Film Review: Neverending Tour Diaries
Film: Bob Dylan Neverending Tour Diaries
By Alessandro Bratus | March 3, 2010
Bob Dylan’s volatile personality, that ensured a number of totally unexpected turning points throughout his career, has always been a challenge for film directors. A wide range of visual and narrative techniques have been used in trying to portray his life on screen, ranging from documentary to fiction. The novelty of Paul Gilbert’s work is his attempt to catch a glimpse of this complex figure through the personal accounts of musicians who toured with the artist, with extensive interviews edited with non-professional footage taken by group members themselves as private keepsake. His first film of this type featured the home movies of 1966 electric performances made by drummer Mickey Jones (originally issued as Bob Dylan World Tour 1966: The Home Movies, Highway 61 Entertainment E120783 , DVD, and reissued with bonus material in 2006). Now with this new title devoted to drummer Winston Watson, who appeared on stage with Dylan from 1992 to 1997, the director focuses on another seminal moment in the recent evolution of the singer: the first steps of the so-called “Never Ending Tour,” the still uninterrupted series of live shows around the globe he began with his band in 1988.
Following a loose chronological sequence, Watson’s account of his years with the singer starts from the films he made with his Video 8 camera, which are the springboard for a large amount of memories, funny anecdotes and personal remarks about his former employer. In this “personal history” of Dylan’s live performances in the mid nineties both the perspective of the fan, as a younger musician coming face to face with one of the most prominent characters in popular music history, and of the session man are organically intertwined to provide a genuine and lively, although sometimes slightly self-indulgent, recollection of his more than 400 shows with the band.
Unfortunately, as this is an unofficial release, the images collected by Watson are without sound, and one of the most tantalizing features of the video is the pseudo-dylanesque soundtrack provided by his cover band Highway 61 Revisited, which replaced the original audio for copyright reasons. Clearly a product conceived for hardcore fans and collectors, the Never Ending Tour Diaries are also a precious document for popular music scholars and lovers, especially when they focus on the private relationship between the singer and his musicians, or on the organizational structure behind his live performances around the world. The image of Dylan which comes out from Watson’s video diaries is a musician still thrilled by his songs and by the opportunity to play them every night in front of his audience, a real jokerman caught up in a sort of symbiotic connection with the people he has charmed and ravished in the last four decades.