Promises Of Paradise (Thinman-153/154)
Palace Theater, New Haven, CT – October 16th, 1994
Disc 1 (79:25): Jokerman, If You See Her Say Hello, All Along The Watchtower, Under The Red Sky, Tangled Up In Blue, Man In The Long Black Coat, Mama You Been On My Mind, Gates Of Eden, Don’t Think Twice, God Knows, It Takes A Lot To Laugh It Takes A Train To Cry
Disc 2 (79:45): Maggie’s Farm, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, It Ain’t Me. Bonus tracks: What Good Am I?, Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power), The Man In Me, I Don’t Believe You, Shelter From The Storm, To Ramona, Born In Time, I Believe In You
Bob Dylan in the NET in 1993 and 1994 was walking on a tightrope. With no product to sell except for two albums full of cover tunes, the setlist became quite predictable but his playing each night was not. Many of the same songs were played each night, but Dylan tried to push the boundaries of “intuitive” playing and to breath yet newer life into the older songs.
In the autumn of 1994 he toured the east coast and on October 16th played the Palace Theater in New Haven, Connecticut. This is the show right before the three night stand at Roseland Ballroom in New York City and has the same basic structure. Promises Of Paradise is the silver pressed debut, utilizing an excellent stereo DAT audience recording of the entire set. There is a blemish on the tape at the beginning of “Maggie’s Farm,” but it does not last too long and it not too intrusive.
“Jokerman” opens the show as it does for every other concert on this six week tour, followed by a playful version of “If You See Her, Say Hello” and a fiery “All Along The Watchtower.” These were all very common songs in the set and are polished and tight.
After a nice but uninteresting “Under The Red Sky,” Dylan gets into trouble on the guitar in the next two songs. Both “Tangled Up In Blue,” played in the dramatic hard-rock arrangement, and “Man In The Long Black Coat” are plagued by Dylan’s playing in the wrong key, trying to inject improvisatory passages in the song’s middle. The band are able to save the performances, but they both have their uncomfortable passages.
Thankfully the acoustic interlude in the middle comes off without any problems. In New Haven he plays three songs, although on some nights he would play four. “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind” was played at most shows, but “Gates Of Eden” is relatively scarce (“Mr. Tambourine Man” was more common) and sounds very raw. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” is the final song of the short set.
“It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” is one of the longer numbers in the set and Dylan has a lot of fun stretching out and pounding the blues chords. Unlike “Tangled Up In Blue” and “Man In A Long Black Coat,” Dylan’s intuitive guitar work works out extremely well and comes close to pushing this performance into being a masterpiece. The soloing never becomes boring and recalls the live rock and roll aesthetic of the seventies.
The set ends with “Maggie’s Farm.” The first encore is “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35″ and a solo acoustic performance of “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” pushed to a mammoth nine minutes.
Thinman include eight bonus tracks from the same tour, all in excellent sound quality and scarcely performed for the tour. Many of them are much longer than normal such as the first song “What Good Am I?” from the August 24th show in South Bend, Indiana.
“Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)” is from the August 27th show in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and is the most “standard” arrangement of the bunch.
“The Man In Me” and “I Don’t Believe You” both date from the October 22nd show in Rochester, New York and “Shelter From The Storm” and “To Ramona” from the following night in Schenectady. “Born In Time” is from the October 27th show in Upper Darby and the final track “I Believe In You” is from the following night in the same venue. The last track is probably the most interesting since the audience give a loud and enthusiastic ovation in the middle. It’s a moment of true magic worthy of inclusion in this collection.
Promises Of Paradise is a good release from an under represented period in Dylan’s touring history. The performance is hit-or-miss, but the atmosphere is great, making this one worth having.