By the spring of 1995 Bob Dylan had been on the road for a solid eight years, and even though the general public and the media were barely paying attention, his shows were starting to get really, really good.
Trying to pinpoint the exact reason why this happened is a fool’s errand, but a new book by his former road manager reveals that he quit drinking the previous year. That might explain why he played with greater focus and passion, dragging out songs from all corners of his catalog like “If You See Her, Say Hello,” “Man In The Long Black Coat” and “Jokerman.”
The tour touched down in Europe in early March, spreading out all over the continent before heading to the U.K. for a run of shows with barely any days off. On the 30th, he played London’s Brixton Academy and things went pretty smoothly until he called an audible with “I Believe In You,” but guitarist John Jackson misheard him and began playing “I Don’t Believe You.” The band recovered from the understandable misstep fairly quickly.
For the final encore of “I Shall Be Released,” Elvis Costello came out to play guitar and share the vocals. The next night, things got crazier when Costello came back for the same song, but brought Carole King and Chrissie Hynde with him to provide backup vocals. A little over a week later, Van Morrison joined Dylan at a show in Dublin on his 1990 hit “Real Real Gone” before Costello came back out for yet another rendition of “I Shall Be Released.”
The song was originally written during the Basement Tapes sessions in 1967, appearing the following year on The Band’s debut album Music from Big Pink with lead vocals by Richard Manuel. It’s become one of Dylan’s most enduring post-accident songs, wrapping up too many all-star charity concerts to even count. Dylan has played it over 500 times, but it’s been completely absent since a one-off in Poland back in June of 2008.