Bob Dylan has played 3,066 concerts since beginning the Never Ending Tour in 1988 and the only one to be officially released in its entirely is his underwhelming MTV Unplugged special in 1994. The vast majority of the remaining 3,065 shows were recorded by fans, and sorting through them can be an overwhelming task — even for expert Dylan fans.
That’s why we want to guide you to this stunning recording from a February 9th, 2002 show at Atlanta’s Philips Arena that’s circulated for years under the name Got a Line on You and hit YouTube a couple of days back. It was reportedly sourced to an Assisted Listening Device connected straight to the soundboard, which explains why the sound quality is absolutely perfect. Simply put, it sounds just about as good as any official live album.
The show also captured Dylan during a peak era of the Never Ending Tour. This was just five months after Love and Theft hit stores and the new songs infused the show with incredible energy and purpose. Charlie Sexton and Larry Campbell are two of the best guitarists he’s ever played with, and he gave them a lot of freedom to stretch out and even harmonize with him on the vocals. Dylan seemed like an old man at the time, but he was just 60.
The song selection is excellent, mixing the Love and Theft tunes with hits like “All Along the Watchtower” and “Like a Rolling Stone,” deeper cuts like “Drifter’s Escape” and “My Back Pages,” and traditional folk covers like “Searching for a Soldier’s Grave” and set opener “I Am the Man, Thomas.” And while his vocals are no match for the heights he reached back in 1966, 1975, or 1980, they’re crisp, clear, and haunting.
This was the final year of the Sexton/Campbell era of the Never Ending Tour. And although Sexton returned to the band in 2009 after a seven-year absence, they’ve never managed to recreate the magic of this period, despite some incredible shows in 2018 and 2019. When the Bootleg Series finally gets around to the Never Ending Tour, they really should consider releasing a 2002 gig. It’ll probably be years before that happens, so enjoy this Atlanta show in the meantime.