin' sessions at all, but was demoed in between sessions). But hey, if he wants to debut Rocks and Gravel while he's out there, who am I to argue with Bob?

I even have my running order for this one-off live show (to be performed at a suitable small venue within a 20 mile radius of my house), which departs from the original sequence.

I Shall Be Free (starting where he left off in 1963) -- Bob on guitar. Gets Bob and us relaxed and warmed up. New lyrics with updated references, including to Alicia Keyes and Scarlett Johannson)
Masters of War (Bob on guitar).
Oxford Town (Bob on guitar) -- end of first 'protest' sectoin
Down the Highway (Bob on guitar & harmonica)
Bob Dylan's Blues (Bob on guitar & harmonica
Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance (Bob on guitar) -- concludes blues section.
Talkin' World War III Blues (Bob on guitar) -- Bob brings house down with new final line: "Barack Obama said that! At least I think that's what he said!)
Girl of the North Country (Bob on guitar and harmonica)
Tomorrow Is A Long Time (Bob on guitar, Donnie Heron on violin) [End of the Echo-Suze section]

"Ladies and gentlemen! I want to introduce my current band! That was Donnie Herron you just heard on violin. On lead guitar, Charlie Sexton! On bass, Tony Garnier! On the drums, the best drummer we could find tonight, George Recile! And the other guy who you can never actually hear but who follows me around, Stu Kimball!)

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (Bob on keyboards, the rest as above, except Donnie on pedal steel rather than violin).

Bobtalk: "This next song was my first single. Hands up if you were the guy who bought it."

Mixed-Up Confusion (musicians as above)
Rocks and Gravel (musicians as above) -- OPTIONAL
Corrina, Corrina (musicians as above except Charlie and Bob on acoustic guitars, no drums)

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (Bob on guitar).

Bobtalk: "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! That song was called "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall", and it certainly is. Goodnight!"

Long, sustained applause.


Blowin' in the Wind (Bob on guitar and harmonica, Joan Baez on backing vocals -- just kiddin'!)

Curtain falls on first part of show, leaving the audience stunned and amazed, especially a certain raggedclown...

Which album will Bob play when he comes back for the second half of the show? Will it be Christmas From the Heart? Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, do let me have your own suggestions for albums* Bob should play in their entirety live, with as much detail as possible. Let your fantasies run wild!

*I was thinking of his own studio albums, but if you think he should sing the whole of Sinatra in the Sands or Kate Bush's A Kick Inside, who am I to stop you? It's your fantasy.