He listened to 152 hours of 1993 Bob Dylan tapes and lived to tell the tale
1993-10-09, Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA
Longtime readers know our friend Jake Fredel. Over the past few years he’s been listening to every single show of the Never Ending Tour, in chronological order, since the very first show in 1988. We first checked him with him in 2021, when he was waist-deep in 1991 (Bob’s worst year, some say, though Fredel pulled quite a few gems out of the muck). Then last year, when he was doing 1992, he picked the best and worst of a better-but-still-uneven year (a lotta “Watchtower,” but a lotta “Idiot Wind” too).
Now, as 2023, nears its end, he has finished listening to every single Dylan show in 1993. 152 hours worth, including some of the longest shows of the Never Ending Tour. I’ve had a bit of a 1993 run myself this fall, sharing a bunch of videographer Carol Casper’s amazing never-seen videos (start here). But, as ever, no one has dug as deep as Fredel.
Here’s his report, on both the year overall, and the fall tour’s grand finale in Mountain View, CA. (Grand finale of the proper tour, that is…the Supper Club quartet would come a month later.)
As you might recall, I’ve been listening to every Never Ending Tour show in chronological order over the past few years, an arduous but often revelatory journey which has now reached the five year mark. When I started with 1988 and 1989, I was just listening to them for my own enjoyment, taking note of my favorite shows and enjoying the process of hearing the NET unfold gradually, night after night. By the time I got to 1990, it occurred to me that I should be documenting the process for other Dylan fans, so I started writing show-by-show reviews of the Fall 1990 tour for the Expecting Rain forum. The temptation to do the unthinkable and listen to every show from 1991 was too strong to resist, and before long, I had made it all the way to 1992.
I have now made it through the entirety of 1993 - a year that tested my endurance with the marathon shows of the summer (the longest lasting upwards of 2 and a half hours) as well as many major changes and upheaval in my personal life. It’s also the first year since 1990 not to have any unrecorded shows, so I can legitimately say that I have now listened to the entire year’s worth of touring in its entirety. With 76 regular shows in 1993, Bob had a relatively light touring schedule in this year, compared to the 100+ shows performed in both 1991 and 1992. Still, if we assume an average length of 2 hours per show, that adds up to a whopping 152 hours of music. If you consider that there were 532 shows performed between 1988 and 1993, that amounts to about 1000 hours in total. As Van Morrison would say, “it’s too late to stop now.”
1993 is a year that is best known for its negative qualities: poor quality soundboard recordings, static setlists (mostly early in the year) and Bob’s nasal vocal tone, as well as the long stretches of improvisation that started to emerge in the spring and became a major ingredient of the Europe Summer Tour, which featured some of the longest shows of Bob’s career. However, I can easily debunk most of these complaints.
First off, as flat and poorly mixed as the 1993 soundboards are, there are usually audience recordings available as well, which reveal a wealth of powerful performances that remain some of the most underrated shows of the NET. Bob’s vocals in 1993 might be an acquired taste, but he sounded much more in control of his singing than he had in 1991 and 1992, with a much wider range of expression in his voice. As for the long jams, while those who like their songs short and sweet will have a hard time sitting through many of these 1993 shows, it’s fascinating to hear Bob pushing his band to new territory, building their bonds as a cohesive band unit, and taking songs like “Tangled Up In Blue” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” to places they have never been before or since.
At the time, Bob was also promoting his latest album, 1992’s Good As I Been To You, with many songs from the record receiving their sole performances in 1993. Songs like “Jim Jones” and “Blackjack Davey” were often spellbinding highlights, providing respites of plaintive introspection between bursts of creative musical experimentation and extended jam sessions.
Another thing that people often overlook is just how hard Bob and his band rocked in 1993. This year contains some of the all-time great performances of “Maggie’s Farm,” which was played in a Stones-esque arrangement that is one of the most dangerous rock arrangements in the history of the NET. Not to mention classics like “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” and “All Along the Watchtower,” or more recent powerhouses like “I and I” and “God Knows.” A deep dive into 1993 will reveal many hidden gems that remain some of the best kept secrets of the NET due to the prejudices that surround this year.
For those who want to read more about this year, I have posted reviews of all 76 shows performed in 1993 on the Expecting Rain forum as part of my 1993 Tour Recap Thread. The review that follows sums up my thoughts on the final show of the tour in Mountain View, California - which featured the last performances to date of two songs from Good As I Been To You, while also serving as a fantastic representation of where Bob Dylan and his band were at as the fifth year of the Never-Ending Tour drew to a close.