Seeing a music icon perform live in concert sets the soul ablaze, and there’s always a palpable current running through the crowds. Unfortunately, at the moment this feeling lives in our memories only as we’re still reeling from the pandemic. Concerts belong in a past life, at least for now. But that’s not to say that they’ve gone away completely, no, they’ve just taken on a new form. Music fans and concert footage peddlers are hard at work, uploading videos and audio tracks from classic concerts online. There’s one in particular that caused a stir in the music community: Bob Dylan’s 1997 show at the El Rey Theatre in LA, as part of the Never Ending Tour.
Born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota, Dylan moved to New York City in 1961 and made a name for himself performing around Greenwich Village. The following year, he met the legendary record producer John Hammond, and together, they came out with his eponymous debut album, Bob Dylan. His career went on an upward trajectory with unforgettable record releases: Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited (1965), Blonde On Blonde (1966), and Blood On The Tracks (1975).
He was undoubtedly one of the most dominant voices in popular music and the American civil movement. In fact, he’s gone on to inspire a multitude of artists around the world spanning generations, from The Beatles to Indie Blues Rock musician Dylan Ludwig. Whether it’s Dylan’s music chops or flair for cathartic words, he has been touted as one of the most influential artists who ever lived. When we spoke with Dylan Ludwig, he said that he could spend weeks working on a single sentence for his own songs, trying to capture the feeling he’d get from any one of Dylan’s.
The fact that Dylan is considered one of the greatest songwriters of all time is not surprising. Gala Bingo outlined how he was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, and he is the only musician to receive this. This comes after a well-chronicled, and, at times, turbulent career. Before his fan-favorite live show at the El Rey Theatre (part of his Never Ending Tour which is still going to this day), the tour became famous for hitting some rough patches during its 90’s European phase. This included Dylan being labeled as toxic due to incomprehensible performances. Thankfully Dylan did get back on his feet and he redeemed himself with stellar shows in the New York’s Supper Club in 1993, followed by consecutively stunning performances in 1995 and 1996. However, the crest of his 90’s career would have to be in 1997. Not only did he record the genius album Time Out of Mind, but he also performed one of the most remarkable shows in the El Rey Theatre on December 19th of the same year.
This show revealed Bob Dylan’s irreplicable skills and incredible gravitas, which you can immediately feel listening to it 24 years later. The El Rey Theatre is one of his best and only a few people were able to witness it. Now everyone can, from independent musicians looking for inspiration to Dylan fans. Listen to the seminal live show with outstanding audio quality and for free through the video below.