The Bootleg Series Vol. 6: Bob Dylan Live 1964, Concert at Philharmonic Hall,_Concert_at_Philharmonic_Hall

Recorded: October 31, 1964

Released: March 30, 2004

The first Bootleg Series! (Because Vol. 9 The Witmark Demos 1962-1964 doesn’t have a specific date, I get to skip it.) What a difference from “In Concert – Brandeis University”… less than a year and a half later, yet Dylan — still only 23 years old — has gone from an unknown to a star, the King of Folk. And the audience knows it — they love him, and rightly so. By now, he’s written and recorded (by my count) around a dozen utter classics.  And he has grown as a performer — he owns the songs and the stage and delivers a commanding performance, combining the prophetic (“The Times They Are a-Changin’”, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”, the protest (“The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”), the personal (“Spanish Harlem Incident”, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”, “To Ramona”, “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)”), the comic-yet-serious (both talking blues, “If You Gotta Go, Go Now (Or Else You Got to Stay All Night)”), and now, from the yet unreleased “Bringing It All Back Home”, the stream of consciousness, visionary (“Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Gates of Eden”, “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”).

OK, stop. If you’re bothering to read this, and you haven’t heard this album, just go listen. I think it’s available on all the streaming services. This is peak pre-electric Dylan. I first listened to Dylan over 10 years after this concert, came to him as a rock fan, not a folk fan, so thought the whole fuss about Dylan “going electric” was just a bunch of folkie fuddy duddies. But I have to say, when you listen to this, and hear what he was capable of with just a guitar, harmonica, and That Voice, I can see why people didn’t want him to do anything else. (Of course, I understand the whole symbolic issue of what folk and rock “meant”, but that still feels alien to me). I mean, it’s just stunning.

By the way, Joan Baez is a guest on four songs. I am not a Joan Baez fan; I don’t like her voice, and especially can’t stand her vibrato. But I like her OK here! Specifically, she and Dylan transform “With God On Our Side” from the turgid album version to something that does justice to the song (it’s about 2 minutes shorter, which tells you how much livelier it is).

Finally, think of this: Dylan plays “Mr. Tambourine Man”, which the crowd doesn’t know yet — hasn’t been released — followed by “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”. Talk about a flex. I have no doubt that when the Nobel committee was considering Dylan for the Nobel Prize in Literature, these were two of the songs they were thinking about. And he still is only 23… and all his greatest albums are still ahead of him.

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