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Tonight As I Stand Inside the Rain
1994-07-17, Stadion Cracovia, Kraków, Poland
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Today’s show, on July 17 1994, ended after only nine songs. The reason: Extremely heavy rains in Krakow, Poland flooded the stage, making it dangerous for the musicians and eventually shorting out the power.
Because of those rains, Dylan almost bailed on the show entirely. His friend-turned-road-manager Victor Maymudes talked him out of it. Maymudes told his story in his fascinating posthumously-published book Another Side of Bob Dylan: A Personal History on the Road and off the Tracks. So, today, an excerpt of him telling that story. Then you can listen to the tape and hear for yourself.
We showed up in Krakow, Poland, on July 17, 1994.
Fans greeted us as we pulled into the backstage area of the Cracovia football stadium holding up signs that read “We waited 30 years!” As we arrived it started to rain harder and harder, to the point that we were setting up the show in a deluge, rain coming in diagonally and horizontally. The stage production team told me I should cancel the show. Despite the pounding rain, the stadium was full of people. Before the show even started there was an inch of water on the stage.
I went and talked to Bob, who said, “I don’t really feel like doing the show. I don’t feel like I’m in the music.”
I had to fight for the fans suffering through the torrential weather.
“Look, Bob, there’s ten thousand people out there. They’ve been standing in the rain for a couple hours.” We had already delayed the show by an hour at this point. “Think about it for a minute.”
Part of the reason behind my fight for putting on the show was the fact that Krakow, Poland, has been treated like the toilet bowl of the world throughout history. These people got shit on by everybody. The Red Russians, the White Russians, the Germans, the Austrians, you name it. World War I was here, at their doorstep. The Nazis invaded them in 1939, arresting their university professors and academics, putting them in jail for being smart! The Jews were murdered, sent through the Krakow train station to Auschwitz, which is about forty miles out of town. Even after the Nazis, they were under Soviet control. These people were fucked over and over and over. It was our first time there, in a deluge; fans were waiting for us and the production department was begging me to cancel the show. I couldn’t do it. It had to be Bob’s choice. Luckily, I didn’t have to say anything more. Bob thought about it for a bit, then jumped up and said, “Let’s do the show.” Bob and I were on the same page. Al Santos, the stage manager, yelled out, “No! Don’t do it. It’s dangerous.” But Bob had already made up his mind.
A few minutes before the show, there was two inches of water onstage. All that electronic equipment—electric guitars, amps, soundboards, all sitting in water. The audio and power cables from the stage were running out to Ed Wynne at the sound booth in the middle of the seating. They were completely under mud. He was standing at the soundboard petrified to touch it. You could feel the buzz coming off of it and see the heat misting the condensation on the cables. You could feel the electricity in the air; it was as if lightning could strike at any moment. Bob took one look and started walking out to the stage, full stride. I passed Al, turned to him and said we’re going on. He yelled, “What?!” I kept walking. I didn’t even look around. He had to run through the rain to the stage to get the lights on because Bob was coming to do the show.
Bob walked onstage to a roaring crowd; they didn’t care that they were cold and wet. Wind was blowing so hard Bob was leaning forty-five degrees forward, his hair blowing straight out. Bob looked like Leutze’s George Washington Crossing the Delaware, standing on the bow of the boat in that famous painting. Holding the guitar like a sword to the side. Battling the forces of nature. Inches of water everywhere. Bob was ready to go to battle for these people. As he played “All Along the Watchtower,” lightning lit up the night sky and stretched far above the town. It was as if the gods were listening, setting off a light show. Bob didn’t miss a beat.
He did the whole show like this; we didn’t do an intermission, so it was an hour and forty minutes just like this. Near the end of the main set with about three or four songs to go, we switched our electric guitars for acoustics. This was one of those “safety third” moments. Once he got to the encore, he came offstage. Everything was at its breaking point. The level of danger had reached its maximum before somebody was going to get hurt or killed. I told Bob we couldn’t do the encore. He shouted back, “What’s wrong?!”
I said, “You’re standing in three inches of water.”
“What’s wrong with that?” Bob asked.
I repeated, “The amps and all the equipment…”, but he cut me off with, “Pick it up!”
I pleaded, “I can’t, the guys won’t fucking touch it. Look at the crew.”
I pointed to the guys all wrapped up in plastic, taking any shelter they could. It was like a war zone for the crew. Only then did he realize that I was begging him not to do it. Al Santos was pulling his hair out. The tour accountant Marty Feldman was already hysterical that I let the show go on in the first place. Well, the show up till this point was fabulous. The audience was ecstatic. They didn’t care if it never stopped raining and neither did Bob. The show went down in history. Bootlegs from his set in 1994 are online now. You can hear the rain hitting the mics.
He’s right. Listen to “Shelter from the Storm.” You can hear the rain pouring down. If you didn’t know what the noise was, you might think it was some sort of heavy static. Until the end of the clip, that is, where you can hear fans loudly complaining about the weather.
“He could do ‘Wade in the Water’ or ‘The Water Is Wide,’” one tells his buddy. His friend fires back with equally sharp suggestions of “Down in the Flood” or “Watching the River Flow.”
He didn’t do any of those songs. But he may have been up to something similar: Every song Dylan performed that night had a reference to rain, water or storms in it.
Coincidence? Could be — they were mostly songs he’d been playing on the tour. But the one song of the bunch he did for the first and only time that summer, “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” has a famous verse about flooding. So maybe not so coincidental.
All credit to Expecting Rain forum user Voice With Restraint for spotting this theme back in 2017. Here’s the lyrical setlist breakdown they laid out then, edited slightly.
Standing on the waters casting your bread
You were born with a snake in both of your fists while a hurricane was blowing
It's a shadowy world, skies are slippery gray
JUST LIKE A WOMAN
Tonight as I stand inside the rain
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl
I DON'T BELIEVE YOU
Her mouth was watery and wet
TANGLED UP IN BLUE
He was standing on the side of the road, rain falling on his shoes
SHELTER FROM THE STORM
[whole song basically]
LOVE MINUS ZERO
The wind howls like a hammer, the night blows cold and rainy
MASTERS OF WAR
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’
Admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin
PS. If you want even more context, there’s a fan’s recollection of this concert over at Untold Dylan that includes some additional crowd photos.