October 16, 1992: Eric Clapton Turns a Bob Dylan Tune Into a Blues Guitar Tour de Force
Twenty-five years ago today (October 16, 1992), a truly ridiculous amount of talent packed into New York City’s Madison Square Garden to honor Bob Dylan’s then-30-year-old recording career.
The concert, which was called the 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration, featured top talent of the day (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, John Cougar Mellencamp, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready), living legends (Johnny and June Carter Cash) and a host of classic-rock gods (Johnny Winter, Neil Young, Roger McGuinn, George Harrison, the Band).
However, the undisputed guitar highlight of the show was Eric Clapton’s scorching rendition of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” a song Dylan wrote in 1962 and recorded for 1963’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
Clapton—who transformed Dylan’s bouncy, fingerstyle acoustic masterpiece into a breezy electric country blues—left no doubt that he could still deliver intense, emotional solos that sent listeners’ hearts skyrocketing.
The performance—not to mention Clapton’s crunchy, overdriven Strat tone—foreshadowed his long-awaited, if temporary, return to traditional blues, 1994’s From the Cradle. It also claimed the Number 21 spot in Guitar World‘s often-quoted guide to Eric Clapton’s 50 Greatest Guitar Moments.
The performance stands out as a Clapton career highlight to “EC fans in the know”; in fact, even the Facebook account that hosts the video below asks, “[Is this] one of the best all-time live performances ever?”
Enjoy this performance by Clapton and a modified version of Booker T & the MG’s, the event’s official house band: Booker T. Jones (organ), Donald “Duck” Dunn (bass) and Steve Cropper (guitar), plus Anton Fig and Jim Keltner (drums) and former Saturday Night Live bandleader G.E. Smith (guitar, musical director).
Since we’re (sort of) on the topic, be sure to check out the Heartbreakers’ performance from that night. Instead of going the obvious or “hit” route, Petty & Co. chose to cover “License to Kill,” a thought-provoking track from Dylan’s highly regarded 1983 album, Infidels (which stars guitarists Mark Knopfler and Mick Taylor).
The song accuses mankind of imperialism and a predilection for violence; it also addresses our not-so-wonderful relationship with the environment: “Man thinks because he rules the Earth/He can do with it as he please.” Anyway, enjoy…