Bob Dylan at Americanarama: The Never Ending Tour Lives On

18 Jul
Bob Dylan Americanarama 7-12-13 at Toyota Park2

The man himself.
Photo taken by Joshua Mellin

“Tell Bob…I’ve given him a lot of money over the years,” my dad said, wishing me well just hours before my first Dylan concert. Last Friday, I followed in my dad’s footsteps, dropping a good chunk of change to see a legend in the flesh. Fresh off my intensive Dylan research, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Would he be hiding behind a hat and wig? Would he mumblingly phone it in? Will all his songs be unrecognizable to me?

The answer to all these questions, delightfully, was no. My Morning Jacket and Wilco, who joined Dylan for this summer’s Americanarama Tour, set the bar pretty high, but Dylan and his band soared right over it with their tightly rehearsed, jazz- and rockabilly-infused set, which went as follows:

Bob Dylan Setlist July 12, 2013 at Toyota Park in Chicago, Americanarama Tour

  1. Things Have Changed
  2. Love Sick
  3. High Water (For Charley Patton)
  4. Soon After Midnight
  5. Early Roman Kings
  6. Tangled Up In Blue
  7. Duquesne Whistle
  8. She Belongs To Me
  9. Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
  10. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
  11. Blind Willie McTell
  12. Simple Twist Of Fate
  13. Thunder On The Mountain
  14. All Along The Watchtower
  15. ENCORE: Ballad Of A Thin Man

No, the classics weren’t true to their iconic album incarnations—but I was prepared for that. I was quite surprised, actually, at how much I appreciated Dylan’s rebirths of tunes like “Tangled Up in Blue” and “She Belongs to Me.” Some of the songs carried a definite jazz swing, while others exuded a Spanish tango vibe. What struck me is how he had carefully reinvented each tune, updating it not for the present time but for a time before Dylan had even darkened a doorway in Greenwich Village. It was all ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, the time travel made all the more visceral by the soft glow of street-lamp-style lighting and actual firelight that lit the stage. In retrospect, none of this should have surprised me either—David Dalton delved deeply into Dylan’s spiritual channeling of the past in Who is that Man?

Bob Dylan Americanarama 7-12-13 at Toyota Park

Photo by Joshua Mellin

I don’t believe Dylan ever picked up a guitar, but he was often behind the keyboard, and his protracted harmonica wailings were just as enthralling as they were in the 1960s. The voice wasn’t too shabby either—when singing “Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’,” he would truncate the last word so as to give the effect of an actual whistle, but one dripping in honey (don’t take my word for it).

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have worried at all. Dylan took up the pilgrimage of the so-called Never Ending Tour when I was still very much in diapers. After almost 25 years on the road, how could I have expected anything less than a well-oiled production? I’d heard he’d been sticking to roughly the same setlists from show to show, which I can fully appreciate—what 72-year old doesn’t appreciate a good routine? But it did get me to thinking, what would my dream Dylan setlist be?

Just for kicks, I decided to throw one together. I tried to imagine how I’d hear each song not as I remembered it from 30- and 40-year-old recordings, but how today’s Bob would reinvent it. Nonetheless, my set turned out to be pretty classics-heavy—but you can’t blame me, can you? A girl can dream. Here it is:

Emily’s Ultimate Bob Dylan Fantasy Setlist

  1. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
  2. Subterranean Homesick Blues
  3. One Too Many Mornings
  4. Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright
  5. Visions of Johanna
  6. Like a Rolling Stone
  7. Mr. Tambourine Man
  8. Boots of Spanish Leather
  9. Simple Twist Of Fate
  10. The Man in Me
  11. Most of the Time
  12. Not Dark Yet
  13. Gotta Serve Somebody
  14. Blowin’ in the Wind
  15. ENCORE: Talkin’ WWIII Blues

I have to admit, the last one is a total delusion. According to Dylan’s meticulous concert database, he hasn’t performed “Talkin’ WWIII Blues” since 1965. But really, how different is the tongue-in-cheek post-nuclear dream Dylan presents there from the solemn, but no-less-gruesome “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall?” I admit it was a little jarring to hear the more upbeat, casual version of “Hard Rain” Dylan does now—like nuclear whatnow? whatever. Arguably, the sentiments of WWIII Blues are more relatable today than “Hard Rain.” “Now it seems / Everybody’s having them dreams / Everybody sees themselves / Walkin’ around with no one else.” Oh, what I wouldn’t give to hear Dylan stand on stage and croon, in a foggy voice, “I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.”

If you’d like, check out the Spotify version of my fantasy Dylan setlist. I went with live versions as much as possible for a more authentic vibe (/nerding out). And tell me, what songs would you put on your fantasy Dylan setlist?

Also, it seems that Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James joined Dylan onstage at the July 15 Toronto show for an old cover tune. I’m beyond jealous!


4 Responses to “Bob Dylan at Americanarama: The Never Ending Tour Lives On”

  1. Daddyo July 19, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    Is Jim James late of the band Calexico? Great review! I’m gonna take some time analyzing that set list&will comment later. Keep it up!

  2. alexanderquin August 16, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    You somehow created MY dream setlist as well. You are a TRUE Dylan fan. Very nice article and a super awesome “fantasy” set list. For me though, the final song on there would have to be “Baby Let Me Follow You Down” BUT I’d want it to be done by just the man himself coming out for an encore, pulling out an acoustic, and playing that song that was on his first ever album alone like he used to. It would be a beautiful way to bring things full circle.

    Funny thing is, he came to New Braunfels, Tx in 2011 when I saw him. Then he actually came out without his full band for a second encore. He had his own guitar and just the bassist and another guitarist. It was ALMOST acoustic. Best day of my life. People screamed.

    • emkaydoubleyou August 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

      Glad a fellow fan agrees with my setlist! “Let Me Follow You Down” would be a great encore, too. You’re so lucky that you got to see him nearly acoustic! I guess he isn’t playing guitar much, if at all any more. I’m so glad I got the chance to see him, though! Thanks so much for reading. Take care!


  1. All Things Dylan | Nature, Art, and Literature Musings - August 27, 2013

    […] Bob Dylan at Americanarama: The Never Ending Tour Lives On ( […]

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