One of the most ungodly dull records in the Bob Dylan catalogue really can’t be blamed on Dylan: the show his record label organized to mark the 30th anniversary of Dylan’s signing to Columbia Records. The live record culled from the show rivals the Woodstock soundtrack as an anthology of forgettable moments from budding nobodies and career-awful moments from somebodies who decided to sleepwalk through the show. There are occasional lively moments, such as when Lou Reed made a point of performing “Foot of Pride” (an Infidels outtake at that time available only as a bootleg), but the record does nobody any credit. Maybe Dylan can’t be blamed for the lackluster lineup, but he can certainly be thumped for his show-ending performance, featuring a version of “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” delivered in a buzzing nasal monotone that’s only barely inflected a regular intervals — think of a sluggish bumblebee slowly circling your head for 10 minutes and you’ll get the mood of this particular song.
Ah, but this tribute show featuring 22 Dylan songs performed by 21 Dylan admirers sounds like the kind of celebration they should have been able to pul off back in the 1990s. Having The Roots perform “Masters of War” was an idea that must have made the price of admission worthwhile all by itself. It was cheeky of Ryan Adams to insert “Love Sick,” a song about abandonment, into “Isis,” a song about rescuing a marriage. I want to hear all of it, even Sandra Bernhard performing “Like a Rolling Stone” as though she wanted to displace Liza Minnelli’s version of “We Will Rock You” as the single most embarrassing cover version ever sung. Bootleggers! I know — I just know — that somebody was at this show with a tape recorder! I want a copy!