Among the never-ending slate of recordings and archived performances of Bob Dylan, the Nippon Budokan Hall sees fans of the man himself hold it in reverence. While previous single The Man in Me provides a strong effort which gives new legs to a live staple at the time, I Want You feels somewhat uncomfortable and off the mark. Polished of its audience, unless complete silence fell over the crowd. Dylan is no stranger to playing against the crowd considering he does not speak to them bar introducing the band or berating the loudmouths and photographers. I Want You is over before you know it, a glorified intermission and strange single to promote this live record.
Even then the hoots, cries and whistles are allowed to break through the standard guitar work and the whiny-like cry of the title. Short and sweet, a bridge of a track which will work far better as a whole instead of just a slice. It makes it all the more surprising to hear it used as the single. Blonde on Blonde is built on tracks which work as part of a core. Not dedicated to one another, nor impossible to separate even if the mix makes it sound integral. Abbey Road did it well, as did Blonde on Blonde. But somewhere down the line, Dylan forgot it was a piece he could extract as well as implement. Its independent status here is fine enough, it is I Want You, after all, but it does very little to bring rabid excitement to this live album.
Those who crave it already have the fire lit under them, those who are not will not be convinced by I Want You. No changes to the lyrics of course, as classic as they always are. Broken cups and pleading loves separated by garden gates tied with a bit of electric guitar. Even at this post-Blood On The Tracks point in his career, Dylan manages to change his style enough to warrant a separate release. Whether this is as good or better than the album version is not the question, but the relevancy of the track outside of the shell of the album is certainly up for debate. More Dylan is good Dylan but the barrel is showing scratch marks as the backlog grows ever shorter for quality recordings and releasable material.
Are we better off with it out in the great wide open? Probably. Throw it on the pile. It is tremendous how much listeners can now take this quality of live performance for granted, but the truth is there is nothing stoking the fire underneath this one. Sensations which come from live records and even recordings out there on YouTube for most artists offer a completely new experience for a beloved song. I Want You may not rank as the most popular of Dylan and his efforts as a performer, but it is a hell of an experience on Blonde on Blonde. Where the translation falters here is in the attempt to bring relevancy to a brief track which feels more like a chance for a second guitarist to retune than an active effort to turn something new out.