Bob Dylan at the Tivoli: Don’t expect to hear “Hurricane”

Authored By seanphippster

Bob Dylan is coming back to Chattanooga as a part of his Never Ending Tour.

He will play the same songs and set list he’s played at each venue throughout his tour, and you should still go. Many will complain that his voice is unintelligible (they are wrong) and compare his tone to that of a werewolf, but you should still go. Why? Because it’s Bob Dylan is why.

As a huge Dylan fan, the news that one of the most influential artists of a generation-and one of my personal heroes-will be performing at, of all places, the Tivoli Theatre, in my own backyard, is exciting.

You were excited too, huh? A ton of people shared the original announcement and responded with exclamations like “We HAVE to go!” and “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time!” The Tivoli is the perfect intimate venue to witness an artist who, at 75, has influenced and altered so many of us with his music.

But I started having conversations with others who were thinking about buying tickets. “I can’t wait to hear ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Mr. Tambourine Man,'” a friend told me. “I wonder if he’ll take requests?”

Spoiler alert: He will not. Please don’t shout “Hurricane” from your seat. He hasn’t played that song-about a disgraced boxer-since 1976. And you should probably check all other expectations at the door, too. 

What to expect
I explained to my friend that Dylan does not “take requests” and that, like it or not, a majority of the performance will be culled from Dylan’s 2012 album “Tempest” and his 2016 album “Fallen Angels,” featuring covers of standards such as “Skylark” and “Melancholy Mood,” made famous by Frank Sinatra. 

A smattering of “hits” are expected in the set with songs like “Things Have Changed,” “She Belongs to Me,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Love Sick.” But the focus on newer material has been the primary makeup of his concerts since the 2012 release and subsequent 2013 tour.

A standard current set list can be viewed here. It hasn’t changed in a long time. 

Dylan will perform until he is physically unable, and the man is not growing any younger. More importantly, each concert is historical because of Dylan’s worldview.

He told reporter Ed Bradley in this “60 minutes” interview that he is “fulfilling his destiny” from a “bargain” he made long ago. To be a part of that journey, if only for an evening, is an honor. 

Watch him perform “Lucky Old Sun” from Tokyo earlier this year. The man is crooning, and his band is as good as it’s ever been. It’s just … different. And you should know that going in. 

The difference today is that it’s less about the audience and more a focus on the craft of the performance. Dylan doesn’t owe you anything-he’s given us plenty already-and being alive at the same time is one of the greatest gifts of our lifetime. A Dylan show in 2016 is a master class tutorial on the craft of song performance. 

Yes, the set list might be somewhat disappointing on paper for a fan expecting to hear the twangy folk ballads of the early ’60s, the mid-’60s mega hit albums, the mid-’70s Rolling Thunder Review (white-faced Dylan) or his “religious” period of the late ’70s and early ’80s. But what you’re getting is the early years of a new era of Dylan performances, the twilight era of a performer who has achieved god-tier status and legacy as an artist.

It is a pleasure to witness Dylan at the top of his craft. And you may not hear the songs you desire, but you’re still getting the soul of the artist, which is more than can be said for many concerts you’ll attend. 

My introduction to Dylan was backward. The first of his albums I owned was 1997’s “Time Out of Mind” featuring, among other songs, “Make You Feel My Love,” which many artists would go on to perform.

Many think the “golden years” of the Never Ending Tour were the 1997-2004 era shows, which often featured wildly dynamic set lists and one-off surprises.

I first saw Dylan live in 2001 at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville. It was notable for the fact that I couldn’t understand a single word he uttered from my seat. But even if it lacked something sonically, I still felt something click in my soul … and that never went away.

More than any other artist, the studio albums serve as a simple blueprint for what would happen when he performed the songs live. His brilliant band took the songs into otherworldly places. The high I experienced from that concert lasted for weeks and spurned an obsession with Dylan’s music that remains. 

My bootleg collection started to grow in 2003. As a bit of a completist, I have collected more than 300 full shows and compilations. I even drove away a girlfriend by making her listen to subtle differences in six versions of “Girl From the North Country” from the 2004 fall tour. I’m so sorry. 

Although Dylan has toured constantly and continued to release (excellent) albums, the legend hasn’t paid a visit to Chattanooga since a very wet and chilly co-headlining concert with Willie Nelson at then-Bellsouth Park in 2005.

From all accounts, it was a magical evening. I had just finished college and didn’t have the funds to attend the show. A reviewer of the Chattanooga show described a “driving rain” that only seemed to subside when Dylan mentioned “rain themes” in his lyrics. His talents were more powerful than Zeus himself on that evening.

Here’s the set list from the night, which ended up being a 14-song greatest hits show with highlights such as “Just Like a Woman,” “Visions of Johanna” and “A-Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”

Dylan also performed at Memorial Auditorium in 1994 and 1996, during when most Dylan fans think the NET really started hitting a stride, as Dylan started enjoying playing for his audience more than in years past.

A 2016 Dylan concert will be different, but just as wonderful and weird as his other shows have always been. But please don’t let unrealistic expectations ruin your experience. 

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.

Updated @ 8:34 a.m. on 8/15/16.