The Never Ending Tour Extended: Shelter from the Storm 1989-96


I don’t know what it means either: an index to the current series appearing on this website.

The Never Ending Tour Extended: This series uses recordings selected by Mike Johnson in his inestimable masterpiece The Never Ending Tour, and looks at how those performances of individual songs change as time goes by.   The selection of songs from the series, and the commentary below, are by Tony Attwood.


Shelter from the Storm was played on stage 376 times by Dylan between 1976 and 2015.  At least that is what the official site says, although as we found with the last article in this series, the details from the official site are maybe not always as correct as one might hope.


We had our first sighting of the song in 1989 : and how different it is from the original.  For now it is bouncy and jolly – until suddenly it isn’t.

The impression given here is that the song is moving at a much faster speed than the original, but in fact that is not the case.  It is the bounce of the percussion that give jus that feeling.

And very curiously for Dylan the song has pauses in it in which the backing stops and Dylan sings at a much slower speed acapello .   There are harmonica breaks in there too, but I am not sure where they take us.    Anyway, it proceeds to a final very slow harmonica solo and stops (actually the recording stops prematurely, but I am sure there was nothing more after that.  That is the end).

I do find it all very curious – there seems no link between the lyrics and the performance, and no links between the slowed down parts and the rest.   It is almost as if Bob said,

“Let’s do it like this” out of perversity, and no one had the nerve to say, “Are you sure Bob?”


Two years later the bounce was still there, so Bob obviously liked it but nowwe do get a very long introduction with Bob improvising on the harmonica.

However much of the melody has gone – Bob reciting as much as singing.  And I guess these approaches come from the fact that the song is in essence the same three chord sequence over and over again with only the lyrics (which of course we all know by heart) changing as we go through.

And given Bob’s lack of interest in guitar solos when the vocals stop there is just the harmonica to break it all up.  And “break it up” is important since the song is just those three chords over and over.

Here, although the recording is not perfect, we do get what passes in the world of Dylan as a guitar solo.

Mr Guitar Man goes acoustic


After listening to those recordings I was despairing a bit, and trying to cast my mind back as to whether Bob had just continued that way throughout the tour.   But in 1994 we were back to a somewhat more relaxed mode which didn’t emphasise the fact that this is the same chord sequence over and over.

And lo and behold yes we do have an electric guitar solo – and it really does bring a relief.  (And this is not me trying to be clever – when I wrote the previous comment on 1991 I had completely forgotten what happened a couple of years later.)

I particularly like the way Bob comes in after the solo.  And the tentative way the harmonica is used in the instrumental section around the five-minute marker and thereafter.

Indeed thinking about the time it is extraordinary how it is possible to make this oh-so-simple piece last over seven minutes while being enjoyable throughout.   A massive improvement, in my view.

 I’d give you the sky high above



For my last choice, I’ve again moved on two years, and we can hear that now Bob has gone from full-speed down to treating this as a gentle ballad.

Here with verse after verse which has the impact of making the lyrics utterly believable.  We are now reliving the affair between the couple, and when first instrumental break comes in, it is a time for us to take breath and prepare for what will come next.  And I would add that the organ is put to excellent use within this arrangement.

I particularly like the return of the vocals around the 3’30” mark.

Overall the ceaseless repetition of the chords doesn’t feel like something going round in circles any more – I think largely because of a subtle change the chord sequence which now runs I, IV, V, I at the start of each verse but then runs I, IV, V.    It is a very subtle change but it helps make this performance so much more than what went before.

In the House of Blues forever.

Other articles in this series…

positions across the years: To Ramona. 1989 to 2000 – but not as the official site says

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