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The Never-Ending Tour turns 25

June 27, 2013

Bill Wyman (no, not that Bill Wyman) points out that Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour has turned 25. I can’t think of any other well known artist who tours as obsessively as Bob.

Since 1988, Mr. Dylan has played more shows than Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones and U2—each of them a marathon touring act—combined.

I stopped counting how many times I’ve seen Dylan over the last 15 years or so but I’m sure I reached 30 shows some time ago. Seeing Bob perform live so many times has been a formative part of my life. I’ve seen him as far away as Memphis and as close as walking distance from my apartment. I’ve seen shows that were transcendent and I’ve seen him phone it in (fortunately I’ve seen many more of the former than the latter). But I can say that what has always struck me about seeing Bob Dylan and His Band out there, night after night, is the sheer joy of performing.

Bob clearly delights in surprising his audience and confounding expectations. After 25 years of creating set lists on the fly, digging into rarities and obscure covers, I’m constantly surprised that there are folks who go expecting to hear a Greatest Hits set. Some of those audience members will never appreciate the radical re-arrangements and the loose, raucous interplay between band members (notably between Bob and Charlie Sexton, who has occupied center stage the last few times I saw them play). I think what impresses me the most is how Bob has learned to accept that. Instead of second guessing himself, he seems to constantly rededicate himself to putting on the best show he can on his own terms.

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