Posted on Wednesday, June 12th, 2019 by Jason Gorber
Decades in the making, the release of Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue is cause for celebration. This long anticipated look at Bob Dylan’s 1975 tour is being released in select theatres and on Netflix, documenting the tour of the East Coast where the venerable entertainer played smaller venues and created a kind of Gypsy-themed, grass-roots concert jaunt, has long been considered legendary by Dylanologists of all stripes.
For casual fans or neophytes, however, this is a highly confusing place to start out. Rolling Thunder was a kind of anti-tour, a direct reaction to the stadium shows that Bob performed with the Band the year before. In these massive shows he refocused many of his songs for the rock stadium crowd, embodying the spirit of that age when the shows began to overwhelm the performers. These were his first live performances since 1966, where during that period with the members of the Band (then known as The Hawks) Dylan stormed the U.S., Canada and Europe, with sets that began with acoustic familiarity and then slammed with electrified presence, prompting one patron to famously shout “Judas!”at the blasphemic sounds emitting from a once deified “protest singer”.
In other words, Rolling Thunder was a show that was a reaction to another show that was a reaction to another series of events that saw Dylan rise from the coffee houses of Greenwich Village to become the spokesperson for a generation. Even his musical arrangements during Rolling Thunder were radical departures from what came before that only lived during this era, making them almost unrecognizable from their origins. In the same way that appreciating a cover song is often heightened by knowing what it was based upon, so do does much of the Rolling Thunder experience flourish the more one apprehends just what Dylan and his posse are riffing on.