Friday, June 28, 2013

Never Ending Tour Update: Some Things Haven't Changed

The countdown has begun. We're ten days away from Bob Dylan's return to Bayfront Park in his home town of Duluth, city on a hillside, where he was born and lived the first six years of his life. Does he remember the beach on Park Point, the Aerial Lift Bridge or the North Shore? Maybe not from that time, but growing up in Hibbing he was close enough to cruise down here when he got his driver's license. Saw Buddy Holly in the Armory here, among other things.

John Bushey, host of Highway 61 Revisited, the KUMD radio hour devoted to Dylan music these past many years on Saturday evenings, has been playing a clip from that concert. In 1999 Dylan rolled into town with Paul Simon. Despite the size of Simon's team, it was Dylan who rocked that night. The sound byte Bushey has been playing is of Dylan making two references to our city. The first is a sentimental one about how he remembers walking on the hills of Duluth. The second is more comical. He said he used to date a girl from Duluth way back when. He said she was so selfish "I used to call her Mimi." (me-me)

So we're ten days away from another leg of the Never Ending Tour rolling in and the big buzz is already on. What songs will be on his set list that night?

When I wrote about The Dylan Pool Wednesday, I made some predictions based on a scientific analysis of the previous several months, noting that night after breathless night nothing had changed as regards the band's play list. After a seven week layoff, the Americanarama tour has now launched, beginning in West Palm Beach. And guess what? A new playlist. What's more, the Tampa show at the Florida State Fairgrounds the next evening had some additional variety, with four different songs from the previous evening at the Cruzan Amphitheater.

One thing that hasn't changed is Dylan's opener: Things Have Changed, which he has now sung over five hundred times in concert.

Something else that hasn't changed is that Bill Pagel is still collecting and organizing all Bob's playlists, making them available online at For example, want to know what songs Dylan played at that July 3 concert with Paul Simon in Bayfront? What about his incredible 17 song set at the DECC in October the year before?

As Lee Marshall and many others have noted, it's not what Dylan says but how he says it that has elevated him to cloud-walker and maintained his superstar status. Fifty years ago he predicted correctly that the times are changing. Is his selection of Things Have Changed as an opener his way of reminding us that he called it right? Or is he talking to the fans who got on the Slow Train with him back in his Gospel era? Is he baring his soul or is he being and jokerman?

People are crazy and times are strange
I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range
I used to care, but things have changed.

And finally, one other thing that hasn't changed: Dylan's ambiguity. Why he chooses this song and not that one for tomorrow's next stop is not going to be explained. Even if he did explain it my guess is it would be in a manner that makes you wonder if he means something different. Or maybe he really is being straight, but we simply won't believe it.

So... the countdown continues.

In the meantime, get your most up-to-the-minute Dylan news and information at Today's offering includes Patrick S. Pemberton's The tunes they are a-changin' and so are the play lists once again.

Featured eBook of the Day,  The Breaking Point and Other Stories available for Free Friday Download. 

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