With this release it seemed as if the Bootleg Series was getting serious, and truly trying to become an entity on its own outside of throwing fans a bone every couple of hits. Live 1964 gets points for its general content over brilliance. It’s an important show, one of the few from the period smack dab between Another Side Of Bob Dylan and Bringing It All Back Home. To boot, many songs are performed for the first time, along with a few that never made it onto records otherwise.
Recorded on Halloween night (“I’ve got my Bob Dylan mask on,” sez our hero before adding, “I’m masquerading!”), the mood overall is warm and friendly. It’s apparent that he’s fairly stoned, laughing in between most of the songs, and even during some.
He’s at an odd juncture in his career; still singing so-called protest songs, but already adding some more poetic songs, not just from his most recent album, but from one yet to be recorded. Here we have the first airings of such classics as “Gates Of Eden” and “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”, introduced under alternate titles amidst much giggling. “Mr. Tambourine Man” already has enough street cred to be appreciated. “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” gets a few laughs from the crowd, but that’s nothing compared to “I Don’t Believe You”, wherein he starts the song but can’t remember the first verse, leaving it to a few astute, heavily accented New Yorkers in the front row to remind him.
It’s obvious he’s very much into his new material, which makes the choice of songs after the intermission so strange. “Talkin’ World War III Blues” plays to the crowd and “Hattie Carroll” pulls the right heartstrings, but his delivery of “Don’t Think Twice” is truly bizarre. The song is mostly played straight, but notable for the way he builds each line up to an atonal yelling of the word “babe”. Joan Baez joins him for a few on the encore, and doesn’t add much, except to underline how out of place she is duetting on such lyrics as “Mama, You Been On My Mind” (which certainly wasn’t written for her) and “It Ain’t Me, Babe” (which may well have been, making her obliviousness just plain unsettling).
Live 1964 was an obvious choice for a Bootleg Series installment, being that it was well recorded and had been a heavily pirated set for some time. Now that Bob was taking his sweet time between new albums, if he was willing to let stuff like this out, all the better.
Bob Dylan Live 1964: Concert At Philharmonic Hall—The Bootleg Series Vol. 6 (2004)—4