Bob Dylan’s Been Getting Very Retro at His Recent Concerts

He's been playing covers of famed 1950s songs

Bob Dylan billboard
Bob Dylan's latest concerts found him heading for the deep cuts.
BORIS HORVAT/AFP via Getty Images

At a time when seemingly more and more artists are revisiting beloved albums while they go on tour, Bob Dylan stands apart. As much as there would likely be an audience for, say, an all-Desire or Nashville Skyline tour, the unlikeliest Nobel laureate has carved out his own path. As a recent episode of the political podcast Know Your Enemy aptly noted, Dylan is relatively unique among his peers for having almost no interest in trafficking in nostalgia at his concerts.

Some of that likely comes from financial security — Dylan’s 2020 sale of his entire songwriting catalog was estimated to be for a nine-figure sum. Regardless, it’s made for a fascinating late period in his career: a sense of what a legendary musician does when freed to follow his own impulses. And while we’re not getting Bob Dylan making forays into Merzbow-esque harsh noise, the results have continued to surprise listeners.

As Stereogum’s Chris DeVille reports, Dylan’s concerts have also included some forays into some of the music that played during his own formative years. At a series of Florida concerts, Dylan has played covers by the likes of Chuck Berry and Jimmy Rogers along with his own material. DeVille notes that Dylan hasn’t played these songs before in a live setting – and I won’t lie, the prospect of hearing Dylan and band perform “Roll Over Beethoven” is very enticing.

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This isn’t the first time Dylan has ventured into left-field cover choices, though. As American Songwriter reported last year, Dylan spent his North American tour performing covers by local heroes in different cities — with a repertoire that ranged from Leonard Cohen to Dwight Yoakam. Most musicians in the 80s don’t opt to surprise their listeners; Dylan, however, remains distinctive, for countless reasons.

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