DVDylan ID: D777
Recording type: Audience
City/Venue: Festa Communale Unita, Correggio, Italy
Date: Sunday, 5th July 1992

Disk: D777: Practicing in Public

Sound & Image:
Some obstruction from heads and hands with a shaky, wandering camera in places. The camera is focused solely on Dylan for most of show with only a few shots of the other musicians. Overall not an unpleasant viewing experience. Sound is good.

This summer night at the Festa Communale Unita in Correggio is well represented in the catalogue, indeed D777 is the fourth version of this show. As stated above, the image and sound are good to very good for this period but, as with many of these 1992 shows that we have records of, Dylan looks uncomfortable and pained and, for most of the evening, sounds the same.

The show opens with the live debut of 2 x 2 from 1990’s Under The Red Sky. The album version of this song featured Elton John and David Crosby and frankly, we could have used their efforts tonight. Dylan misses the opening lines, seems to merely mouth others, and mumbles for most of the song. Whilst 2 x 2 is perhaps not one of Dylan’s best songs, its first live outing is less than auspicious. Unfortunately, this first offering begins what becomes a pattern tonight. The wonderful I Believe in You is similarly savaged with Dylan struggling with vocal and guitar; at moments he almost appears to be playing a different song to the band. See 1979’s Saturday Night Live performance on D187 and most recently D782 for very different yet equally powerful versions of this song. The next five songs, Watchtower; Seeing The Real You At Last; Simple Twist; a cover version of Folsom Prison Blues; (for a later, vibrant version of Folsom with the Campbell/Sexton guitar combo see D596) and Silvio, all suffer from variations on themes of the above mentioned problems. If we can speculate on his mood, Dylan seems to be a very “worried man with a worried mind” tonight – vocally unsure, in difficultly with the guitar, and in spite of standing in front of a large audience, physically withdrawn.

Immediately following this dire opening is a two song acoustic break featuring Dylan alone on stage, with harmonica and guitar and things begin to change. He gives a more focused vocal on Love Minus Zero and It Ain’t Me Babe is the best song yet with clear vocals and a centred performance. Somehow he has gathered himself and there are even glimpses of the true authority that Dylan, at his best, commands when on the stage alone.
This fleeting glimpse of authority disappears, however, with the return of the band and tonight’s version of Hard Rain and continues to evaporate with the closing song on disk one, Don’t Think Twice. The song is nothing less than a shambles. Firstly, it is way too long, the instrumental “opening” going for almost the length of the song before Dylan approaches the mike and mumbles. The song then picks up speed, indeed at one point the tempo is so fast that it feels like it’s going to run away from everyone – audience included. Drawing songs out beyond their natural limits was a relatively common occurrence in the 1992 shows, for Jim50’s take on this see his D066 review.

Disk two opens with Everything is Broken followed by I & I, in both songs we have the first shots of the entire band but Broken is performed like the throwaway that Daniel Lanois once claimed it to be. I & I however boasts a slightly better vocal and Dylan seems more at ease with the electric guitar and the band – here he begins to make eye contact with J.J and raises his head to look at the audience. What is striking about this is that one realizes that thus far Dylan has had little interaction with the other musicians and virtually none with the audience, he has been playing very much in his own space.

She Belongs To Me is delivered with a clearer vocal, in parts almost tender and in the last song before the encore, Highway 61, Dylan appears more physically engaged, moving more easily with the guitar and connecting with the music. This burst of life is continued through the first two encore songs, What Good Am I? and Ballad of a Thin Man. However, Thin Man is too long and What Good suffers from perhaps the worst vocal performance of the night. Finally, we see Dylan alone on stage with guitar and harmonica closing with Blowin’ In The Wind. He seems focused and opens with some nice harmonica and then treats the song like a musical experiment, changing the tempo several times, not always to the best effect. The vocal, however, is emotive and despite the odd tempo changes the song is played with conviction and is convincing.

I have commented in a review of D782 that Dylan is now completely at home on the stage and, on reflection, he is completely at home here too. Performance Dylan-style has never been a fixed thing and to see him working things out on stage like this serves to confirm this observation. The interesting thing is that one can’t really watch this show and say that Dylan is distracted, he is not merely going through the motions; the ups and downs of his performance here and the way in which he’ll try several different vocal and/or musical approaches within the same song indicates that he is looking for ways to connect or perhaps to re-connect to the songs. The problem is that on this night he often does not find them.

For example, in the second verse of Watchtower he suddenly stops playing his electric guitar and fumbles around for the acoustic whilst the band plays bravely on. Seemingly content with the acoustic guitar Dylan continues with the song. Jim50 comments on a similar 1992 change of mind on D117 where Dylan plays an entire verse of Tangled on one harmonica, decides it’s the wrong one, changes and then blows two verses in a lower register! (For a recent example of Dylan seemingly floundering with a song and then “experimenting” with less than favourable results see Desolation Row on D784). The above mentioned tempo shifts in Blowin’ are also indicative of this commitment to forging some kind of connection in the moment. The point to follow here is, whatever the results, what we are witnessing here is a work in progress that is bigger than one show. Because we have the historical luxury to know what came before and what comes after this July night we know that this kind of perseverance and continuing experimentation will flower into the great 1995 shows, the glory days of 2000-2001 and points beyond – this form of luxury brings into sharp relief the value of the DVDylan catalogue as historical record.

The most apt comment on Dylan’s penchant for working things out on stage comes from the man himself:

I could never sit in a room and just play all by myself. I needed to play for people and all the time. You can say I practiced in public and my whole life was becoming what I practiced.
(Chronicles p.16)

Thanks: Tractorboy; J50; & Olaf Bjorner for his “Highway 51: Bob Dylan 1992.”

Stars: If you only want one example from 1992 then perhaps check out D394.su – only 2 nights later! D777, like quite a few of the 1992 shows, is an average 3 star performance.

Reviewed by Leesa on 28th March 2008