Friday, February 1, 2019

Scarlet Town: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2018

Scarlet Town: Live 2018
Volume One

Things Have Changed - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
It Ain’t Me, Babe - Live - Newcastle - August 22, 2018
Highway 61 Revisited - Live - Rome - April 3, 2018
Tryin’ To Get To Heaven - Live - Lisbon - March 22, 2018
Cry A While - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
When I Paint My Masterpiece - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
Honest With Me - Live - Brno - April 15, 2018
Scarlet Town - Live - New York - November 29, 2018
Early Roman Kings - Live - Rome - April 3, 2018
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
Thunder On The Mountain - Live - Lisbon - March 22, 2018
Soon After Midnight - Live - Rochester - November 15, 2018
Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
It Takes A Lot To Laugh (Train To Cry) - Live - Phoenix - October 4, 2018
Long & Wasted Years - Live - Bliefield - April 21, 2018

Scarlet Town: Live 2018
Volume Two

Things Have Changed - Live - Rome - April 3, 2018
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright - Live - Brno - April 15, 2018
Duquesne Whistle - Live - Brno - April 15, 2018
Simple Twist Of Fate - Live - Bielefeld - April 21, 2018
All Along The Watchtower - Live - New York - November 29, 2018
Visions Of Johanna - Live - Sydney - August 19, 2018
High Water - Live - Tucson - October 5, 2018
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Brno - April 15, 2018
Pay In Blood - Live - Thackerville - October 13, 2018
Love Sick - Live - Macon - November 27, 2018
Summer Days - Live - Lisbon - March 22, 2018
Moon River - Live - Savannah - November 6, 2018
Like A Rolling Stone - Live - Chattanooga - October 27, 2018
Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Melbourne - August 13, 2018
It’s A Man’s World - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018

In 2018, Bob Dylan made a few major changes to his live performances. A repertoire of ballads popularized by Frank Sinatra gave way to more original compositions by mid-year. This came as a relief to some fans who had tired of the moody style Dylan had employed since 2015, though others lamented the replacement of these covers with songs largely pulled from the singer’s 2012 to 2014 setlists. By the end of the late summer Pacific Tour, however, Dylan and his band had begun to offer more surprising fare: “Gotta Serve Somebody” and “When I Paint My Masterpiece” would become setlist standards for the first time since 2001 and 1991 respectively.

More importantly, the spirit of experimentation which characterized song arrangements the Fall 2017 Tour persisted through 2018. “Honest With Me,” “Summer Days,” “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Thunder On The Mountain,” and “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven” retained their distinctive 2017 arrangements while entirely new styles were applied to “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” “Pay In Blood,” and “Gotta Serve Somebody” mid-tour. The first “Gotta Serve Somebody” arrangement, which was played only briefly on the Pacific Tour and appears on Scarlet Town Volume Two, is heavily influenced by Henry Mancini’s “Theme From Peter Gunn.” The later arrangement, which was played for the remainder of the Pacific Tour and throughout the following United States Tour, owes more to the American boogie woogie musical style. The arrangement of “Cry A While” is very similar to Link Wray’s instrumental “Rumble,” which Dylan played several times at a London residency in 2005.

“Like A Rolling Stone” is a fascinating fusion of old and new, with a scaled back chorus reminiscent of the 1976 Rolling Thunder Revue’s start-stop arrangements. “Things Have Changed” was updated slightly at the start of the Fall Tour, as the portion of the verse immediately preceding its chorus now has cascading drums in the style of “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’.” Dylan seemed to have grown more comfortable with being highlighted in the mix, especially on the Fall 2018 Tour, as lengthy portions of “When I Paint My Masterpiece” and “Don’t Think Twice” feature him playing piano and singing with little band accompaniment.

The Fall Tour also brought with it a few new covers. For the first time since 1990, Bob Dylan sang the famous ballad written Harry Mancini and Johnny Mercer and popularized by Andy Williams. It debuted at Savannah’s Johnny Mercer theater, likely as a nod to the theater’s namesake; I prefer to think that it was inspired by The Simpsons’ episode “Bart on the Road,” as it was indeed played as a second encore. “It’s A Man’s World” was also played by Bob Dylan for the first time in his career at Augusta on November 7 before appearing three more times. This intense James Brown and Betty Jean Newsome song closed out the concert each time it was played.

A few neat oddities popped up throughout the year, as they tend to. “Visions of Johanna” was played once in Sydney. The arrangement is lovely, and a rumor circulating at the time suggested that the song was a tribute to the cast of Rigoletto; Dylan had recently visited the Sydney Opera House to take in that performance and chatted with the cast backstage. “High Water” was played six times throughout the year in two different arrangements. One rendition of the latter one, uncharacteristically performed in a major key, is included on Scarlet Town.

The highlight of the Fall Tour, as indicated by many in attendance, was a rearranged version of 2012’s “Scarlet Town.” The structure remains similar to the song’s studio recording, but the final line of each verse is lengthened for dramatic effect. By the mid-point of the track, a distinctive guitar riff begins to amp up the menace. George Receli’s complex rhythm accompaniment enhances the song still further, and I found that this was represented best on a New York recording late in the year.

It was an excellent year for shows, and perhaps better still for incredible recordings. The tapers really outdid themselves with 2018. I referred to recordings created by spot, FL, hhtfp, Manie, philandjenny, SFY, Falconidave, Bach, and soomlos; all were a treat, and I feel truly blessed to live in an era when these individuals are laboring to bring Bob Dylan’s music to those who might not have the opportunity to see a show in person. I would encourage listeners who enjoy the selections on Scarlet Town to seek out the following full concerts for more:

- Lisbon: March 22, 2018 (spot)
- Rome: April 3, 2018 (FL)
- Brno: April 15, 2018 (hhtfp)
- Macon: October 27, 2018 (soomlos)
- Chattanooga: October 28, 2018 (soomlos)
- Roanoke: November 10, 2018 (Bach)

Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.