Dylan’s next tour will be legendary (part 1)

by mr tambourine

Bob Dylan hasn’t stepped on European ground for more than three years, which will be his first time here since the world has changed drastically.

His touring so far that was limited only to the States hasn’t brought much diversity, as Bob got into a comfort zone and hasn’t gone out of it much. Which has nothing to do with what might happen in Europe this fall.

Keep in mind this is the first fall tour in Europe since 2015 as well, which is also a big deal, since that was seven years ago.

Europe used to bring out the most surprising faces of Bob that he could offer to the lucky audience in attendance, and it’s become a very common thing. Especially those surprising faces of his were brought out on European tours in the fall. Why exactly? I haven’t researched deeply enough to understand that and I never will probably. But this much I am sure, that there is always some reason.

Especially certain locations of this tour that Bob will be playing are special to Bob in one way or another. It has happened too many times by now for it to be an accident.

As for what I meant with my diversity comment earlier in the text, that relates to the fact that the variety of songs so far on the Rough And Rowdy Ways tour was really limited. At least when we compare it to some previous Never-Ending Tour years. Since 2013, the variety of songs played by year has dropped significantly. How much exactly? We’ll get into that a little bit later.

But let’s first mention that there has been much more variety than people realize. Multiple songs in the setlist have gone through arrangement changes and tweaks, with Key West leading the charge in that regard, having gone through more than five arrangement changes already. Not to mention how many in-concert rehearsals there were in front of a paying audience where you could see the band working on the song on the spot and perfecting it.

One thing that nobody has ever said about Bob’s previous years, where the setlist was changing all the time, there was a reason how and why Bob could pull it off so easily way back.

You were getting a lot of unrehearsed performances even back then, where the band was perfecting the song in front of a paying audience. The only difference was that Bob had more songs on the list that he was ready to attack. He also gave a certain number of songs a very similar melody and arrangement, so that the band wouldn’t just keep learning new melodies and arrangements all the time, which made it easier to work. And this has been the case since Dylan was way younger.

So, I don’t think things have changed much, it’s just that Bob for years now has a particular setlist that he wants to keep working on, until he feels he’s reached a peak with it or is dissatisfied with it and needs to change it eventually.

Tony Attwood, I believe, has written many great articles that I used to read constantly back in the day about how does Dylan choose which songs to play and which songs not to play. He also tried to understand why he never played certain songs at all in his career so far.

Since reading those articles, my research for setlists has become a pleasurable experience of personal education and analysis, where I feel comfort and joy.

How do I, as a researcher of setlist, dare to make any guesses before certain tours?

I don’t like to make guesses, but I sometimes do them anyway, since I can’t understand why more Dylan fans aren’t making them.

And when you make guesses, you need to put your personal feelings towards certain songs of Bob and be realistic.

I’m not here to make many guesses, but I’m here as a researcher, not a fan, to tell you that all the odds suggest that the setlist will most certainly be different compared to so far. How different? That’s hard to say.

But new songs, that weren’t played on the Rough And Rowdy Ways tour so far, are almost certainly going to be added to the list of played songs. Which ones will those be? That’s also hard to say.

We can start doing the “most likely” songs with the “most likely” odds, but we could be here all day probably with that argument, an argument I’ve been trying to make for so long that I don’t think the majority of people can comprehend completely.

Nonetheless, we can look at past examples, if anything.

And this is not a wasted look at the past, where I’m trying to suggest something opposite of what Dylan’s nature truly is, which is the fact that Dylan is an in-the-moment person, which I’m quite aware of.

I’m just trying to show you a history of repetition. Don’t you think that if something repeats itself, doesn’t suggest it’s accidental? Right?

Well, here it is and here I’m specifically looking at four locations: Oslo, Stockholm, Gothenburg and London, among others.

The most recent example of Oslo had Dylan bringing out a still-to-this-day rare and special performance of Boots Of Spanish Leather in 2019, which back then hadn’t been played since 2013, meaning 6 years.

Oslo was also a kick-off show for the 2015 fall tour, Dylan’s last fall tour in Europe so far, as already mentioned. What did Dylan do that night? He played half of the setlist with songs from the great American songbook, for the first time ever he played that many songbook covers in his show, including ones that weren’t even released on any of his studio albums yet, like Melancholy Mood, which was released a few months later in 2016 on the Fallen Angels album. This multiple standards in the setlist approach lasted for quite a few years and has frustrated many of his fans.

Long And Wasted Years, by the way, was debuted in Oslo in 2013.

To be continued…



  1. mr tambourine,

    I appreciate your article. Thank you for sharing your research and knowledge of Bob’s tours such as: songs played in relation to studio releases, location, frequencies, rehearsals, arrangements, debuts, anomalies and more. This type of research is a valuable resource for insights into Dylan’s methods, song selection, etc. I don’t know how you have kept track of so much data but it’s great you have.
    It is even better that we can access such things here on Untold Dylan Website. I concur, that Tony Attwood has provided a foundation for greater enjoyment of Bob Dylan over many years. It is doubly good, when shared knowledge is combined by experts such as Tony and yourself. I know both of you would hesitate being dubbed experts, but you most certainly are in your areas of study.

    Sometimes questions are the best inspiration for us to delve deeper into our Dylan experience. They make us pay closer attention and also look from other perspectives.

    Yes Bob Dylan most definitely lives in the moment, however I think his awareness and impressive experience base allows him to make astute decisions on the spot. You cannot manufacture experience it must be lived and processed. Bob is a master and can render life experiences, observations, and thought into such wonderful artistic expression.

    Thank you


  2. Those of us who attended Bob’s most recent tour in the States saw how he characteristically reinvents himself in song selection, arrangements, backing band, and most recently, stage prescence. His center-stage emergences from the piano to acknowledge the crowd after each song are something new and are yet one of the many traits that make Dylan so unique and the experience of his live performances so special. Enjoy his visit to your corner of the world and cherish every moment.

  3. We can all stretch things too far {not me of course (lol)}, and fall overboard and be gulped down by a whale, but Dylan’s many songs are analogical to Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Expressionism, Impressionism, yes …..

    But, according to Tony, to Abstract art, that’s going a bit too far.

    Also, sound is very important – note the smoothness in “Patty Gone to Laredo” with all the o- vowel sounds, but ’tis a work of art in progress, the lyrics of which do not get refined into pure gold where a listener can find more of a unity in so far as a theme or meaning goes.

    But then again some listeners say that doesn’t really matter.

    And subjectivity, for sure, is a shadow that is difficult to box with.

  4. Suze Rotolo died in 2011: in the video above, she’s holding her book
    “Freewheeling Time.”

  5. We went to see Dylan last spring and I have to say, it was the all time WORSE concert I have ever attended. The man needs to retire. He REALLY REALLY SUCKS!!!

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