Bob Dylan: In Concert, Revisited

“Some of these bootleggers, they make pretty good stuff”

So later this month, Bob Dylan will return to England and rock the Albert Hall. I’m not one to miss His Bobness in concert, so it was to my anguish that, while offline, tickets sold out in minutes. I’m all for Bob’s musical evolution, and I’ve yet to see him play since the brilliant and guttural Tempest came out last year.

It’s not a huge cause for concern, however. The so-called ‘Never Ending Tour’ will plough on as usual, and I expect our travelling bluesman will be back next year for another leg. In the meantime – coinciding with the 25th anniversary of Dylan’s schedule – I’ve decided to upload my favourite moments of the tour thus far. I know you’re clamouring for them, you bloody flirt.

The Never Ending Tour

At some point in the late eighties, Dylan stepped up to embrace the travelling performer: the musician by trade, whose job is to scour every breadth of land, playing to anyone and everyone. He describes the epiphany in Chronicles, cryptically triggered by an old jazz singer, crooning in a washed up New Orleans bar:

At first it was hard going, like drilling through a brick wall. All I did was taste the dust. But then miraculously something internal came unhinged. In the beginning all I could get out was a blood-choked coughing grunt and it blasted up from the bottom of my lower self, but it bypassed my brain. That had never happened before. It burned, but I was awake [...] I had that old jazz singer to thank.

Whatever that meant, it stuck. Since 1987 Bob has played over 2,500 shows, performed in 800+ cities and traversed over a million miles of land for the sake of his craft. I dare say the man loves life on the road, as do I. Below are 50 odd songs, faithfully recorded by Bob’s legion of bootleggers and posted – legally, might I add – by the good people at Expecting Rain.

Roll on, Bob.

The Sixties (download)

01. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (Prague, Czech Republic 11th March 1995)
02. Restless Farewell (Frank Sinatra’s 80th Tribute, New York City, 19th November 1995)
03. My Back Pages (Berlin, Germany, 17th June 1996)
04. Mr. Tambourine Man (Ohio, 29th October 1999)
05. The Wicked Messenger (Dublin, Ireland, 14th September 2000)
06. Song To Woody (Santa Cruz, California, 16th March 2000)
07. Blowin’ In The Wind (Santa Cruz, California, 16th March 2000)
08. Subterranean Homesick Blues (Paris, France, 29th April 2002)
09. Desolation Row (Berlin, Germany, 20th October 2003)
10. Ballad of Hollis Brown (Rochester, New York, 13th April 2004)
11. Visions of Johanna (Dublin, Ireland, 27th November 2005)
12. Highway 61 Revisited (Dublin, Ireland, 27th November 2005)

The Seventies (download)

01. Shelter From The Storm (Prague, Czech Republic, 11th March 1995)
02. Simple Twist Of Fate (Dublin, Ireland, 14th September 2000)
03. I Shall Be Released (Munster, Germany, 1st October 2000)
04. If Dogs Run Free (2000)
05. I Threw It All Away (2000)
06. Country Pie  (Portsmouth, United Kingdom, 25th September 2000)
07. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Washington, 5th October 2001)
08. Tangled Up In Blue (Newport Folk Festival, 3rd August 2002)
09. You’re A Big Girl Now (Red Bluff, California, 7th October 2002)
10. To Be Alone With You (2003)
11. The Mighty Quinn (Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, United Kingdom, 23rd November 2003)
12. Down Along The Cove (Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, United Kingdom, 23rd November 2003)
13. Million Dollar Bash (Brixton Academy, United Kingdom, London, 25th November 2003)
14. Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power) (Dublin, Ireland, 27th November 2005)
15. Happy Birthday (For Charlie Sexton) (Billing, 2010)
16. Forever Young (Shanghai, China, 8th April 2011)

The Eighties (download)

01. Disease Of Conceit (Hammersmith Apollo, London, 8th February 1990)
02. Most Of The Time (San Jose, California, 9th May 1992)
03. Ring Them Bells (The Supper Club, New York, 16th November 1993)
04. Tight Connection To My Heart (The Supper Club, New York, 16th November 1993)
05. Man In The Long Black Coat (Prague, Czech Republic 11th March 1995)
06. License To Kill (Prague, Czech Republic, 11th March 1995)
07. I’ll Remember You (Berkeley, California, 26th May 1995)
08. Dark Eyes (with Patti Smith) (New York, 17th December 1995)
09. Shooting Star (Oslo, Norway, 3rd October 2003)
10. Blind Willie McTell (Brixton Academy, London, United Kingdom, 25th October 2003)
11. Jokerman (Brixton Academy, London, United Kingdom, 25th October 2003)
12. What Good Am I? (Linz, Austria, 12th June 2010)
13. band introduction, (Tel Aviv, Israel, 20th June 2011)
14. Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking, (Tel Aviv, Israel, 20th June 2011)

The Nineties (download)

01. Blood In My Eyes (The Supper Club, New York, 16th November 1993)
02. God Knows (Warsaw, Poland, 19th July 1994)
03. Two Soldiers (Boston, Massachussetts 9th October 1994)
04. Born In Time ( ??? )
05. Love Sick (Grammy Awards, 25th February 1998)
06. Make You Feel My Love (Vienna, Austria, 1st May 1999)
07. Not Dark Yet (Vienna, Austria, 1st May 1999)
08. Delia (Newcastle, United Kingdom, 19th September 2000)
09. Standing In The Doorway (Munster, Germany, 1st October 2000)
10. Million Miles (Hammersmith Apollo, United Kingdom, 2003)
11. Tryin’ To Get To Heaven (Hamburg, 26th June 2011)
12. Cold Irons Bound (Toronto, Ontario, 26th March 2004)
13. ‘Til I Fell In Love With You (Dublin, Ireland, 27th November 2005)

The Noughties (download)

01. Summer Days (Fairfax, Virginia, 22nd November 2002)
02. High Water (For Charley Patton) (Ontario, Canada, 26th April 2003)
03. Cry A While (Berlin, Germany, 20th October 2003)
04. Po’ Boy (Rochester, New York, 13th November 2004)
05. Lonesome Day Blues (Rochester, New York, 13th November 2004)
06. Workingman Blues #2 (Birmingham, United Kingdom, 17th April 2007)
07. Nettie Moore (Birmingham, United Kingdom, 17th April 2007)
08. Spirit On The Water (Rothbury Festival, Michigan, 9th July 2009)
09. Forgetful Heart (Finsbury Park, London, 18th June 2011)
10. Mississippi (Memphis, Tennessee, 30th July  2011)
11. Thunder On The Mountain (Memphis, 30th July 2011)
13. A Change Is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke cover) (Apollo Theatre, New York City, 28th March 2004)

Farewell Hiss Golden Messenger, William Tyler – come back soon

I feel blessed. On Monday night, I walked into a Dalston Café and watched two sublime talents play their hearts out.

Months ago, Hiss Golden Messenger was a lucky find – somebody we’d share on Facebook and bemoan for a lack of worldwide acclaim. He sings like The Tallest Man on Earth (my voice is coarse but it’s very proud) and writes melodies wisened by Southern country and folk. He’s the kind of artist you support in your small way, resigned to the possibility that in a big world with tight budgets, you may never watch him perform.

Then he came to London. Accompanied by the kind and hugely talented William Tyler, the two took us to Nashville and back, treating the sellout crowd to instrumental stories, haunting melodies and deeply personal tales. That I’d chanced upon this music, that they happened to go on the road and that the tour happened to land in Café Oto makes for a very happy arrangement. As I said, I feel blessed. Niche shows have this effect on you: that sense of accomplishment at having rooted out and witnessed the talent – we did it, we’re here! Glastonbury eat your heart out!

I didn’t take photos of the evening, nor did I jot down notes. The mood was such that any short break would have jarred my experience. I did, however, record a discreet ninety seconds of the closing number, introduced as a song about a donkey. Balthazar’s Song opens Hiss’s Bad Debt EP: a low-fi, acoustic record that scored a road trip I made with friends some time ago. Every sudden movement, and the CD player would jolt and Michael Taylor would begin crooning: ‘are you with me now / I’m working like a mule’. We heard it innumerable times, but we didn’t mind.

Hiss Golden Messenger (aka MC Taylor) on Bandcamp

William Tyler on YouTube

Marvin Live: Staged EP Launch

The good shows are often those you don’t expect. In the mid-seventies, a young British traveller went to see ‘Bruce Springsteen’ play the Boston Garden. He knew nothing of the man; just another yank rockstar touring the area, hollering and cranking it up to eleven. Though our traveller entered with caution, he left the show elated. Whatever happened in those three hours must have been profound; some years later I popped out sporting the Boss’s own name (and fleeting good looks).

Leaving what’s familiar is essential to enjoying the wealth of music out there. Read the flyers, scan the Facebook feeds and rather than suffer the usual club night, use your Friday to support local musicians. While my father got to enjoy Springsteen in a time of intense publicity, 2013 is quite different. The circus doesn’t come and go and the big shots no longer hold court. We don’t get dragged to the talent; we must find it ourselves.

Enter Marvin Live – the London-based rapper whose third EP, Staged, launched last week to a packed Brick Lane café. Rap’s not my cup of tea – my use of that expression is proof enough – but I went along anyway, assured by Marvin’s newfound acoustic style. From the onset there was a distinct buzz of the low-key, independent venue: windowless brick walls, the band casually tuning up, nothing but a set of amplifiers between performer and audience. Given that Marvin had adopted both his stage name and EP title for the ‘live’ presence, listeners were in good hands.

Marvin Live performance at Kahaila Cafe, Brick LaneMarvin Live and AJ PilletteWriggling his way through the crowd, Marvin Live entered to a Link Wray-style Rumble, as if the band were bursting to get started. Whereas previous releases used an array of synths, samples and freestyles, Staged is grounded in an unplugged style that lends itself to the ‘big band’ sound that backed Marvin’s performance.

They didn’t pull any punches and launched straight into Katherine, the EP’s brooding closer about pregnancy and self-examination. Marvin drew a balance between honouring the song and entertaining the crowd; pacing the stage, his delivery, demeanour and use of space showed a performer at home in the spotlight. What followed was a fifty minute medley of raw energy, guest appearances, and an inventive Damien Rice cover (assisted by guitarist and Staged producer AJ Pillette).

There’s something to be said for the community of unsigned gigs. Staged had an edge unlike what you’ll find in the big stadiums. It was clear that many who turned up knew Marvin personally, having followed him through his formative steps. It must a pleasant stage in your career when the line between friend and fan is blurred. Heck, Marvin’s own mother was watching proudly from across the café, the announcement of which was met with resounding applause. Further cheers were made when guest singer Nat Ya took the stage for My Ex, while rapper Elshay roused the crowd for the funk-driven single The Right Way. It was a great gig, made all the better by showcasing the range of talent and enthusiasm around Shoreditch. That’s not to detract from the star of the night; Marvin Live possesses a refined and confident stage presence that will no doubt fuel him for many years to come.

The evening ended, and Friday night began. Backed by a jubilant crowd, Marvin raised the mic and the Kahaila café erupted to the sound of his early single Let It Go  - ‘We can have a hell of a night, we can have a hell of a night’. Thanks Marvin, we sure did.

Marvin Live 'Staged'

Marvin Live’s Staged is now available and can be downloaded for free at his website marvinlive.com

One From The Archives

Of last year’s many highlights, one in particular stood out among the media’s 2012 retrospectives. It pushed the limits of human potential, brought together communities and proved, beyond any doubt, that Britain is very much alive. Its brief spell captivated the nation – nay, the world – inviting all to witness the greatest show of the millenium.

I am of course referring to Breadwire, the foppish and often chaotic radio show hosted by myself and a young Danny Hill. It was an emblem of broadcasting: 90 minutes of good chat held together by music, sharp wit and prize giveaways of homemade bread (baked by yours truly).

Here’s one from the archives: Danny’s Birthday Bonanza, in which a dishevelled Mr. Hill is treated to a goody bag of hangover cures, old and new. Enjoy.

Voices of the Khamag

Rewind to the beginning of 2012 and I’m looking and feeling rather dim in a creative writing seminar. I’ve bumbled into the whole thing and as the pseudo-literary AA introductions get closer and closer (‘Hi, I’m Melodie and I’m writing my second novel’) I come to realise I might be out of my depth. Four years into university you shouldn’t dabble. Rather, you should play to your strengths and finish the damn degree. Ignoring the logic of progression I chose a module that examines historical fiction, the end result being a substantial piece of creative prose. I sit there in silence, bewildered. An imposter.

Inevitably, the dreaded moment comes when the introductory circuit reaches me. ‘Why did you pick this course Bruce?’ asks our eminent class tutor, ‘which historical period drew you to creative writing?’ I look around at the kind, curious and intelligent eyes and blurt, ’13th Century Mongolia! I like Genghis Khan!’

Why did I say that? Why of all the subtle and carefully worded answers did I blurt out Mongolia? Was it because I’m an aspiring historian, wanting to unearth the myth of Genghis Khan, conqueror of the world and innovator in the noble art of warfare?

No. I blurted out 13th Century Mongolia because that morning I had been playing Age of Empires II. In doing so I was – I suppose under the pretence of doing ‘homework’ – evoked of such animated sprites as El Cid, William Wallace and our very own Genghis Khan. He was memorable on account of his name. I liked the distribution of G’s and H’s, complemented by that capitalised and rather sharp-looking ‘K’. That (and the boyish love of swords) was my only grounding in the subject. In that spontaneous utterance I had made my commitment – I would write a piece of historical fiction set in the Khan’s Mongolia.

So, as the rush to start a blog for who-knows-what purpose begins, I regress to my faith in the arbitrary. Why shouldn’t I begin the campaign being ‘online’ with an old and obscure piece of fiction? Here it is, my Pension Grillparzer, if you will. Do enjoy.

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An Industry Fit for the Century: An Appraisal of Online Music Promotion

In keeping with 2012’s atmosphere, last week Ultimate Guitar published an articled titled Is Rock Really Dead? Dismissing the naysayers, the writer concluded that – as ever – it is here to stay.

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