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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Soon After Midnight: Unreleased Live Recordings, Spring 2013



Soon After Midnight - Spring Tour 2013

Things Have Changed - April 14, 2013
Workingman's Blues #2 - April 25, 2013
High Water - April 6, 2013
Soon After Midnight - April 19, 2013
Early Roman Kings - April 9, 2013
Pay In Blood - April 10, 2013
Visions Of Johanna - April 19, 2013
Spirit On The Water - April 9, 2013
Blind Willie McTell - April 10, 2013
What Good Am I - April 9, 2013
Beyond Here Lies Nothin' - April 19, 2013
Scarlet Town - April 14, 2013
Thunder On The Mountain - May 2, 2013


Here is my best attempt at compiling a best-of for such an extraordinary tour. To those who haven't listened to the shows, this tour may have seemed uninteresting or dull due to the unvarying setlists. To those who have heard them, this Spring tour was noted for its renewed attention to nuance.

For example, not even a chatting audience can damper the intensity of the opening "Things Have Changed." This song had been a highlight since 2011, but it really comes alive here.

"Workingman's Blues #2" appears for its only performance in 2013. The arrangement, while similar to the version on Modern Times, it unique to this tour. It's exceedingly stripped down, and is almost solo. Guitar, bass and drums occasionally make their presence known, but it is carried by the piano and vocal; if you listen closely, you can catch some interesting new lyrics.

I almost opted for the banjo-less "High Water" from Lewiston, but it lacked the drive found in those with Donnie Herron's imprint. Plus, though the electric guitar is less prominent here than on other nights, Dylan's vocals more than make up for it.

The performance of "Soon After Midnight" from the 19th stands above those from the rest of this tour, as Dylan finds new ways of singing this song. And Duke Robillard really gets the opportunity to open up on this one.

"Visions Of Johanna" is perhaps the most expressive performance since 2005. This song is always a treat, but it's surprising to hear it carried out so delicately.

The jazz vibe continues through the remainder of the evening. "What Good Am I" was described by one listener as defining the tour, and I agree wholeheartedly. The plaintive cry takes on new meaning in this rendition. When I saw the band in California, Pennsylvania, I was on the edge of my seat. It was just devastating, and that confessional quality is foregrounded here.

"Scarlet Town" is intriguing, and is not a song that worked every night of the tour. In Ithaca, however, it shone like a diamond. There is a delicate tone here that is typically reserved for "Visions of Johanna," and part of its power comes from the threat that it could slide off the edge at any moment. The piano is more prominent here than elsewhere, to the song's benefit.

And don't tune out before the end - this must be the best "Thunder On The Mountain" I've heard committed to tape since the studio release. Robillard casts a long shadow.

As always, some songs had to be cut. Neither "Ballad Of A Thin Man" nor "Tangled Up In Blue" were as strong on this tour as they have been in recent memory, and "All Along The Watchtower" did not stand out as particularly notable. "Tangled Up In Blue" would improve throughout the year, however, becoming one of the most consistent nightly songs by the Autumn Tour.

I hope you enjoy the collection - the shows were especially well-recorded this Spring, and we should all be deeply grateful to JF, emptyhandedpainter, Spot, Tom Moore, nic1333, jefft3881, and Dan Schram. They put posterity ahead of their own enjoyment, and we would not have these songs without their efforts. Their songs remain lossless here, and the only edits were to standardize volume and add fade-ins/fade-outs. If you like the sound of a track, I encourage you to check out that night's tape. Odds are the rest of it retains a similar level of quality. One technical note - the recording of Champaign (04-25-13) is rumored to be lossy-sourced. Whether this is true or not, the compilation benefits from its presence.

If you like these songs, be sure to purchase the original recordings, available on the following releases at bobdylan.com:

Blonde On Blonde
Oh Mercy
"Love & Theft"
Modern Times
Together Through Life
Tempest
The Essential Bob Dylan
The Bootleg Series, Volumes 1 - 3

Next week we will be looking back at the piano tours of 2012 to 2013 in an overview of the finest performances from that time, including a remarkable and unique rendition of Gordon Lightfoot's "Shadows." Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

-CS

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