The Bootleg Series Volume 6: Bob Dylan Live 1964 Concert at Philharmonic Hall (Columbia / Legacy)
Reviewed by Shawn Badgley, Fri., May 7, 2004
Bob DylanThe Bootleg Series Vol. 6: Bob Dylan Live 1964 Concert at Philharmonic Hall (Columbia/Legacy) "Don't let that scare you," Bob Dylan tells the enthusiastic Oct. 31, 1964, Philharmonic audience after the distinctly up-tempo introduction of "If You Gotta Go, Go Now (Or Else You Got to Stay All Night)," a song of mischievous sexual innocence. "It's just Halloween. I have my Bob Dylan mask on." It's one of the many red-wine-and-weed giggles that folk's then-fading golden boy emitted on that night, but it's also more. Dylan was becoming the Napoleon in rags, the wicked messenger, the dead man's last pistol shot, the vane in an idiot wind. He still starts the show with the anthemic "The Times They Are A-Changin'," but now he follows it with the wild romance of "Spanish Harlem Incident." "The night is pitch black," he howls after a crystalline harmonica break. "Come and make my pale face fit into place, oh please! Let me know, babe, that when you surround me, if it's you my lifelines trace." The formula is one that Dylan finds ideal for this concert, as well as for the next six months' worth: injustice-women-injustice-women, with the variables of mystic poetry and wit mixed in. In other words, "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues," "To Ramona," "Talkin' World III Blues," "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," along with the revelatory "Gates of Eden" and a bumbling intimacy with the audience. To witness it all must have been astounding. To close your eyes and hear it on this masterfully restored 2-CD recording (complete with four Joan Baez duets), you start picking up what Dylan was putting down in 1985 when he said he "always thought that one man, the one balladeer with a guitar, could blow an entire army off the stage if he knew what he was doing."