BOB DYLAN – ” Spring Tour of Europe – Prague, Czech Republic 11th March 1995 “

Posted: June 12, 2021 in MUSIC

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Bob Dylan and his band played over 3,000 shows on the Never Ending Tour and it’s gone through countless iterations since beginning in 1988, but when asked author and long time Dylan scholar Clinton Heylin to name his favourite period, he instantly said 1985. “That year was amazing, absolutely amazing,” he said. “The whole year was fascinating in terms of the shifts and changes that he went through.”

Some fans may be surprised to hear this opinion, as it was a somewhat of a lost era for Dylan. In 1995, it had been five years since his last LP of original songs (the underwhelming Under the Red Sky), Dylan hit the road for a 115-date tour, one of the longest of his entire career.

The tour began in the Czech Republic at the intimate Prague Congress Centre, although opening night was delayed because Dylan was suffering from the flu. And when he took the stage on March 11th for the first show, many fans said that he still looked a little off. “Throughout the show, he retired to the rear of the stage between numbers and sat bent double seeming to gather his strength,”. “but then launched into each new number with even more feeling.”

Perhaps to save his strength, Dylan barely touched his guitar this night. This allowed him to focus all his energy on his vocals, and it let guitarists Bucky Baxter and John Jackson, bassist Tony Garnier, and drummer Winston Watson carry more of the musical weight than usual. “I was sitting here last night, got the flu,” Dylan says at one point. “Listen, you got a good place to recover from the flu!”

There’s not a weak moment in the entire 14-song set, but the highlights are powerful, electric renditions of “Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood),” “Man in the Long Black Coat,” “All Along the Watchtower,” and tender, acoustic takes on “Boots of Spanish Leather,” “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” and “It Ain’t Me Babe.”

There’s no soundboard recording from the show, but a stellar audience tape has surfaced. There are many other great 1995 bootlegs, including Philadelphia 21/06/1995 and the Oslo show on the 29th June 1995, but there’s something magical about this Prague gig they don’t quite capture. “That’s still probably my favourite Dylan concert of all time,” said Heylin . “I’ll put that show next to any 1966 show you want to pick.”

And while Dylan World has released every single 1966 show they have on a 36 cd Box Set, including a couple that sound like they were recorded in a wind tunnel 20 miles from the stage, they haven’t released a single show from the 33-year history of the Never Ending Tour, aside from the MTV Unplugged special. When they finally get around to it, this Prague gig should be near the top of their list.

The Never Ending Tour 1995 started in early March in the Czech Republic. The tour moved on to Germany, the Netherlands, France and Belgium. Dylan performed a large number of concerts in the United Kingdom performing three concerts in London, three in Manchester, two in Edinburgh, one in Glasgow, one in Birmingham, one in Cardiff, one in Brighton as well as one concert in Belfast. The tour finished the following day in Dublin,  The tour came to an end on November 11th in Paradise, Nevada. Dylan continued to tour North America in small club venues into late December. The Never Ending Tour 1995 came to an end on December 17th in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after one-hundred and sixteen shows.

Bob Dylan (vocals & guitar) Bucky Baxter (pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar) John Jackson (guitar) Tony Garnier (bass) Winston Watson (drums & percussion)

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