Bob Dylan ft. Van Morrison – and Vice Versa
1998-01-18, Theater at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Today’s show request, one of January 1998’s five co-headlining gigs with Van Morrison at the Theater at Madison Square Garden (that’s the smaller theater connected to the famous arena, these days going by the unsexy name Hulu Theater and hosting events like Paw Patrol Live! and a darts championship), features a stunning Bob-Van duet. It got me wondering about all the other times the two have stood on stage and sang together over the years.
So here’s the timeline of Bob-Van duets I worked out, with audio or, even better, video of each:
1976: The Last Waltz
Okay, this first one barely counts. While the occasion was historic, the pair’s first onstage collaboration is less meaningful only in the sense that there were approximately 120 other famous people also on stage. That being said, Van was one of only two of those 120 to share Bob’s mic on the big “I Shall Be Released” sing-along finale. Not that this was some special gift Bob bestowed on his favorite singer there; the other person was Robbie Robertson, who wasn’t generally a singer at all.
1984: ‘Real Live’ Tour
When Bob was touring with Santana in the summer of 1984, Van Morrison popped up unannounced at three of the gigs. At the first two, in Paris and London, they dueted on “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” a song Van had covered with his band Them (of “Gloria” fame) in 1966.
At the final night of the tour, in Van’s home country of Ireland, they also did his own “Tupelo Honey.” This “Baby Blue” from the London show also features Chrissie Hynde and Eric Clapton. Carlos Santana’s up on stage somewhere too in both clips, but not easy to spot.
No doubt the most well-known of their collaborations didn’t occur onstage at all. It occurred on a hilltop in Athens. The occasion was the filming of a BBC documentary on Van Morrison. Reportedly, the filmmakers had first planned on staging this collaboration in New Orleans, presumably while Bob was there recording Oh Mercy, but he (Bob) didn’t feel ready. Also reportedly, the BBC’s intention in Athens had initially been to film the pair playing at an ancient monument, but the company balked at the £10,000 fee. So they plopped them on a scenic hill with the Acropolis in the background.
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