Bob Dylan and Tom Petty were just three weeks into their 1986 True Confessions world tour when they brought in a professional camera crew to film a two-night stand at Sydney, Australia’s Entertainment Centre. Dylan had made the mistake of chronicling a tour too early in the past (check out 1978’s Live at Budokan), but this time around, they captured a pretty great night for an HBO concert special.
Dylan first played with Petty and the Heartbreakers at the first Farm Aid in 1985. The chemistry was apparent and a tour was soon booked. “I’ve heard people say that you can’t play with Bob because he’s too erratic,” Tom Petty said in the 2005 Paul Zollo book Conversations With Tom Petty. “But he wasn’t. He was professional. . . There was never a night when the audiences weren’t incredibly ecstatic about the whole thing.”
In his 2004 memoir Chronicles, Dylan points to the tour as a low point of his career. “I had no connection to any kind of inspiration,” he wrote. “Whatever there was to begin with had all vanished and shrunk. Tom was at the top of his game and I was at the bottom of mine. . . There was a hollow singing in my heart and I couldn’t wait to retire and fold the tent. One more big payday with Petty and that would be it for me. I was what they called over the hill.”
Most people at the Sydney Entertainment Center were probably unaware of Dylan’s true feelings. They saw a pretty great show featuring classics like “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Like a Rolling Stone” mixed in with newer songs like “When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky” and covers like “That Lucky Old Sun” and Hank Snow’s “I’m Moving On.” The show ended with “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”
Like almost every professionally filmed Bob Dylan concert, this show is wildly out of print. Hopefully one day it’ll appear in a box set with Eat the Document, Hard Rain, Toronto 1980 and the 1993 Supper Club shows, but things move slow in Dylanland and they seem more interested in putting old albums in a new box than digging into the video vault.