Today marks Bob Dylan 78th birthday. To celebrate, JamBase takes a look at a concert in Dylan’s old stomping grounds of New York City at the world famous Madison Square Garden on November 1, 1998.
The late ’90s were a roller coaster ride for Dylan. The archetypal singer-songwriter released what was widely considered a comeback album, Time Out Of Mind, in September of 1997. It was his first album of original material in seven years, since the release of Under The Red Sky in 1990, an LP that capped an era that saw Dylan searching to redefine himself. He would perhaps re-find himself on Time Out Of Mind.
The album would take home three Grammy Awards in 1998, including the coveted Album Of The Year. But Dylan fell seriously ill shortly after completing the record in the spring of 1997 from a fungal infection, causing him to cancel a number of live engagements. But The Never Ending Tour once again lived up to its name, and the intrepid troubadour was soon back out on the road.
When Dylan and band — consisting of Bucky Baxter (pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar), Larry Campbell (guitar), Tony Garnier (bass) and David Kemper (drums & percussion) — took the stage at Madison Square Garden in the fall of 1998, Dylan seemed to be, well, Dylan: witty and ready to rock.
The show kicks off with a rollicking version of “Gotta Serve Somebody” from 1979’s Slow Train Coming before taking it back to the cutting edge albums of the mid-’60s with “I Want You” (Blonde On Blonde) and “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” (Highway 61 Revisited), the latter of which got a rise out of the Big Apple audience with the line “I’m going back to New York City/I do believe I’ve had enough.”
Dylan then turned to material from Time Out Of Mind with “Make You Feel My Love” and “Can’t Wait.” Up until that point Dylan played a Stratocaster, but shouldered an acoustic guitar for a block of ’60s gems including a crowd-pleasing “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” (the audience goes nuts when Dylan picks up his harmonica), the scathing anti-war anthem “Masters Of War” as well as “One Too Many Mornings.”
Dylan follows “One Too Many Mornings” with the Blood On The Tracks epic “Tangled Up In Blue,” two songs of fleeting, recurring and lost love that came a decade apart from each other but seem connected somehow, as Tony Attwood points out in an Untold Dylan essay. The juxtaposition of the songs on the setlist is surely a conscious one (Disclaimer: “Tangled Up In Blue” is tragically cut short in the video for some unforeseen reason).
“Joey” comes next, a song Dylan co-wrote with songwriter Jacques Levy. Levy was a frequent collaborator on Dylan’s landmark 1976 album Desire. Dylan then prefaced the only cover of the night, “The Times We’ve Known” by French-American singer Charles Aznavour, with that legendary wit: “I usually only play these songs when I’m all by myself, but I feel like I’m all by myself now.” MSG can feel like that sometimes. After introducing the band, Bob brings the set to a close with a boisterous “Highway 61 Revisited,” which features some tasty solos from both Campbell and Dylan along with some great slide work from Baxter over the relentless rhythm section of Garnier and Kemper.
Bob and the band return for a three-song encore, which opens with another Time Out Of Mind track, “Love Sick,” before the ‘60s stoner anthem “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” Dylan closes out the evening with the song that started it all, “Blowin’ In The Wind.”
Check out fan-shot video of the full show below shared by GratefuLSD:
Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden
- Gotta Serve Somebody
- I Want You
- Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
- Make You Feel My Love
- Can’t Wait
- Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
- Masters of War
- One Too Many Mornings
- Tangled Up in Blue
- The Times We’ve Known (Les Bons Moments)
- Highway 61 Revisited
- Love Sick
- Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
- Blowin’ in the Wind