Great Dylan Years: 1994. Part 1. Performances of “Masters of War” to “Dignity”


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


by Robert Ford

Bob Dylan has had some stand out years. 1965 is an obvious one. 1975 is another obvious one. It is hard to think of any other rock performer who has had as many exceptional, stand out years as Bob Dylan.

A truly exceptional year is 1994. This was the year which included the Great Musical Experience in Nara, Japan, the Woodstock performance and the Unplugged concerts. It was also the sixth year of the Never Ending Tour in which he performed 104 concerts divided into 5 concert tours beginning in Japan then a tour back home onto Europe before ending the year in the USA. This was his first concert tour in Japan since the True Confessions tour in 1986 and in addition to Japan, Dylan performed in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The Far East tour which began on the 5th February was magical with the introduction of some great songs which had not been played for a long time such as the opening song ‘Jokerman’, ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’, ‘In The Garden’ and the first live acoustic ‘Masters Of War’ since the Carnegie Hall concert in October 1963. This song was performed in Hiroshima on the 16th February.

The Great Musical Experience had Dylan returning to Japan in May for one of the most unusual performances of his career. Over three nights he performed ‘A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall’, ‘Ring Them Bells’ and ‘I Shall Be Released’  with the Tokyo New Philharmonic Orchestra led by Michael Kamen ( and a house band which included one of his favourite drummers the great Jim Keltner ). The performances were magnificent, like nothing he had done before and it must have been spine tingling to have been in the audience for one of his greatest ever performances.

The first USA tour began in April and continued the high standard of the Far East tour with Dylan ringing the changes. For example ,in Davenport,Iowa on the 6th April he performed 10 new songs compared to the Springfield concert the night before including ‘Series Of Dreams’ and ‘What Good Am I ?’.

Other great songs came and went such as ‘I Believe In You ‘ , ‘Lenny Bruce’ and ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’. Most of the concerts were 110 minutes or nearly 2 hours of non-stop music with Dylan hardly pausing for breath. How doe he remember all those words ? Most incredible to me.  In Valparasio on the 16th , during the band introductions Dylan said ” on bass guitar , he’s leaving me pretty soon to play with the Rolling Stones : Tony Garnier ! Tonight is his last gig !”  Tony, of course, is still in the band 30 years later.

The European Summer tour began on the 3rd July in Paris, France and  continued in the same rich vein with such songs as ‘Joey’, ‘Shelter From The Storm’ and a majestic ‘Tears of Rage’ making an occasional appearance. For his first performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival on the 12th July he debuted a lovely ‘Shooting Star’.

Dylan did not waste any time following the European tour beginning his Summer USA tour on the 10th August in Portland, Maine. On the 14th August he gave one of his most enthralling performances despite a huge festival audience used to partying and also TV camera’s which he is known to intensely dislike .Woodstock 2 was 85 minutes of pure magic with 12 songs delivered with enormous precision, passion and commitment which left no doubt that Bob Dylan is the greatest performer of the rock era. This was a typical Dylan performance with no small talk, no audience singalongs and no flashing light shows, just 85 minutes of pure intensity  which was sustained through both the riveting acoustic songs and the powerhouse electric songs.

The USA Fall tour commenced on the 1st October and was the longest of the year with over 30 concerts from New York State to Louisiana. Again, no two concerts were the same and new songs were introduced such as ‘Most Likely You Go Your Way’,’ You’re A Big Girl Now’,’ One Too Many Mornings’ and ‘My Back Pages’. He also honoured his roots with ‘Pretty Peggy-O’ and found time to perform songs from his recent great traditional cover song albums including ‘Two Soldiers’.

The Fall tour ended on the 13th November and on the 15th to 18th he was in Sony Music studios with his NET band rehearsing then performing the two MTV Unplugged Shows. Dylan made a surprise decision to include a keyboard player in the band for these two performances (having not had a keyboard player since 1987 ).

Brendan O’Brien made excellent contributions especially on the Hammond organ on ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ and ‘Desolation Row’. These performances were a great end to an outstanding year and as always some of the best performances such as ‘I Want You’ and ‘Hazel’  did not make the final cut. However,there were superb performances including perhaps his best ever ‘With God On Our Side’, a sublime ‘Tombstone Blues’ and a triumphant ‘Dignity’ (Some Dylan fans prefer the 1993 Supper Club  concerts that went unused but not me, especially given the terrible visuals which from the snippets I have seen are so dark as to be virtually unwatchable, no wonder Dylan passed on them ).

The article continues shortly.

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