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Never-Seen '93 Videos Vol V: Great Woods
1993-09-12, Great Woods Performing Arts Center, Mansfield, MA
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Today, our big project sharing never-seen 1993 videos from live-Dylan videographer extraordinaire Carol Casper comes to a close. We go out on a high, with easily the most famous show of the bunch, at the Great Woods amphitheater in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Perhaps you had this widely-circulated soundboard bootleg back in the day:
Before we begin, Casper sent some notes to set the scene for those of us who weren’t there ourselves:
The venue has undergone several name changes over the years. It’s now the Xfinity Center. But when this show took place in 1993, it was still known by its original name, Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts. The outdoor amphitheater with 7 sections of pavilion seating under the roof and a large lawn area behind had a total capacity of 12,000 when Bob played there in ‘93, although it was expanded to 19,900 after 2000.
Jon [Casper, husband] and I moved to a far outer suburb of Boston, in August 1984. Not two years later in June 1986, Great Woods opened about 30 minutes from our house. We saw Dylan 3 times with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers there a month after it opened. Dylan & Petty were among the first big-name rock acts to play the venue. The original schedule has them for two shows on July 8 and 9th. But closing the second, Dylan told the audience, “We’ve played all kinds of places all over the world. This is the nicest place we ever played.” We learned he was absolutely sincere when a few days later it was announced a third show was being added on July 22. The tour canceled a day off after finishing the rest of their Northeast swing to return to Great Woods for one more concert before heading to Kansas [a show I recently wrote about —Ray].
Of course, Bob’s bus didn’t have to battle everyone else’s cars to exit the parking lot after! With the only approach to Great Woods a small, two-lane local road, and once past the outer gate, a long narrow drive to the single parking lot, waits to get out of Great Woods were the stuff of legend. Once after a show, we finished listening to nearly the entire tape of it we’d just recorded before getting all the way out.
At some point not too long after it opened, a number of area homeowners began complaining about the noise level from the concerts. There was an article in the Boston Globe once that reported on the complaints with data on decibel levels of various shows. I don’t remember if it was after the ‘88 or ‘89 season, but I do recall that although plenty of other hard-rocking bands played Great Woods that year, Dylan’s concert topped out as the loudest that whole summer.
Let’s dive in! But first, here are the links to the previous four entries in this series (the first explains what it is):
Now, onward to our four never-before-seen videos from Great Woods…
All Along the Watchtower
We couldn’t wrap this series without a “Watchtower.” The song was played in the number-three slot at every single show for years. You’ll also see, from the very first moments, we suddenly have a very different angle than the previous four shows. Carol is standing on the other side of the room, meaning we’re going to finally see a lot more of bassist-bandleader Tony Garnier and steel-and-more player Bucky Baxter. Plus the other side of Bob’s face. Hell yeah.
Wardrobe report: Bob is wearing what appears to be a red velvet smoking jacket. Looks like Hugh Hefner. Every other show he’s had a black leather vest, no jacket. Maybe it was colder in Mansfield. Or maybe he was hoping to hit a Southern Massachusetts Playboy Mansion after the show.
If you’ve been following along this whole time, you know how jammy these shows are. So no surprise he only gets one verse in before shifting to an extended instrumental section. In this case, guitarist John Jackson (who, for the first time, we can’t see) starts ripping off solos. Bob noodles along, first at the mic then eventually moving back (1:15), to give himself space to do some of his patented guitar wiggles.
Who are those people watching sidestage (1:33)? Best seats in the house. Reminds me of this great photo of the kids watching Dylan in 1988 (used that one in my book):
The vocals are not really the point of this song, but he does hold out the word “late” for an impressively long time (1:54). Then — you guessed it — more extended guitar jamming, with a big knee-bend coming at 2:22.
Another thing those who’ve followed along will recognize is Bob’s looks cuing the band, and especially cuing drummer Winston Watson. The one he gives at 2:30 clearly means “quieter now” as the volume suddenly drops the moment he makes that pointed glance.
Love that hard-stop transition from the soloing to the next verse (3:22). Again, cued by Watson, with an extra-hard drum wallop. Then a big extended-note finish again on “howl” (3:48) as the band picks back up. Fun to watch Tony grooving along. This is a great angle for the Tony-heads out there. Around 4:07 it zooms out so you can see Baxter too finally. He’s really tucked in back there.
Side note: I just finished the excellent bio Hardcore Troubadour: The Life and Near Death of Steve Earle. Bucky Baxter is a central character for some of it, playing in Steve’s band and going on all sorts of misadventures with him, often involving scoring hard drugs. This is before Baxter joined Dylan’s band, and before Steve got sober.
Speaking of Baxter, it sounds like he leads the big climactic build around the five minute mark. Bob starts making some goofy guitar faces at 4:59, while him and Tony jam out. Then he yells something behind him at 5:07, signalling the conclusion. It’s a long conclusion though, with a minute to go of dramatic ramp-down. You can see Bucky watching Dylan like a hawk when his face comes into view (like 5:54), waiting for his cue to wrap.
Under the Red Sky
If you’re counting, “Under the Red Sky” marks the third “new” song we’ve seen off this then-most-recent original album, 1990’s Under the Red Sky (along with “Born in Time” in Saratoga and “God Knows” in Scranton).
From this angle, you can really see what Bob’s doing on the fretboard of the guitar as he plays. He’s almost never playing straight, regular, open chords. It’s either note-at-a-time noodling or weird fingers shapes, alternate versions of the chords high up the neck.
I’ll note for the free subscribers who missed all the intermediate installments that Bob is, again, wearing his harmonica rack for every song — whether or not he plans to use it. And he usually doesn’t. Once or twice we’ve seen him deliberately slot in a new harp at the start of the song, never to be played. Will he play it this time? (Answer: No.)
At 2:52, we finally, for I think the first time this whole series, get to watch Bucky Baxter play a beautiful pedal steel solo. Worth the wait! Wish Bob was giving him more of these. It soon segues into one of those aimless jams where Bob is ostensibly soloing — enough so that neither Baxter or Jackson grab the reins — but not really doing much.
Yet another “take it down now” look at Winston at 5:09. That seems to be a theme here: even though the instrumental jams go on for quite a while in these songs, they have dynamics. He’ll ramp the band up, then suddenly bring it down to a murmur. A camera move means that Jackson, Bob’s near co-star in most of the earlier videos but largely hidden in today’s angle, makes a brief cameo. This time Bob’s co-star is Tony. Even during, let’s be honest, a fairly aimless and endless instrumental, it’s fun to watch him grooving along (like at 5:43).
I and I
“I and I” off 1984’s Infidels was, to my surprise, Dylan’s 6th most-played song in 1993. More than “Mr Tambourine Man,” more than “Just Like a Woman,” more than “Like a Rolling Stone” (which—another surprise—he only played once). The original’s slick Mark Knopfler production seems a long way from this rough, scrappy garage band. Let’s see how the song fares.
You can’t see it, but damn that is a wild Winston Watson drum intro (0:01). When the instruments come in, it’s like reggae-punk. (So, The Clash). As the lyrics kick in, you can see why this was a staple for this band. It kicks ass. Band thundering away, and Bob delivering some impassioned vocals. Love the delivery of “nothing ever does” at 1:38.
As the song enters its first instrumental section (2:18), will it be able to keep this energy up? Or will it get bogged down in an aimless guitar-noodle-fest? Surprise: No noodle. He moves almost immediately back to the mic to keep singing. Good sign.
Halfway through and this is easily the best performance today, and in the running for best of this whole series. Amazing that this video sat in the vaults for three decades! So grateful to have played a small role in getting it out.
I like the eyebrow raise at 3:18, almost like he’s surprised how well it’s going. He brings the temperature down at 3:44 with, you guessed it, a pointed look at Winston. But it still grooves and simmers. The unseen Winston’s playing is ferocious.
Another great line delivery at 4:37, all of “Noontime, and I'm still on the road, on the darkest part.” And for the closing jam, great playing by Jackson (6:03), even as onscreen Bob noodles aimlessly (and inaudibly). Yet another look to Winston brings it to a powerful close.
When I’m done writing these entries, I typically move onto the next song. This one I’m going to play again first.
Now we reach our final song. 26 brand-new videos from 1993, all killer and all thanks to Carol Casper. So one more plug: Check out her YouTube channel! Tons of other great stuff from other eras there. And more to come.
You can hear it before you can see it: Our first acoustic song of the day. Bob on acoustic, Tony on upright bass, and Bucky Baxter on (I think) dobro. This is, in fact, his first performance of “To Ramona” in over a year. What a way to end.
Watch his hands at 1:09; it’s like I mentioned earlier, what are those weird chord fingerings? Pretty nifty acoustic solo at the two-minute mark. Better than most of the electric solos. Winston Watson told me, “When Bob plays acoustic guitar, I think it's the most beautiful thing someone could hear. Aside from Ry Cooder, I don't think I've ever met anybody do it better and sing at the same time.” (He later added, “He’s at best an interesting electric guitar player, but I love that too. It's impressionist for sure.”)
The nasal-ness of 1993 vocals really comes out on these acoustic tunes. Still, I like the new inflections he gives the melody at times, like the “meaningless rage” line at 2:41. Same thing on “what you think you should do” a few lines later.
I realize there are other musicians playing, but given our two-shot view for much of this, can you imagine a tour of just Bob and Tony? This fall, Nick Cave is doing a tour accompanied only by Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood on bass. It’ll never happen, but imagine Dylan doing a run like that. A Bob and Tony duo would be something special.
Speaking of which, as Bob continues another (excellent!) acoustic solo, watch Tony get into it behind him, hunching down as he goes up the neck at 4:46. Bob then gives Tony the usual Winston nod (since there’s no drums happening during this), and they wrap it up. As do we.
Thanks again to Carol Casper for providing these amazing never-seen videos! And shoutout also her late husband Jon Casper, who taped the wonderful audio recordings used in all the previous entries.