Bob Dylan

Avignon

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The final show of Bob Dylan's 1981 European tour, July 25's appearance at Avignon, France's Palais des Sports was marred by tragedy. One concertgoer was electrocuted after stumbling into the power grid, and with the entire facility shrouded in darkness, another plunged to her death after slipping off a retaining wall. The two-disc bootleg set Avignon captures the vast majority of the show, save for a solo rendition of "Mr. Tambourine Man" performed during the power outage, and despite the misfortune that befell the event, there's no discounting the ferocity of Dylan's performance. Concentrating on the devoutly spiritual compositions of his gospel LPs Slow Train Coming and Saved, the music communicates the true conviction of Dylan's newfound Christian faith in ways the aforementioned studio records do not, achieving a soulful potency that vinyl simply could not contain. Warhorses like "Ballad of a Thin Man," "The Times They Are a-Changin'," and "Like a Rolling Stone" are similarly galvanized by a performance with all the passion and energy of an old-fashioned gospel tent revival. Regardless of your beliefs, there's little doubting the immediacy of this music. Superlative sound and presentation make this a must-own package for all serious Dylan enthusiasts.