At Budokan (1979)


 
Disc One 1. Mr. Tamborine Man 2. Shelter From the Storm 3. Love Minus Zero/No Limit 4. Ballad of a Thin Man 5. Don't Think Twice, It's Alright 6. Maggie's Farm 7. One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below) 8. Like a Rolling Stone 9. I Shall Be Released 10.Is Your Love in Vain? 11.Going, Going, Gone Disc Two 1. Blowin' in the Wind 2. Just Like a Woman 3. Oh, Sister 4. Simple Twist of Fate 5. All Along the Watchtower 6. I Want You 7. All I Really Want To do 8. Knockin' on Heaven's Door 9. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) 10.Forever Young 11.The Times They Are A-Changin'

 

Bob Dylan put out an awful lot of live albums in the 1970s. Fortunately, none of them really sounded like one or the other. Famous for changing musical styles at the drop of the hat, Dylan's concert tours seemed to emulate the style of his current record that he was currently promoting, and if fans wanted to hear the old favorites in the same way they were recorded, they were in for a big disappointment. For whatever reason, this never seemed to bother the legions of fans that came to his concert. Oh, sure, the folkies dissed him pretty hard back in the mid sixties when he picked up an electric guitar, and many were not too pleased during his Born Again phase of the early 1980s when he only played his Christian material. but in most cases the faithful were fine with the performances.

This record, coming off the heels of Street Legal, uses the sounds and styles of that record as its foundation. In other words, it's very slick with a lot of brass, flutes and very carefully crafted music. Since that album was never a favorite of the faithful, this album, then, received much of the same frigidness. The atmosphere in the sacred Japanese hall was a long way from the rowdiness of, say, Before the Flood from only five years back.

Maybe because I wasn't old enough back then to really know much at all about Dylan, but this change of scenery doesn't really bother me. Listening to this album so many decades later definitely shows its age. You can hear a lot of double knits and shag carpets (if such a thing as possible), yet all of the songs sound perfectly acceptable, and whereas I wouldn't dare say any of the older songs are better than the originals, they certainly come across as fresh and well cared for here.

As a matter of fact, this album sounds strangely a bit too cautious. Not that it's a drawback, but it just seems so.....odd coming from Dylan. When he talks to the audience in between songs, he sounds, well, normal. Nothing at all like the mystical figure we've come to expect. He even sounds (gulp) sober. You might say that a double album was a bit much, since it was the first of its kind (Before the Flood was a double live album, but that album was about half him and half The Band), but the whole set is very soothing and relaxing, and it was nice to see so many years later that he could pull this off for an entire show. It's different, it's slick, it's tame and it's not what you'd really expect from a Dylan concert, but that doesn't mean it isn't good. It is. No matter what some may say.

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