The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert! Bob Dylan Sony Music “Here comes the blind commissioner / They’ve got him in a trance / One hand is tied to the tightrope walker / The other is in his pants.”
Did Bob Dylan predict the advent of Donald Trump a half-century ago? Give the man a Nobel prize. Who would have thought it back in 1966, but they just did in Stockholm last weekend. Dylan did not turn up, citing unspecified prior commitments, but thanked the Swedish Academy for answering the question of whether his lyrics qualify as literature.
There’s clear enough evidence of this in Desolation Row and Visions of Johanna in the exquisite acoustic half of this concert, both embellished with delightful harmonica solos, as is Mr Tambourine Man.
Too many of the words, though, are kind of lost in the mix when Dylan returns to the stage after the interval with the Band in tow, and it’s not all that hard to work out why a certain proportion of the audience was perturbed by the contrast.
By the time Dylan and the Band returned to the stage in the early 1970s, they were a far more organic outfit. Here, the electric set is a not entirely satisfactory work in progress, with almost every track decidedly inferior to the studio version.
The set list precisely echoes that of the “Judas” concert in Manchester, issued as part of The Bootleg Series in 1998. But the packaging is rudimentary, with no liner notes — perhaps because it’s culled from a 36-disc box set that covers all the recorded output of Dylan’s 1966 tour, with almost every concert boasting the same tracks.
There’s much to enjoy here, but it lacks the power of revelation.