Uncut Editor's Diary

Is This Bob Dylan’s Greatest-Ever Vocal Performance?

Allan Jones

Thanks for your continuing response to my recent post about Bob Dylan bootlegs and which of them are your favourites.

Among the sundry comments I’ve received, the following response from Paul Metsa from Minneapolis stood out. As anyone who’s seen the footage he writes about will already know, this was an electrifying performance (from which Damien Love and I recommended “Ring Them Bells” in my original post) and Paul’s description of it makes me wish I hadn’t lost the video I had of the concert.

But is it really Bob best-ever vocal performance, as Paul claims?

What do you think? Either email me at allan_jones@ipcmedia.com or post a comment below.

But, first, here’s what Paul had to say:

“I think Dylan's performance of ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ from Nara, Japan is his greatest vocal performance of all time.

The setting could not have been more sublime. He stood in front of a wonderful orchestra comprised of sympathetic and handsome Japanese classical musicians, all of whom seemed to be smiling. The orchestra, as I remember it, was supplemented by the rock solid Jim Keltner on drums, another guitar player, and, I believe, Ray Cooper on tambourine. Behind him was a 30 foot gold statue of Buddha, while the wind blew threw those beautiful trees.

Bob started to sting, and the orchestra slowly swelled behind him. Each and every verse was stronger than the last, building like a powerful steam engine of strings and gongs. Dylan’s voice had a vibrato that evening that would have made Sinatra proud.

Verse after verse of apocalyptic visions, pounded home by this wonderful orchestra. Dylan seemed truly energized and inspired in this setting, and by the end, it was as if the song was reflected from the mountains so all souls could see it.

An absolutely breathtaking, bravura performance, and folk music at its absolute best, by the finest folksinger of our time. ‘Ring Them Bells’ was to die for as well.

Word has it, that when Beattie Zimmerman, Bob's mom, saw the video of the show she commented "Bobby looked great in that new suit coat!" Gotta love that.

Also, I read a Joni Mitchell interview that said when they were singing ‘I Shall Be Released’ as an encore, Bob (who looked like he was up to no good) was standing either behind her or next to her, singing the wrong words to her during her verse. She compared it to having someone dip your pigtails in the ink well in grade school.

God bless him.”


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