Three Outlaw Tour Bob shows completed so far – how do they look and what awaits?”


By mr tambourine

Videos selected by Tony Attwood

In this article, I will try to analyze what we have just witnessed and what might await us going forward.

The first three shows have made us go through all kinds of emotions.

The first show in Alpharetta, Georgia had a 100% different setlist compared to the previous show in Austin, April 6 this year, which is the first time since God knows when that has happened. May go as far as 1987.

That being said, nothing really unusual happened. Well… At least not unusual for the 2013-2024 period so far.

Apart from live debuts of several covers, such as My Babe, Little Queenie, Cold, Cold Heart, Mr. Blue, the rest of the set consisted of 2013-2019 staples, a polite word for “overplayed tunes” in such a time period. Well, apart from Under The Red Sky, which was a real, true surprise. First performance since 2013, and only its third performance since 2010. That is a real surprise in my book, based on my detailed research of setlists over the years.

Covers, as much as they vary over time, are not a big surprise in the 2021-2024 time frame so far. Especially starting in 2023, and after Bob has written the book “Philosophy of Modern Song”.

Bob has done plenty of covers over his live career, and most of them, he has really done well. But not all of them hold the same mystique or aura. Few of them really stand out in the grand scheme of things, when it’s all said and done. Many of them become forgotten over time. Which is no big surprise in an ever-changing landscape of Dylan’s interests. At this stage, Bob bringing back original songs into the set is a bigger surprise and a bigger deal these days.

And most of them that he brought, at least on the first night in Alpharetta, still left a lot to be desired.

Dylan has been known as a person never to look back. And while that may be true, even in this stage, on this first night in Alpharetta, he sure looked back more than necessary, in my opinion. Apart from Under The Red Sky, which again was a clear surprise and a hint of something new, as well as so many debuts of covers and their laidback approach – revisiting so many staples of a period that should’ve been far behind him by now, is to me a very unlike Bob move. A little bit frustrating even.

While some of those songs sure are great, favoring them over so many others in his rich catalogue is a travesty of this entire period, that began in 2013. This period, while often praised by many, me included, several times, sure leaves a whole lot more to be desired. And that to me is its biggest flaw, by far.

I’m not saying Bob should play “his greatest hits” only, night in and night out.

But for someone, with such a deep catalogue, where many of his mid and “bad” songs make a lot of songwriters and performers (even legendary ones) jealous, there are so many more possibilities to showcase his brilliance. Dylan may have changed many sets since 2013, but most of those he stuck with for longer periods of time, too long sometimes even. Which is why certain songs, like the ones played in Alpharetta, give the impression of being overplayed songs.

While some of those songs may have been overplayed over the years, some of them did feel a bit fresh.

“Beyond Here Lies Nothin” for example had a minimalistic start, somewhat reminiscent of Black Rider, before the more recognizable melody was used when the band took swing.

“Things Have Changed” was given the “My Own Version of You” arrangement of 2023, which did give the song one of its most radical, if not the most radical change to date.

So, there is some good behind it all.

Also, “Long and Wasted Years” hasn’t felt more loose and stripped down in a long time, kind of an even intimate performance in a way.

Charlotte however, the second night of the tour, was almost totally different. With only five songs repeated from previous night.   Again, not as many surprises as one would have you believe, still many staples of the 2013-2019 period.

The biggest surprise was “Shooting Star” of course. More covers like “Stella Blue” (played before) and “Six Days On The Road” (never played before) were the continuation of Dylan’s covers fascination.

The impression was better by far, but still with a lot left to be desired.

We felt that the Never-ending tour was back in its true form again, with everchanging setlists, for a moment.   But we were so wrong.

The very next night, in the very same state of North Carolina, in Raleigh, Bob played the exact same set.

The only positives?

Well, playing “Shooting Star” and “Under The Red Sky” still. They are songs that haven’t been setlist regulars in a very long time, if ever. Although, their reputation may change if he keeps playing them constantly. They might eventually get in danger of being overplayed too if he keeps it up.

And whatever is happening currently with “Things Have Changed”, it is still at a stage where it’s at least intriguing.

The first two shows felt like a live rehearsal to me. Anything felt possible. That’s the feeling many of us want at a Dylan show.

I also do not understand the complete omission of Rough and Rowdy Ways songs. Alright, sure, Bob wanted to show that the Outlaw tour is not part of the Rough and Rowdy Ways tour. We get that by now. It was clear in Alpharetta.

Hearing all kinds of praise from Dylan fans being happy that Tempest material is back, and celebrating the omission of Rough And Rowdy Ways material was a tragic sight to behold.  What did that wonderful album do to people to deserve such disrespecting opinions?

I see no harm in Bob playing one Rough and Rowdy Ways song here and there, on each show.  That and Shadow Kingdom are his most recent releases. Isn’t it normal to expect those to be a part of this too?

The next show in Virginia Beach is 3 days after the Raleigh show. Enough time to add more songs in the mix. If Bob sticks to the same set completely, or mostly, even after that, I won’t be interested any longer.

I have followed setlists in detail since 2016, basically all of them, and I also researched earlier ones. For the first time, I might quit of following every single show setlist-wise, before listening to them.

Because Bob to me proved it’s very possible to change the set more often. I see no reason why that wouldn’t become the pattern.

He’s had very effective patterns in the 2000s, especially in years like 2009, where surprises were possible.

I understand Bob can do what he wants – that has never been my issue. But what he has to know is that nobody but him is interested in these setlists that get repeated over and over. Setlists with staples that never seem to completely go away.

At least with an overplayed song like “Like a Rolling Stone” he lets you miss it for a long time when he doesn’t play it for so long before he brings it back. And the last time he brought it back and played it in his set all the time, it was a success.

Songs like “Love Sick” and “Things Have Changed” and most of all – “Early Roman Kings” – do not really do anything for anybody anymore. Even “Thin Man” is somewhere out there.

Also, why not for once mix Rough and Rowdy Ways songs with other songs from Time Out Of Mind, Love And Theft, Modern Times, Together Through Life and Tempest? I bet they would gain more respect than they have now, because they would show some life compared to some of these overplayed staples.

I’m not saying the RARW set wasn’t overplayed in the 2021-2024 – of course it was. But the RARW songs were not the major issue there, they held pretty well, most of them, through many periods. The issue was more the rest of the set.

Which is why I also think we don’t need too much of “Baby Tonight” in this set now, even though that’s one of the better staples of the 2021-2024 set.

We, as fans, deserve better.  We stuck with Bob as he stuck with his many repeated sets. We endured 11 years of this.   Playing with us, like he did this time, is not what we deserved.

Returning to that repetition once again, and with this set… It will be torture of sorts, and probably not a pleasant one.

I loved the live rehearsal feel of the band, the spontaneous spirit. I don’t want that to disappear because of staples again.

We for once got off on the right foot. Why stop there?

There is no reason for some songs to be sitting on the shelf for so long. With such a catalogue, to stick to only a handful of songs over and over is a tremendous waste.

Despite Bob being 83 at this point, his voice in 2024 is one of his best ever, dare I say. His band is diverse enough to play whatever he wants, especially to make it sound spontaneous, fresh and new.

With his catalogue, and with his knowledge of music, music history, which he proved time and time again, with Theme Time Radio Hour and Philosophy of Modern Song, and with his understanding of arrangements and how much he can re-structure the songs…

We are being robbed of an even better show night in and night out, I’m sure of that. It’s proven time and time again that mixing up the set every once in a while builds excitement. I see no harm in changing one or two songs every night if more is too much.

Every once in a while, I do remember that the priority should be Bob’s health. I am very much thankful he is still touring. I will still listen to his concerts no matter what.

But I just hope that Bob understands that, most of us, me included, were drawn to him in the first place because of his unpredictability. We had it back for a moment and it was obvious how happy we all were. Until he took it away again… For a moment at least.

I hope he reconsiders.

The 18-part review of the Rough and Rowdy Way Tour with videos selected by mr tambourine is available on this site.  Links to all the episodes can be found at the end of the final instalment here.


  1. Thank you for letting us into your thoughts, it’s always interesting. I think Bob Dylan and his reduced Band ( Donnie was a melting point and he’s missing. The Band must try it a little bit rougher, because everyone of them is a little bit allone now.
    So they begin with a lot of overplayed songs to find a new Status quo.
    It will be going better and better from show to show. And I ‘am surprised every day to see what have done.
    I wish a good time and hope you write something more..

  2. One constant in Bob Dylan’s career is his unwavering ability to whip his most devoted fans into a hissy-fit. The songs are wrong, the arrangements are wrong, the band is wrong, his singing is wrong, and on and on. So, congratulations, you’ve embedded yourself in a long-standing, even venerable in a way, tradition.

    The only realm I can think of where fans get as angry at the focus of their fandom as Bob Dylan fans do, is baseball.

    I suspect it’s a sign of how much people care. Or, maybe it’s just a weakness in human nature: it’s hard for people of certain temperaments to sustain unwavering appreciation.

    Meanwhile, 83-year-old Bob Dylan is still out there, still on the road, still playing his hear out as best he can. Why? He doesn’t need the money. I doubt he gets much joy from spending so many hours on a bus anymore. Maybe even he doesn’t know. The songs are there demanding to be sung? The world is there, needing to hear them? Who knows. Does it matter?

    I appreciate your review for its genuine, evident passion. Bob Dylan may insist he’s just a song-and-dance-man, but his fan have always demanded more from him than mere entertainment, and I think that’s good. They want history to be made, consciousness-raised, the world saved. God bless them all.

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