The Petty Archives

Dylan cable special plugs current tour
By Gary Graff
Youngstown Vindicator - June 21, 1986

Make no mistake about the timing of Bob Dylan's first TV concert special; it's definitely an hour-long commercial for his current North American tour.

Home Box Office's timing for "Bob Dylan in Concert: Hard to Handle" (10 p.m. today) may be convinient, but it hardly makes the show anything less than a satisfying sample of Dylan circa 1986 that leaves you wanting more.

Maybe you'll even want to buy a ticket to one of the shows on the tour, which is probably just what the promoters want.

The tour, which will stop in Akron July 2, is Dylan's first in five years. Besides promoting it, the 10-soong special also chronicles the legendary singer-songwriter's Japan-New Zealand-Australia outing earlier this year with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, a headlining rock act in its own right that is also on the U.S. leg of the tour. And it confirms the fact that Dylan performs his best when he has a tight, seasoned band behind him -- such as The Band during the '60s and early '70s -- rather than a pick-up group of players.

You wouldn't know that from the start of the HBO show, though. Though Dylan has returned to secular songwriting on his most recent albums, the first song of the video concert is "In the Garden," a gospel-styled treatise on the followers of Jesus Christ that was recorded for 1980's "Saved," one of a trio of albums dedicated to his turn from Judaism to fundamental Protestantism.

Considering it wasn't even the best song on the worst of those three records, there's little Petty, the Heartbreakers or the four female backup singers can do to help it.