Real Live
Track Listing
  1. Highway 61 Revisited
  2. Maggie's Farm
  3. I And I
  4. License To Kill
  5. It Ain't Me, Babe
  1. Tangled Up In Blue
  2. Masters Of War
  3. Ballad Of a Thin Man
  4. Girl From The North Country
  5. Tombstone Blues
Bob Dylan: Vocals/ Guitar/ Harmonica
Mick Taylor: Guitar
Gregg Sutton: Bass
Ian McLagan: Keyboards
Colin Allen: Drums
Guest Artist : Carlos Santana - Guitar on Tombstone Blues

European Tour 1984
Verona, Italy
Hamburg, West Germany
Basel, Switzerland
Munich, West Germany
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Brussels, Belgium
Gothenburg, Sweden
Copenhagen, Denmark
Offenbach, West Germany
West Berlin, West Germany
Vienna, Austria
Cologne, West Germany
Nice, France
Rome, Italy
Milan, Italy
Madrid, Spain
Barcelona, Spain
Nantes, France
Paris, France
Grenoble, France
Newcastle, England
London, England
Slane Castle, Ireland

All tracks recorded at Newcastle & London (July 5th & 7th 1984)
and Slane Castle (July 8th 1984)

times front cover

"I wanted to do a South American tour. It was just not feasible at this time so I took this tour...There's no particular reason for it...I specifically wanted to do a South American tour...At the last moment I had sort of set my mind mentally to do something so I did this 'cause the other one didn't come off." Bob Dylan 1984.

"Real Live" is not the worst of Bob Dylan's live albums (even though it does have the worst title) but it is probably the least essential. Intended as a record of Dylan's 1984 European tour, the only stadium tour that he ever undertook, it falls into the same trap as "Before The Flood" in that all the tracks are taken from the last three shows when the tour had passed it's peak and run out of steam. The pity of this is that the album gives no idea of what Dylan was capable of and indeed achieved on this tour.

This was an important tour for Dylan in that he was looking to recapture some of the credibility that he had lost with his "religious" concerts some two and a half years earlier, and he chose ex Rolling Stone Mick Taylor, whom he had used as lead guitarist on 1983's "Infidels" as bandleader. Together they chose the relatively untested rhythm section of Colin Allen (drums) and Greg Sutton (bass) and as first choice keyboard player, Heartbreaker Benmont Tench was unavailable, Taylor's pal ex Faces member Ian McLagen was recruited at extremely short notice. The choice of Allen was particularly strange as Dylan had been working with the far more experienced and capable Charlie Quintana, and the latter was very keen to play. The speed with which the band was assembled left little time for rehearsals; the first concert was booked for Verona, Italy on May 28th, (only a week hence), and frankly initial results were not promising. The sessions leaned heavily on Dylan's sixties catalogue and very little of his recent material was even considered. Indeed only four songs from "Infidels" the most recent album (but at a year old, even that was probably out of Dylan's frame of reference) were rehearsed as a pattern began to emerge. Live shows would be almost retrospective with the bulk of the songs coming from sixties albums, a few from recent eighties material and the seventies being all but ignored.

The first half of the opening show was an unmitigated disaster; as shambolic and ramshackle a performance as Dylan has ever given, and there have been some. The second half was marginally better, but Dylan must have realised that he was in trouble and to his credit he tightened up the band and his own performances. By the time of the second Rotterdam show of June 6th things had improved immeasurably, the band was tight and disciplined, Dylan's voice had more of its old authority and he even slipped a couple of seventies classics ("Simple Twist Of Fate" & "Tangled Up In Blue") into the programme. He even took the audacious step of rewriting them and said of the latter "...I didn't change it 'cause I was singing it one night and thought "Oh, I'm bored with the old words." The old ones were never quite filled in. I rewrote it in a hotel room somewhere. I think it was in Amsterdam...When I sang it the next night I knew it was right." This rewritten version soon became one of the highlights of the tour, but Dylan felt obliged to defend what some were seeing as a nostalgia tour because of the emphasis on sixties songs "A Tale Of Two Cities was written 100 years ago. Is that nostalgia? Just another label." he told Mick Brown of the London Sunday Times.

A month into the tour saw Dylan and his band in Spain playing excellent two and a half hour sets to ecstatic audiences, and then on through France to the UK and Ireland. The ten tracks on the album were recorded at the last three dates; Newcastle's St. James' Park (a somewhat forced version of "Licence To Kill" and an ambitious "Tombstone Blues"), London's Wembley Stadium (a rocking "Highway 61 Revisited" & "Maggie's Farm" a strange but well received version of "It Ain't Me Babe" the rewritten "Tangled Up In Blue" that sounds as if it was improvised on the spot, a weary "Masters Of War" and a competent but subdued "Ballad Of A Thin Man") and Slane Castle ("I And I" which is faithful to the album version and an affectionate "Girl From The North Country"). What "Real Live" lacks in passion it makes up for with competency considering the circumstances under which it was recorded. Although a relatively short tour, only six weeks, Dylan played twenty-seven concerts to almost three quarters of a million people and the end result, if a little disappointing is probably better than circumstances would suggest, and as he said himself, "There's never been any glory in it for me. For me, the fulfillment was always in just doing it. Thats all that really matters."


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