CD REVIEW: BOB DYLAN – The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Another release capturing a pivotal moment in rock n’ roll history, this double album features the full concert from the Royal Albert Hall, London on 26 May, 1966. This was, of course, the tour where Dylan went ‘electric’, backed by The Hawks – soon to become The Band, and was labelled ‘Judas’ at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, a mere nine days before this recording.
The folkie backlash had obviously got to him – never particularly chatty on stage, he just went out there and did his thing, to the amazement and delight of some, the horror of others, and the bemusement, probably, of more.
Of course, if this were now the Royal Albert Hall crowd would know what to expect, having seen Facebook and YouTube posts about Dylan’s enormous change in direction/betrayal of his roots (delete where applicable) – but in 1966 news travelled far slower, and you can almost hear the master gritting his teeth in anticipation of the reaction to the second half of the show.
The first half is old school Dylan: acoustic folk, Visions Of Johanna, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Just Like A Woman, Mr Tambourine Man. It’s what was almost expected of him, though new tracks from the recently released Blonde On Blonde see him most animated, like a man empowered by his new mindset, however unwilling his audience were to let go of where they thought he should remain.
Disc Two is where things really heat up, with The Hawks and Dylan kicking out the jams in ragged glory like the proto garage-cum-Americana band they were. Also from Blonde On Blonde, Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat seethes with vitriol and scorn, while the turbo charged Baby Let Me Follow You Down and Like A Rolling Stone are like a middle finger to the established order of things.
Dylan had made his decision to change, and no-one – not even his own ardent supporters – would be able to affect that. This marked the moment where he went his own way relentlessly, with almost no care for what people thought of him, fans, critics, or anyone else.
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