Real Live (1984)


 
1. Highway 61 Revisited 2. Maggie's Farm 3. I And I 4. License to Kill 5. It Ain't Me Baby 6. Tangled Up in Blue 7. Masters of War 8. Ballad of a Thin man 9. Gril From the North Country 10.Tombstone Blues

 

It's interesting to watch the evolution of Bob Dylan's live albums throughout his career (this was his fourth in ten years) since he seemed to always be changing things around a bit. This one is on of my favorites since it's so, pardon the pun, real. That word could mean different things to different people - some would argue that this sounds less real than anything he'd ever done. I enjoy it mainly because it sounds very fresh and maybe not quite so improvised.

It was a new decade, and people's expectations of a live show in the eighties were significantly different than from the early seventies. People weren't really all too keen to spend a big chunk of change to watch performers jam somewhat incoherently on stage for 90 minutes. No, they wanted a show. That's not to say you would ever get a theatrical spectacular from this man. Nor would you get lasers and light shows. The music itself, though, sounds carefully arranged and well rehearsed, with not that much room for improvisation. You could say the same thing of his last live record At Budokan, yet that album was very low key in front of a mostly quiet audience, whereas this record was obviously in front of a very energetic group of fans who were having the time of their life.

Unlike At Budokan, this album is only a single album, and I really wish the record company would have footed the bill for an extra disc. Listening to these songs, you can't help but want more. He's obviously going to play some cuts from his new record at the time (that would be Infidels) and sadly he includes one of the only subpar songs from an otherwise brilliant record (that would be I and I). The other representative, License to Kill, is somewhat stronger, but it's too bad better songs weren't selected.

Everything else here are pure audience favorites. It's not the best of his best, but any real fan knows the rest of the tracks. As mentioned, he mostly sticks to his traditional routine of redoing the tracks in a completely different format, and sometimes it works better than others. To be honest Masters of War sounds a little too different and more upbeat than it should be, but it's a minor sin. Highlights are the acoustic version of Tangled Up in Blue that, for whatever reason, includes a lot of new lyrics. Not sure why. The best song here is It Ain't Me Babe that is featured in its pure, acoustic original form. It helps when the 10,000+ arena crowd sings along to the chorus. Yes, they were enjoying the show.


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