Bob Dylan’s career has now passed the half-century mark but back on October 16, 1992, he and a number of his friends gathered at Madison Square garden to celebrate his 30th anniversary. That concert has now been reissued as a two-CD, two-DVD, one Blu-ray set complete with bonus performances and new footage, which includes 40 minutes of previously unreleased rehearsals and interviews.
Looking at the artists involved in the concert, one quickly realizes that many have left the building for good. Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Richie Havens, the three Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Lou Reed, and George Harrison have all passed away but at this concert they are alive and well.
When it comes to Dylan, it is the songs that are important. He has produced one of the best, if not the best, catalogues of material in music history. As with all albums of this type, it revolves around the artist’s ability to interpret the material.
The cream of the rock world gathered at Madison Square Garden to honor Dylan’s 30 years in music. Many of his most famous songs combine with some deeper cuts to provide a good overview of his legacy. Very important are Booker T & The MG’s, supplemented by drummer Jim Keltner, who act as the house band for many of the performances.
There are a number of superior performances. Eric Clapton changes “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” into a blues classic. Roger McGuinn, backed by Tom Petty and band resurrected the Byrds classic interpretation of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Chrissie Hyde gives an emotional performance of “I Shall Be Released.” Neil Young is engaged on “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and “All Along The Watchtower.” The line-up of Dylan, McGuinn, Petty, Young, Clapton, and George Harrison on “My Back Pages” shall not pass this way again.
The surprises are a sincere interpretation of “Emotionally Yours” by The O’Jays and Willie Nelson just nails “What Was It You Wanted.” Tracy Chapman, “The Times They Are A-Changin.’” Richie Havens, “Just Like A Woman,” and Mr. Dylan himself, “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” prove that simple is sometimes best as they bring just their voices and guitar to their performances.
I don’t know if there were any real misses but some performances just don’t resonate as well as others. John Mellencamp rolls through “Like A Rolling Stone” although Al Kooper brings some nostalgia to the track by re-creating his original organ sounds. Johnny Winter is technically adept on “Highway 61 Revisited” but there is a lack of passion. “Seven Days” by Ron Wood just sort of disappears.
The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration Deluxe Edition twenty years later is a look back in time. It was an evening dedicated to celebrating the music of an American music icon and in many ways that music out-shines the performers. It is a must buy for any fan of Bob Dylan and his music.
It’s only eight years until Dylan’s 60th, so stay tuned.