Bob Dylan Live Performances That Never Happened (But could have done) Vol. 1

By mr tambourine

As this is the first volume of this new series I just started, I will give you a small amount of detail as context to explain what this really is.

This is not a series that will just cover songs that were never played live. That would, in my opinion, be too easy to write and it might be sort of predictable and would leave too much room for discussion.

That’s why I decided to make this series as complicated as possible! So, not only songs that have not been played live up to this point will be included, but also songs that weren’t played in certain years at all (maybe even certain venues or on certain dates).

Also, the challenge is not to mention one song multiple times in one article.

These kind of articles should be my comfort zone as I can use as much creativity and imagination as I possibly can.   So, as this is volume 1, I will start off with some easy choices, picking the most random 10 performances I can imagine. And, as this series progresses, I hope to raise the bar each time as high as I can, hopefully to keep your interest.

So here we go:

1: Born In Time in 2005

Born in time had been played only once since the year 2000, and that was in 2003.

If I had to pick a year post 2003, that would certainly be 2005 for this song. Many, if not all of the love songs in Bob’s catalogue which were played in 2005 sounded heavenly, so I have no doubt that this one would have sounded perfect as well. Whether if it was a tender arrangement with violin or some upbeat arrangement as with Love Minus Zero that year –  it doesn’t matter. I’m sure it would have been one of the better performances of the song.

2: World Gone Wrong 1996 opener

Interestingly, World Gone Wrong (the opener of the self titled album from 1993) was never played live. Which surprises me since I think it’s one of the better songs Bob covered in 1992/93. But, if I had to pick the best year for Bob to play it, it would be a 1996 opener of shows. In this period, an upbeat Crash On The Levee was the opener every single night I think, but if World Gone Wrong replaced it a few nights, it wouldn’t have hurt. At least in my eyes.

3: Trail Of The Buffalo 1999 (acoustic with band)

This famous Bob cover from the Never Ending Tour era was buried in 1992.

It would probably sound good in any year of the 90s, but there’s no better year for this one than 1999 when Bob’s vocals were amazing, especially for old traditional ballads full of storytelling, like this one.

4:  Queen Jane Approximately 2014

2014 is surely an underrated year in many ways. Bob’s vocals showed a massive improvement compared to 2012 for example, which was just two years before. In 2014, the setlists did not change too much, but occasionally, mostly in some European cities, Bob would completely change the set and add a collection of different songs.

One of those songs were amazing performances of Girl From The North Country, Shelter From The Storm and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. All played less than 10 times that year. I’m pretty sure that Queen Jane, last played in Rome 2013, would have been another fine setlist addition. Especially if it was played in Stavern or Gothenburg. In Norway and Sweden Bob always seems extra inspired, so I have no doubt if Queen Jane was temporarily taken off the shelf that it would be so fitting for the occasion.

5: It’s All Over Now Baby Blue 2006

Believe it or not, this song wasn’t played in 2006 at all. I would love to hear this one with the circus organ of 2006 or as some people say ice hockey organ. It would be a thrill for me.

6: Can’t Wait 2015

Can’t Wait wasn’t played at all in 2015, but I think it would’ve been amazing that year. Bob was in his standards phase, but was also giving some great jazz pop arrangements to Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ and Pay In Blood. If those two songs sounded amazing, I’m sure Can’t Wait would’ve sounded great as well.

7: Sara 1978

Wouldn’t this be a legendary performance!  1978 is known as the alimony tour. And whose fault was that? Well, Sara’s I guess. Wouldn’t that be something? Bob doing this song in ’78 with his massive band. Sounds incredible to me.

8:Yea! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread 1976

I been thinking… the arrangement of I Pity The Poor Immigrant from ’76 could’ve been the arrangement to this song too. It took Bob a while to start playing Basement Tapes songs live, but what if this was the first one he put for this second go-round of the Rolling Thunder?

Bob only played this song in 2002 (once) and 2003 (also once).

9: True Love Tends To Forget 1981

I think we should expect more Street Legal performances in these series since not only is it one of my favorite albums, and an album that is criminally underrated, but also it has not been played much after 1978, the year of its creation. This song of course got buried live in 1978. But, since this is my imaginary world, Dylan here plays it in ’81. His voice was still clear here and sounded young to some degree (even though he was 40 at the time) and he seemed passionate that year for love songs. Well, this would certainly fit that era without a doubt.

10: Tweeter And The Monkey Man 2002

This to me, is my absolute favorite imagination of this volume 1. It’s incredible how well this one would fit.

2002 was a crazy year, with many crazy covers and crazy setlists. The acoustic songs and the guitar solos in this period were especially good. This Dylan standout song from the Wilburys period would shine in this kind of year. In 2002, it seemed like the band played louder than any other year (or the recordings are simply that great).

It also seemed that the band could play any song. Covers of Brown Sugar of the Rolling Stones and Neil Young’s Old Man, it was simply a treat for the ears in many ways. The band harmonies were also great that year, Charlie and Larry with their perfect timing and delivery. I have no doubt, this cover would have been amazing. Guitar solos, harmonies… you name it. I think it would even be better than the studio version.

End of vol. 1



  1. Mr. Tambourine, thank you for your post, very pleasing to meet you here. I am sorry I am even more behind with my reaction than I used to be on your channel 🙂 That distance probably because I miss your channel, so I do not want to admit myself, that he not exist. And all about. I will hope channel wasn´t destroyed totaly.
    I will look forward to the continuation or something new. Please protect your health at this time.

  2. mr. tambourine,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article and your song choices that might have been. I honestly did not know where you would be going with this article as it’t title lead me to believe it would be mostly speculative. I now know that I was completely wrong about that.

    You more than substantiate your ideas by fleshing out a deep knowledge of Dylan’s live performances and rounding it out more by offering dates and statistics. I do not purport to have much knowledge in your area of expertise but that does not mean it is lost to me. I think I will try to pay more attention to these details as I continue listening to many more live recordings and revisiting ones I have heard. I can not seem to get enough of Bob Dylan he is always present for me! I love his diverse deliveries, variety of phrasing, emphasis, and inflection!

    You also offer satisfying ideas of why specific songs would sound good in certain years and with distinct arrangements. Your article is very creative and also invites the reader to imagine not only the things you describe but think of some themselves. For instance, I am more discriminating when it comes to arrangements and band members. For instance I can barely stand the arrangement of “Blowing in the Wind” that has been used for some time now. You, would know when that started and probably where too! Okay the reason I do not like it is that I find it to be a wailing harmony which just is too affected for me. To me it doesn’t even sound good! Bob’s earlier arrangement of BITW has opportunity for more melodic harmonies that are far more pleasing. There is also more room for variances in tone and mood. So yeah if I can imagine, I would like to imagine a new and more liberated arrangement of that iconic song! It need not return to strictly acoustic but just lose that wretched and predictable harmony! I also would welcome some fresh arrangement of All along the Watchtower and I actually do love the Hendrix influenced one. I just think it could be shined up a bit. There are perhaps two or three more but I can’t think of them just now as I have been going steady for 19 hrs today with only 4 hours of sleep! 🙂

    Finally, I want to say that the way you formatted this article made it easy for me to keep track of what you were saying.

    Thank you!

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