During the mid-1990s, Bob Dylan was quietly going about his business as the never-ending troubadour he is. Press attention on the star was largely dwindling but while the public were preoccupied with other singers, artists from across the music world still knew of Dylan’s mercurial majesty. One such artist was Elvis Costello who, when asked, jumped at the chance to share the stage with the freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. That invitation arrived in 1995 for a very special duet of ‘I Shall Be Released’.
One of Dylan’s most poignant tracks, ‘I Shall Be Released’ has been covered by numerous singers but this has to be one of the finest performances. The new wave icon joins the folk God for and they let rip on one of rock music’s greatest.
By the time of this tour, Dylan had been playing live for eight solid years, a simply mammoth time on the road that is unlikely to ever be repeated in the modern age. But while Dylan’s touring was not newsworthy enough to gather widespread press attention, the singer was giving his audiences some of the best value performances they had enjoyed in decades.
It’s hard to figure out exactly why Bob Dylan suddenly turned it on in the mid-nineties, with many pointing to the singer’s move to quit alcohol as the reason for the revival—but what is clear is that Bob Dylan certainly turned it on for his fans in 1995, having spent some years in the wilderness, concerned with the gospel more so than pleasing his fanbase.
The renewed focus saw Dylan start to open up his back catalogue to the chance of getting on the setlist. Songs like ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’, ‘Man In The Long Black Coat’ and ‘Jokerman’ were all given a run-out on the tour. When Dylan and his band touched down in the UK in March of that year, anticipation for a special show was very high.
Taking the stage at London’s famous Brixton Academy, despite the high quality of performers on show, things got off to a shaky start. Dylan, audibly asking his band to launch into ‘I Believe In You’, was left dumbfounded, however, when guitarist John Jackson began performing ‘I Don’t Believe You’. It was an easy mistake to make and one Dylan quickly put behind him.
The singer moved through his incredible set with the kind of effortless ease that only comes with eight years of touring practice. But Dylan had something special up his sleeve for the final encore of ‘I Shall Be Released’ as he invited the enigmatic Elvis Costello on stage to share the mic with the folk icon.
While the next night Costello would come complete with Carole King and Chrissie Hynde on backing vocals, it is on this performance that Costello and Dylan really shine. Costello gives his all to every performance and is clearly pleased to be in the presence of Dylan.
Watch below as Elvis Costello shared the stage with Bob Dylan to sing ‘I Shall Be Released’ in 1995, it’s one of the finest performances of the track we’ve ever seen.