Bob Dylan acknowledges but doesn’t embrace the name that has come to describe his life on the road: the Never Ending Tour. “There’s no such thing as forever,” he told Rolling Stone in 2009. “Anybody ever say that Duke Ellington was on a Never Ending Bandstand Tour?”
But the name has stuck, and for good reason. Dylan will take off just a few winter months before getting the band back together to head overseas and return to familiar cities across the United States. Just this year, he has played in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and countries throughout Eastern and Western Europe before returning for a U.S. leg that will take him through early December.
It’s a stark contrast from the 1970s and ’80s, when Dylan would only occasionally tackle short world tours and appear at such major events as Live Aid and Farm Aid. But in 1988, Dylan discovered the right road rhythm and took off, hitting the circuit in June and playing 73 shows. He hasn’t played fewer than 80 shows a year since, and as recently as 2010, he played 102 concerts. At 73 years old, Dylan and his band are scheduled to play 92 shows this year. And he somehow has found time to record a new album of covers, “Shadows in the Night,” which is slated for a 2015 release.
One of those new songs — his take on Frank Sinatra’s “Stay With Me” — has surfaced at the end of Dylan’s most recent performances. Fans at his show Tuesday at Constitution Hall can expect to hear that number and a slew of songs from his more recent studio albums — “Tempest,” “Together Through Life,” “Modern Times” — with a few older favorites sprinkled in.
Here are a few more things you should — and shouldn't — expect from Dylan's concert on Tuesday.
"Like a Rolling Stone” is Bob Dylan’s best-known song. And the six-minute single, now 49 years old, is arguably his masterpiece: Rolling Stone magazine has called it the greatest song of all time, and the tune has earned similar praise from critics and chroniclers of the music industry over the years. As such, it’s been a staple of his live performances for nearly a half-century.
But no longer: Dylan has seemingly eliminated “Like a Rolling Stone” from his set. Just two years ago, he played it at every show — including his stop at Verizon Center — as part of a hits-heavy closing portion of the set that often included “All Along the Watchtower,” “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” But he has played the song live just twice since that D.C. concert in November 2012: the following night in Brooklyn and then the following November at a show in Rome. But in 79 shows through this past weekend, Dylan hasn’t asked “How does it feel?” to any audience in this calendar year.
Another trend of note: “All Along the Watchtower,” which Dylan has played at every performance, almost without fail, for the past four years, suddenly disappeared from the set list four weeks ago during a three-night stand in Los Angeles and hasn’t returned.
Don't look back
Seeking something familiar from your Bob Dylan set list? A few classic tunes have made the cut for most of the year, but “Blowin’ in the Wind” is the only song you should expect to hear from the first volume of “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits.” Other old favorites that show up regularly include “Simple Twist of Fate,” Tangled Up in Blue” and “She Belongs to Me.”
Change at the top
Although some of the old, familiar songs have cycled out of recent set lists, “Things Have Changed” has emerged as a constant at the top of his shows. Doesn’t ring a bell? If you saw the 2000 movie “Wonder Boys,” you may recognize the track. Dylan also performed it at the 2001 Academy Awards before accepting the Oscar for best original song. Still nothing? “Things Have Changed” played in the background of Dylan’s surprising Chrysler commercial (“There’s nothing more American than America”), that aired during Super Bowl XLVIII.
Appearing Tuesday at Constitution Hall, 1776 D Street NW. Show starts at 8 p.m. www.dar.org/constitution-hall. $73-$123.
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