Balc. centre
2.5 (2 votes)
DVDylan ID: D501
Recording type: Audience
City/Venue: Hammersmith Apollo, London, England, UK
Date: Sunday, 7th February 1993
Never-Ending Tour Concert #458
  1. Lenny Bruce [clipped]
  2. All Along The Watchtower
  3. Tangled Up In Blue
  4. Positively 4th Street [cut]
  5. She Belongs To Me [clipped]
  6. Tomorrow Night
  7. Jim Jones
  8. Mr. Tambourine Man
  9. Cat's In The Well
  10. I And I
  11. The Times They Are A-Changin'
  12. Highway 61 Revisited
  13. Ballad Of A Thin Man [clipped]
  14. Everything Is Broken
» Toggle additional (technical) track info
Number of discs: 1
Running time: 01:30
Video standard: NTSC
Authoring: DVDs with menu and chapters are circulating
Standalone NTSC transfer

Camerawork: This starts out rather jittery, but becomes more stable. Sometimes, someone moves in front of the camera and when the view returns, the focus takes a few seconds to be restored. At other times, the camera loses Bob altogether (as in part of Tangled Up In Blue). I imagine that this was filmed in difficult circumstances. Having said that, there's a pretty good view of Bob most of the time (and especially for the last few songs). Occasionally, the camera zooms in or out, providing a little variety in the shots. The picture could be sharper, but it's certainly watchable throughout.

Performance: How you regard this performance will obviously depend on how you feel about this period of Bob's work in general. Personally, I liked his singing in 1993 โ€“ on the acoustic tracks, at least (he delivered some amazing versions of Jim Jones and Mr Tambourine Man in '93). The February Hammersmith shows were baffling, though, with many songs having 'extended', wandering intros and endings (these would get more outrageous as the week went on). I'm still not sure if Bob was playing a game for his own amusement (and if so, whether it was with the audience, his band, his songs, or perhaps all of these) or whether he was genuinely confused about the best way to deliver certain songs, stumbling around in the darkness both literally (on the gloomy stage) as well as metaphorically. Another way of looking at this (and the one I prefer) is to view the extended endings as experimental Grateful Dead-like improvisations: Bob stretching his songs and finding out what else he can do with them: wrestling something unknown out of the over-familiar. Tangled Up In Blue and I And I take a very long time to end, but generally, this was one of the 'tighter' Hammersmith shows, with these excesses (if that's how you regard them) kept to a minimum. The Hammersmith residency seemed very much a series of gigs, so it's probably worth watching this alongside D502, D503, D504, D505 and D506 (if you have the stamina) and comparing them.

During All Along The Watchtower, Bob picks up his harmonica โ€“ to great cheers from the crowd โ€“ and then puts it down again without playing a note (what a tease!). A lengthy guitar solo follows, some of it with Bob's back to the audience. It can be a compelling drama to watch how the man interacts with the crowd and the band, but many at the time found it annoying. I was at one of the Hammersmith '93 gigs, and the crowd response was very mixed. Yet, to me this performance is fascinating in its erratic and unpredictable nature, unlike the more 'professional' shows of later years.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the acoustic set proves to be the highlight of the DVD, as it was of most of the 1993 shows. With Tomorrow Night, Jim Jones and Mr. Tambourine Man, Bob seems to come to life, putting extra care into his singing and seeming to be enjoying himself more. And on Mr. Tambourine Man, the harmonica finally gets played (and played well), to the crowd's audible delight. This song gives us the greatest moments on the DVD.

Sound: No complaints, really. A fairly full and rounded sound, on which it is quite possible to hear each instrument and the richness of Bob's voice. There's some background noise on the quieter sections, but it doesn't spoil the listening experience.

Technical notes: A few tracks are abbreviated. Click on 'ยป Toggle additional (technical) track info' (see above) for details. There's disappointingly little of Positively 4th Street, for example. Also, the start of Ballad Of A Thin Man is missing. Then, during this song, a very strange mirroring effect occurs briefly, with two Bobs in a split-screen effect. Technical glitch or cameraman's artistry at work? It's hard to tell.

The menu is helpful and easy to use, with moving images against each track selection to help you navigate easily to each of the 14 chapters.

The total time is 01:29:59.

Overall rating: Somewhere between three stars and three and a half.

Reviewed by Stephen66 on 16th January 2008