Never enough Bob. There I was last Friday night, snooping around Expecting Rain, the premier Bob Dylan website, checking out the live setlist from Buffalo NY for opening night of the 2013 edition of the Neverending Tour, where the fanatics post up for the rest of us too busy to be at every show, live, play by play, song by song, reportage. What he's wearing. What part of the stage Bob's standing at for each song. When he's playing harmonica. When he's playing guitar? Plus the occasional Instagram nugget for illustration. But most importanly, you can find out in the moment, what songs Bob is adding and subtracting each night. It's taken for granted that no two nights are ever alike - Dylan's known for changing songs up mid show, calling an audible on his own band at a moment's notice. Bob fanatics like myself live for the obscure add-in's. Meanwhile over at DylanPool - on the theNeverendingPool website, the faithful are betting on upcoming setlists, getting odds each night on the outside chance he'll add a rarely played song worth more points in the nightly competition. It's online scrabble for Dylan-onics.
Now I don't plan to give a full rundown of the show I saw. In fact as it turned out, I saw virtually the same setlist in Kingston, as was played in Buffalo. Inscrutably Dylan has played nearly the same set list for the last five nights running - confounding the faithful. But it's such a great setlist that nobody's complaining - that's for sure.
You can listen to the whole Amherst show here for yourself: Amherst full show audio
"straightforward through four verses AAA BBBB CC - with dramatic crescendo in the last verse, AAA BBBBBBB CC (all of those B's give the last pair of C's s special resonance."
So I've been listening to varying versions of that song all week. In fact, every time I see a live version of Johanna, the key for me is how much attention Dylan pays to that spectacular last verse. I get anxiety sometimes during the last instrumental break prior, waiting to see if he's gonna bring it on home. Sometimes he lets it slide, sometimes he's right on top of it. In Kingston, he was absolutely on it - from the "peddler" and the "countess", to Louise, straight through the "skeleton keys in the rain". There's a reason this key song was right in the middle of this set list - in a version recognizable to all (unlike most of the other songs). Outside after the show a young student fan remarked to me - "wasn't that a great Visions of Johanna?"
In fact the whole show had a well constructed arc, from the openers center stage, thru the middle ground on the piano, with a stop upfront center for "Blind Willie Mc Tell", landing at the finish line for "Scarlet Town", "Watchtower, and "Thin Man". My favorite moment: Dylan leaning on his elbow over his piano, head in hand - not playing, but watching and encouraging Duke Robillard as he played away during the break in "Thunder on the Mountain".
Watchtower, Kingston RI
Someone posted a clip of the spectacular "Watchtower" from Kingston, where you can hear Dylan adding what I thought at the time was a "oooweee" at the end of the second verse ("the hour is getting late"), and a "ooooo" in the third verse ("the wind began to howl").
You can bet I'll be watching the setlist tonight.