Originally released on Amazon as a bonus disc for early purchasers of 2010’s The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9 and The Original Mono Recordings, Bob Dylan in Concert: Brandeis University 1963 saw a wide release in the spring of 2011. Unlike the archival concerts that have popped up in The Bootleg Series, Brandeis University 1963 isn’t a major statement. At seven songs, it’s brief and there’s no mythology behind the show; a recording wasn’t even known to exist until a tape was found within the collection of music critic Ralph J. Gleason in 2009. It may be minor, but as a live recording of Dylan between the release of his debut and The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, it is certainly noteworthy, a glimpse of Dylan working folk festival bills unencumbered by fame or legend. He chooses topical songs for his two sets, bypassing “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” in favor of “Masters of War,” “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” “The Ballad of Hollis Brown,” “Talkin’ World War III Blues,” and “Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues,” material that accentuates the show’s roots in May of 1963. Dylan is in good form, open and sometimes skirting on the edge of being lively, never quite revealing that it was slightly risky to entertain a festival audience with a collection of originals previously unheard by the crowd. If the show doesn’t quite manage to be memorable, it is certainly engaging, a worthwhile 38 minutes even if it doesn’t quite have much more than a historic hook to warrant repeated plays.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine