Bob Dylan: 12 Essential Concert Bootlegs

bob dylan 1966

I’ve always loved to travel and play my songs, meet new people and see different places. I love to roll into town in the early morning and walk the deserted streets before anybody gets up. Love to see the sun come up over the highway. Then, of course, there’s playing on the stage in front of live people, feeling hearts and minds moving. Everybody don’t get to do that. Touring to me has never been any kind of hardship. It’s a privilege.
~Bob Dylan (to Edna Gundersen, July 1988)

Creating a post called “10 best concert bootlegs” didn’t work out, so I had to adjust. I chose 12 Essential Concert Bootlegs 🙂

My rules:

  • only one concert from each tour
  • compilation bootlegs not allowed – you need to choose one concert

So this is actually more like “12 essential Bob Dylan concerts from 12 different tours”.

First I pick 12 different years & nominate some candidates:

  • 63
    • April 12
    • October 26
    • July 26-27
  • 64
    • July 26
    • October 31
  • 66
    • April 20
    • May 14
    • May 16
    • May 17
  • 75
    • October 31
    • November 21
    • December 4
    • December 8
  • 76
    • May 3
    • May 16
    • May 23
  • 79
    • Nov 6
    • Nov 11
    • Nov 16
    • Nov 18
  • 81
    • July 10
    • July 25
    • Nov 10
  • 87
    • Sept 15
    • Oct 5
    • Oct 17
  • 93
    • Sept 13
    • Nov 16-17
  • 95
    • March 11
    • March 27
    • April 2
    • April 3
    • June 21
  • 99
    • Feb 27
    • July 26
    • Oct 27
    • Nov 14
  • 00
    • Marc 10
    • Sept 23
    • Oct 6

I know I know… where are 78/88/91/94/98/…. tough choices these, but only 12 allowed.

Next up – picking only one from each year… argh.. the agony of choice again.

Here goes:


bob dylan town hall 1963

Town Hall
New York City, New York
12 April 1963

This ranks high as one of the most important boot releases of all time, and on top of that, it’s simply a thrill and a joy to just sit back and listen to. If you’re only planning on getting one bootleg this decade, this is the one. Hands down.

Check out this post: April 12: Bob Dylan Town Hall, New York 1963



Philharmonic Hall
New York City, New York
31 October 1964

Don’t let that scare you. It’s just Halloween. I have my Bob Dylan mask on. I’m masquerading ha ha.
~Bob Dylan (before If You Gotta Go, Go Now)

‘Live 1964 brings back a Bob Dylan on the cusp. . . . It brings back a time between his scuffling sets at the downtown clubs and his arena-rock tours of the 1970s and after. It brings back a long gone era of intimacy between performer and audience, and the last strains of a self-aware New York bohemia before
bohemia became diluted and mass marketed.’
~Sean Wilentz

Check out this post: October 31: Bob Dylan – Philharmonic Hall, NYC 1964


bob dylan sheffield 1966

Gaumont Theatre
Sheffield, England
16 May 1966

 …The Sheffield show is perhaps the best of the tour. The quality is incredible, and the performance can move you to tears. The Gaumont adds a warmth and depth to the overall sound that is lacking at many venues, and Bob pours his heart into every syllable. This set represents some of the finest of the tour…

Check out this post: May 16: Bob Dylan & The Hawks: Gaumont Theatre, Sheffield 1966



War Memorial Auditorium
Plymouth, Massachusetts
31 October 1975
Second Rolling Thunder Revue concert

This is a ‘must have’ CD. Period. Fans of Rolling Thunder will find this first venue of the tour to be electrifyingly fresh and vibrant. Everything was new, mysterious, and exciting. The stunned audience would have to wait two more months for the release of this mystical music on the ‘Desire’ LP. As the tour wore on, some of the spontaneous edge began to dull with the wear and tear of life on the road. Fans of ‘Desire’ will thrill to the encore magic captured in Dylan’s voice and in Scarlet Rivera’s violin.

Check out this post: Bob Dylan & Friends: Plymouth – October 31, 1975


bob dylan 1976

Hughes Stadium
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado
23 May 1976

The last three songs on the album (“You’re a Big Girl Now,” “I Threw It All Away,” and “Idiot Wind“) are as powerful and exciting as anything Dylan has done (comparable, for instance, to the May 1966 versions of “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Like a Rolling Stone”). As phenomenal as every aspect of each of these performances is, the unique orchestration of guitars, keyboards, violin, drums and voice on “Big Girl” must be singled out for particular praise. Stoner’s bass-playing while Dylan sings “Down the highway, down the tracks, down the road to ecstacy” on “Idiot Wind” will have a special place in my heart as long as I live.
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, Vol 2: The Middle Years 1974-1986)

Check out this post: May 23: Bob Dylan: Fort Collins, Colorado 1976 (videos)


bob dylan 1979

Fox Warfield Theatre
San Francisco, California
16 November 1979

“…his fall 1979 concerts. “What Can I Do For You?”, “Solid Rock”, “Saving Grace”, “Covenant Woman” and “In The Garden” as performed at these shows are some of the finest work in Dylan’s oeuvre, but you’d never know that from listening to “Saved”, the 1980 studio album that features these compositions.
…….you’re awareness and appreciation of Dylan’s greatness is incomplete until you hear these songs (and “When He Returns”) as performed live in the fall of 1979..
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, Vol 2: The Middle Years 1974-1986)

“….this gospel show explodes with vocal passion to be found in few other Dylan periods.”

Check out this post: Bob Dylan: San Francisco, California 16 November 1979 (concert audio)


Bob Dylan 1981 Drammen

Drammen, Norway
10 July 1981

My Favorite Summer 1981 concert is Drammen..
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, Vol 2: The Middle Years 1974-1986)

Check out this post: Bob Dylan: Drammen, Norway, 10 July 1981



Westfalenhalle 1
Dortmund, West Germany
15 September 1987

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar) with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
  • Tom Petty (guitar)
  • Mike Campbell (guitar)
  • Benmont Tench (keyboards),
  • Howie Epstein (bass)
  • Stan Lynch (drums)
  • The Queens Of Rhythm: Carolyn Dennis, Queen Esther Marrow, Madelyn Quebec (backing vocals).

Bob Dylan feels good about himself and his work, this night in Dortmund. You can hear it in his voice. It’s a unique, very wonderful Bob Dylan voice, special to this show. His presence this time is not a matter of being one with the protagonists of the songs or the persons being sung to. It’s a matter of his enthusiasm for the act of singing, and for each of these son~rs that he gets to sing. In a subtle but measurable sense, this “Tangled Up in Blue” vocal is not like any other rendition. It has a unique personality – not a dilfferent arrangement or lyrics, but a subtle idiosyncrasy of delivery that  gives us listeners the opportunity to be intimately present with this singer and his mood, his picture of life and reality, at this particular never-lo-be-repeated moment.
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan: Performing Artist Volume 3: Mind Out Of Time 1986 And Beyond)

I got no separate post for this one, so I’ll just embed some audio highlights.

Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)

Shelter From The Storm

Tangled Up In Blue


bob dylan supper club

Okay, I’ll break my rules on this one.

The Supper Club
New York City, New York
16 & 17 November 1993
Early & late shows

A mixture of old classics, songs he hadn’t played for a while and tracks from World Gone Wrong were all treated to the true authentic voice of Bob Dylan. Not only that but each show seemed better than the previous one and some songs, such as, “Queen Jane” & “Ring Them Bells” , were performed nearly as well as they have ever been, either before or since.
-Andrew Muir (Razor’s Edge)

Check out this post: November 16 & 17: Bob Dylan @ The Supper Club, New York City – 1993


bob dylan prague 1995

Kongresový sál
Palác kultury
Prague, Czech Republic
11 March 1995

Dylan opens the year with one of the most remarkable performances of the “Never Ending tour,” despite still visible suffering the after effects of the bug (at several points he sits on the drum rise, scrunched up in some discomfort)… the shock of the evening is not in his song selection.. but the fact that he performs almost the entire show without a guitar.. harmonica in hand, making strange shadow-boxing movements, cupping the harmonica to his mouth on nearly every song, blowing his sweetest harp breaks in years.
~Clinton Heylin (Bob Dylan: A Life in Stolen Moments Day by Day 1941-1995)

Check out this post: March 11: Bob Dylan – Prague, Czech Republic 1995


bob dylan 1999 Worcester

Worcester Centrum Centre
Worcester, Massachusetts
14 November 1999

The performance is top notch as well, with soulful vocals and excellent backing. While a rare performance of Highlands is an obvious highlight, the opening acoustic numbers shouldn’t be overlooked. There are excellent outings for To Ramona, featuring Larry Campbell on mandolin, and a tender Mama, You Been On My Mind.

Check out this post: Bob Dylan: Worcester, Massachusetts 14 November 1999 (Full concert video)


bob_dylan portsmouth 2000

Portsmouth, England
24 September 2000

Check out this post: September 24: Bob Dylan – Guildhall Portsmouth, England 2000 (videos)

All of that “Never Ending Tour” talk is nonsense. If there’s anything for sure in our world, then it’s the knowledge that everything comes to an end one day. Our mortality is the one thing that connects us all, and nothing but the knowledge about that creates a greater proximity between people. I don’t even think that I give a lot of concerts. In your world it might be a lot, in mine it is normal.
~Bob Dylan (July 2001)

bob dylan 2015

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14 thoughts on “Bob Dylan: 12 Essential Concert Bootlegs”

  1. Many of the post-’87 concerts are better heard as selections (highlights) as there are a lot of patchy shows with sublime performances (’91 and ’92 in particular!), but a few are phenomenal concerts in full. One is the first Prague concert from 1995; whenever I listen to it, I think it could be his best show EVER, so agreed on that one. Another is Hammersmith 2003 (the one with Romance In Durango), and not just because I was there (!). It is a unique set of songs, and the performances – particularly Romance In Durango, but also Jokerman, Too Much To Ask etc – are so great. Personally, I’d also pick Wembley 1989 (again, not because I was there), and probably Jones Beach 30 June 1988. I agree with Sheffield 1966 – it is probably my favourite night of the tour. In a way, it’s hard finding a ‘better’ tour than 1966, and maybe that’s way 1965 often seems overlooked. Just watch Don’t Look Back again for a reminder: all the recordings are excellent, I might choose Liverpool on 1 May. And Live 1964 is wonderful, but equally so is the Festival Hall concert, containing one of the most perfect readings of Mr Tambourine Man.

  2. Bob Dylan is my favorite artist. He has had more impact on music than any artist in my opinion. He was the first to make you listen with your mind and not just a nice beat and easy to dance to. His lyrics are far and away the measuring stick. He has remained relevant in six decades and still being awarded Grammy’s. I admire and cherish the music and impact Dylan has had. I appreciate the many hours of joy his art has given me.

  3. That Tangled up in Blue with Tom Petty is a stunner, sounds as if he is backed by the Dead. And it makes me wonder, was this the same Dylan and same band I heard that year in Holland, where I cried because it seemed he had lost it all, could not sing and moved as if he was stoned drunk, with the musicians searching for whatever he was thinking he played.
    And yes, bring on that Town Hall concert.
    Still cannot get to like the 79 concerts, where his voice is so shrill, forced, as if someone was strangling him (must have been the lord trying to prevent him from getting that fundamentalistic shit across, sure glad his religious feelings deepened since those terrible days in the Vineyard.

  4. carnegie 1963 for me is easily the best all acoustic show in terms of overall consistency of performance

  5. I was at that Worcester show. It was mellow but beautiful. Highlands was great, though there was a lyrical flub. Otherwise, it doesn’t particular stand out to me–very good, but not one for the ages. But that’s just my experience being there. The circulating tapes are high quality and worth tracking down. Anyway, it’s cool to see a show I was at represented on one of these lists! Thanks for putting it together. Not sure I have that Dortmund show, but I like a lot of 87 performances. Temples in Flames has a lot of highlights from that tour.

  6. OK – Ill play … after all, it is a special day!

    Love your choices – but of course, Id make a couple of changes though (would not be any fun, otherwise!)
    I would remove: 64 / 93 / 87 and replace with
    61 Carnegie Hall
    78 Charlotte or Blackbushe
    88 I love this tour – maybe Denver or Jones Beach

    81 Id take an Earls Court show or Avignon over Drammen (but I sense a little geographical bias !)

    Also 1999 and 2000 are fairly similar, so Id be tempted to replace one of those two choices with something like Nashville 2015, which is simply awesome!

    What an amazing body of work from which to choose!

    1. Love your choices Marcus 🙂

      Also love many 78/88 concerts (it was painful leaving those years out) & I was very close to including a 2013/14/15 show.

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