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Bob Dylan – The Man in Me (Live at Nippon Budokan Hall) Review

What a wordy title that is, but it is par for the course as the archives of Bob Dylan are pilfered time and time again. His Bootleg Tapes are a source of great comfort and while most cut from the same fabric and period of Dylan wind down in their twilight years, there is nothing of the sort from the man himself. Two records now in just one year, and they follow an incredible 2020 release which marked a return to form, as every other record Dylan provides, does. The Man in Me, a classic of the New Morning era, is given a wild working on this Budokan Hall live piece, a fragment of a promising, re-energised setlist. 

For those who are not listening to Dylan as frequently as they used to, The Man in Me will bring it all back home. It hits hard and at the heart of those who fell out of step with the works of an amazing musician. There is that intimate and homely feel to this piece which so often works for the mega fans who will follow his word as gospel and move themselves to his music. Rightly so. This live version recreates the chilling intimacies caused by the earliest listens to Dylan. Those moments late at night when you find something special in a track you have listened to time and time again. A brief saxophone interlude partways through The Man in Me shoots it through as a whole new work. A song of failing to resist, of forbidden engagements.  

The Man in Me could carry on for endless hours, the groove and instrumental clarity which Dylan hits on with repetitive fervour a delicate one. Holding its own as it sways from deeper and deeper within the post-New Morning career, it is incredible to hear how a usually cast-aside song can find new, integral meaning when pushed as the first choice for a single. It may be decades on from this performance, and even more years since it first popped into the minds of millions, but The Man in Me is still an essential part of the Dylan discography. Live performances are true proof of that not just for singer-songwriter legends but for bands still working to this day. Those who heard Dylan on the Rough and Rowdy Ways tour have firsthand experience of just that.  

Beyond the undying love which pushes some to perform whatever they can for a lover is a sweet and engaged live performance. The Man in Me brings out the best in Dylan and the lyrics are set to bring out the best in those who listen in keenly. There is reason for it being his most-performed New Morning song, and much of it comes down to the lyrical placement, pacing and style which flows over a gorgeous song. Here, Live at Nippon Budokan Hall, The Man in Me is given a new lease on life. Expertly crafted and played through with style, the crowd’s gentle applause at the end gives nothing away on just how incredible and rewarding a live cut this is.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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