See copyright notice at

Bob Dylan 961107 in Dayton, OH

Subject: Dayton concert/1996 Tour
From: John Wombacher (
Date: 9 Nov 1996 07:38:09 GMT
Organization: Earthlink Network, Inc.
X-Mailer: Mozilla 1.1N (Macintosh; I; 68K)

This was my third show of the 1996 tour the first two being Louisville
and Columbus in the spring.  Not to step on too many peoples toes 
but I really feel 1996 is a bit of a let down concerning live Dylan.  I am 
not saying that there has not been some great moments this year.  
The inclusion of 'Friend of the Devil'; the reworking of Silvio(again!)
and Tangled Up In Blue(again!) and the considerable effect the new 
drummer is having on the current tour have all been highlights for me but...

Starting at Louisville I felt that Dylans vocals were not as strong as in 
1995 and while far from being below par the edge was missing. He 
didn't seem to be experimenting as much.  The most exciting thing 
about going to a concert or listening to a tape of a show for me is 
when Dylan is laying himself on the line creating nuances with that 
wonderful voice that you never thought possible--bearing his soul.  
Only rarely at the three shows I've seen have I felt him pushing himself 

The 1996 setlists are boring and predictable.  1995 was not much 
better in this department.  Last night in Dayton was the first time in 
some thirty or so shows since 1986 that he did not perform a song 
I had not heard live previously.  While this is a great tribute to Dylan's 
ability to vary the setlists over the years 1996 has proven to be as 
close to a greatest hits tour as the Never Ending Tour has ever seen.  
I hate to say it but Dylan seems to be playing it safe in terms of song 
selection.  I don't pretend to understand why but the Edna Gunders
on interview  w/Dylan keeps coming to mind from May 1995 USA TODAY

How did you plan this Unplugged project?

Dylan: I wasn't quite sure how to do it and what material to use.  I 
would have liked to do old folk songs with acoustic instruments, but
there was a lot of input from other sources as to what would be right
for the audience.  The record company said, "You can't do that it's too
obscure."  At one time I would have argued, but there's no point. OK,
so what's not obscure? They said, "Knockin' On Heaven's Door."

Would You consider doing a Unplugged sequel?

Dylan: I'd consider doing Unplugged again in a relaxed setting 
where I didn't feel like I had to deliver something that was 
preconceived for me.  That wasn't a problem, but it wasn't 
necessarily what I wanted to do.

The setlists seem a little more than preconceived in 1996.  I am not 
claiming that Sony is telling Dylan what to play on his tour.  I just 
feel that Dylan is trying to deliver to his audience what he feels they 
want--Greatest Hits.  Dylan's sentiment in the last quote about how it 
wasn't necessarily what he wanted to do but he would do it anyway is 
very telling.  This goes back to my general impression that some of 
Dylan's edge seems lost lately.  If he wants to do old folk songs or 
covers why has it not shown up on tour --in any form other than the 
couple Dead covers? Look at the 1991 and 1992 setlists, covers 
and variations clearly are an important aspect of the tours.  What was
the music industry; press; and general publics response to this time 
periods live performances-----Dylan sucks live; He's washed up; He 
bastardizes his own classics ect. ect.  The late 80's and early 90's
live performances contributed greatly in killing Dylan's
popularity even among long time fans let alone the average Joe.
I believe a whole host things contributed to Dylans poor performances
during this time period but in review after review the obscure setlists
and radical reworking of the songs are criticized.  As Dylan slowly
gets out of his personal/performance problems he increasingly narrows
his focus of song selections to more popular songs. Likewise 
audience and press reports rightfully heap praise upon the 'New Dylan'
 for respecting the classics while reinventing them at the same time. 
Dylan puts out two folk albums that are virtually ignored by the 
press, the public and most importantly by himself during live 
performances. Later, MTV and Sony essentially put out two 
Greatest Hits CD's within a year and are praised.

I guess what I am getting at is that Dylan seem to be caught in a little 
bit of a quandary. He loves the energy he has been getting from his 
renewed popularity in live performances, (they have pushed him as 
a musician and a vocalist to a level I don't think he has ever been at 
before) but to maintain the renewed public interest in his live 
performances he is limited by his most popular tunes.  After so 
many concerts I think the confinement of the setlists is starting to 
adversely effect the performances.

I personal found 1995 to be an incredible year for live Dylan.
 I believe it was his greatest and most consistent year of concerts 
thus far.  1996 is not that far below '95 in quality but over the last 
few years I became accustom to him getting better and more exciting 
tour after tour and right now it seems to me he is going through a 
momentary plateau.

What thoughts do you all have about this tour and or year compared 
to the previous years of the Never Ending Tour?  What effects do 
you think the setlists are having?

Tour Dates Calendar Expecting Rain