Songs to bring back live: Dylan prepares for Europe. Part 1.

Happy birthday to Bob Dylan as he prepares for a new tour soon in Europe

by mr tambourine

Happy birthday to Bob Dylan as he prepares for a new tour soon in Europe, which covers
Portugal, Spain, France and Italy.

For such a special occasion I want to contribute my thoughts and feelings on what could happen, not that I was ever right before!

So this article is not meant to be some big statement nor does it express my personal wishlist.  Not all of the songs mentioned on the list are my personal choices, nor am I trying to suggest all of these will be played. I will be lucky to get one right. But it’s not even about being right. I’m just doing this for fun mostly.

I’ve been analysing Bob’s ways of changing the set for many years, trying to come close to
the pattern he uses, still all for fun, and not to look like a geek or a smartass.  Hopefully, this can help with other fans’ enthusiasm for live shows. I would love if the fun I have can be shared with others.

I don’t think I’m even close to figuring out Bob nor is that the point of why I’m doing this.
I’m just trying to help spread good energy to as many Bob fans as possible.  Now let’s get to the list.

Obviously, we could go on and on what songs Bob could play, and there’s so many he could
bring back. But I’m gonna try the most logical guesses here based on Bob’s current style
live, his most recent tours and the arrangements of songs. Also, Bob’s particular interests in these times and the most current circumstances.

Here’s 23 possible setlist additions with context on why I think they could be added.

23. When First Unto This Country

This one may be a little bit of a long shot, but hear me out. The Rough and Rowdy Ways tour is beginning to more and more look like some of the early years of the Never-Ending Tour.  This particular song was done live by Bob only twice, in 1989 and 1991 once each. So why would Bob bring back a song he hasn’t played in more than 30 years?

Well, seems like the theme of some recent tours is to perform anything that has something
to do with the Grateful Dead. This one may not be directly linked with the Grateful Dead, but Jerry Garcia is, as he covered this song in 1993, which is now exactly 30 years since then.

It was also one of his last works I believe before his sudden death in 1995. Knowing how
respectful of not only the Grateful Dead, but of Jerry Garcia especially, Dylan is, this has to
be somehow in consideration, at least in Dylan’s subconscious mind. The only mystery
would be which arrangement Dylan would use for this one, as he doesn’t seem to rely on
heavily acoustic arrangements these days, but I’m not doubting that he could find a way to
make his current band perform this in a way most suitable for the overall sound of the group.

22. Heaven Help The Devil

With the recent death of Gordon Lightfoot, many Dylan fans start to wonder if Dylan was
gonna pay tribute to his longtime companion.

If he was going to choose a song that’s a little bit under the radar that he’s never performed
before, this one would be suitable. Especially if you consider that this is a man that in 2022
could perform both “Every Grain of Sand” and “Friend of the Devil”, a man that literally
contains multitudes.

This song seems like a suitable choice with all that put into consideration.  I know this one doesn’t fit with the title of this article, which is “songs to bring back live”, since this one wasn’t played live by Dylan, but it would sort of bring Lightfoot back to life at least temporary as a tribute to him.

The memory of him will continue with that tribute and it would bring back attention to him. And as long as he’s still remembered, he’s among us.

According to (which can sometimes be dead on, and sometimes unreliable),
Lightfoot performed this particular song only 5 times live, and not since 1982. It would be an odd choice, but sometimes odd and Dylan go hand in hand (might as well call
him Odd Dylan instead of Bob’s a joke of course).

Another reason why this may seem like a nice candidate is because Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead has a song with a similar name “Heaven Help The Fool”. Sometimes these tiny details can matter very much with Bob.

21. Ring Them Bells

This seems very unlikely in many ways, but when you bring some context into it, it doesn’t
seem so far-fetched.  One of the few Dylan covers that Lightfoot ever did was Ring Them Bells. Not only that, but Lightfoot has performed it many times live, over a hundred in fact. The very last being not so long ago in 2017.

Dylan himself has not performed this song live as much, nor so recently as Lightfoot did. He did it about 25 times live and the last time in 2005. That last performance was also in

Being in much better voice nowadays than back then, Dylan could do it justice if he wanted
to today. Not only that, but Bob has a history in recent years where he was bringing songs back into the set for the first time since 2005.

  • In 2013, for the first time since 2005, he played “Waiting For You”.
  • In 2017, for the first time since 2005, he played “Standing In The Doorway”.
  • In 2018, for the first time since 2005, he played “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry”.
  • In 2021, for the first time since 2005, he played “To Be Alone With You”.

Is this a pattern or is it pure coincidence? If it’s a pattern, what is it about 2005?

If that’s the pattern, that makes “Ring Them Bells” a great candidate.

The series continues….

NB: Musical examples in this series have been selected by Tony.

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