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Dylan's 2005 One-Offs
2005-07-21, The Orpheum, Vancouver, British Columbia
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I’m a setlist-stats junkie who started paying closer attention to Dylan concerts around 2005, so you know it piqued my interest to see the following note attached to today’s Vancouver show:
“The only 2005 performance of One Too Many Mornings”
That made me wonder, what other songs only got played once in 2005? Thanks to the magic of Setlist.fm, that’s a fairly easy question to answer.
There are 11 one-time-only-in-2005 songs. Three are covers, which I’ll skip over: Hank Williams’ “You Win Again” (second time after Bonnaroo 2004, and last to date), Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” (only time in the 21st century, though a number of performances throughout the ‘90s), and Fats Domino’s “Blue Monday” (only time ever).
I’m also going to skip over what is by far the most exciting one-time-only song in 2005, because I wrote about it last year when I ranked Bob’s Biggest Setlist Surprises. This one got the silver medal in that countdown, the second biggest surprise ever. It was “Million Dollar Bash,” making its sole live appearance on November 21, 2005 in London.
That leaves us with seven once-in-2005 tunes. They’re mostly medium-rarities, with the exception of one oft-played blues rocker I would have guessed was in constant rotation around then. Interestingly, five of the seven were performed in two short residencies: This three-nighter in Vancouver and another trio of shows in Boston in April. Also interestingly, both venues are called The Orpheum! Guess you should see shows at Orpheums if you want some wild setlists. (Though he played yet another Orpheum, in Memphis, this past April and stuck to the standard Rough and Rowdy Ways set, so this methodology might not be entirely foolproof.)
We’ll start with the two one-offs in his three-night Vancouver residency (I wrote about the first night in the newsletter’s early days). On “One Too Many Mornings,” right off the bat, you get the dreaded upsinging prevalent in this era. “Down the streets the dogs are [jump up an octave to near-Alvin and the Chipmunks range] barking / And the days are getting [jump up again] daaark.” He doesn’t do it on every line, but it’s distracting enough that even when he’s singing beautifully — which he does elsewhere in this rendition — you’re primed for it.
It’s a terrific acoustic arrangement though, highlighted by Donnie Herron’s steel guitar solos. Which reminds me that this would be the first time most of this band — Stu, Donnie, Denny — has ever played it.
It would be the last time too. Bob hasn’t played “One Too Many Morning”s since. This will be a trend. Lotta last-time-evers in ‘05.
The other 2005 one-time-only song in Vancouver came the night before. It had been even longer since the last “I Want You,” with the last prior performance in August 2002. And, once again, he hasn’t played it since.
Another beautiful acoustic performance with a little too much upsinging. I wonder if he defaulted to that technique more if it was a song he was a little less sure of. I find it somewhat less distracting here. He’s otherwise delivering the hell out of this. Great guitar solo from Denny Freeman too. So good Bob must have gotten distracted; he enters the next verse mumbling as he tries to remember what the words are.
Now we rewind a couple months to a trio of one-offs at the Boston stand. One day I’ll do a whole series on these shows. He played 42 different songs across three nights! And this is with short 14-song setlists too (since he had two openers this tour, Merle Haggard and Amos Lee), which means every night’s set was almost entirely different. Miss the days when you could get that variety.
The first concert of the Boston run, April 15, boasted many surprises. First “Shelter from the Storm” since 2003! First “Chimes of Freedom” since 2001! But those were played again subsequently in 2005, disqualifying them here.
That brings us to the third surprise: First “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” since 2002! Violinist Elana Fremerman had abruptly departed the band just before these shows, which may relate to Bob feeling the freedom to bring in other tunes (though, as I’ve written, I’m a Fremer-fan). “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” doesn’t quite have the magic of the Vancouver pair. That’s hypocritical since I bitched about the upsinging, and he doesn’t upsing here! But it’s growly and a bit more aimless.
Good news is, this one wasn’t the last performance to date. Second-to-last; he did it once more in 2008.
The second night in Boston featured the first “Lenny Bruce” since 2000 — but, again, he played it again a few weeks later, so disqualified. As is the biggest debut of the stand: First “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” since 1992! But not the last in ‘05.
Which brings us to a somewhat less exciting pair of 2005 one-offs in 2005. The first is that blues-rock one I mentioned earlier, where I went, “really??” “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat.” It would soon become not-a-rarity-at-all; by the end of the decade he was playing it 50 times a year or more. But I guess it was still rare in 2005. I find the song fairly forgettable, and even knowing this was the only outing of the year doesn’t help me not zone out. “Rare” doesn’t always mean “exciting.” He only played “Rainy Day Women” twice in 2005, after all.
The other April 17 one-off is another ‘60s blues-rocker I could take or leave live, “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.” Lotta upsinging again. Like, a lot. That’s the thing, I don’t have anything against these songs on record, they just don’t tend to bring out particularly inspired performances from Bob in the Never Ending Tour era. Another nice turn from Donnie on pedal steel though. In his early years, he took tons of solos, which I also miss.
Our second-to-last 2005 one-off also came on that spring U.S. tour. “Po’ Boy” is the sad unloved child of Love & Theft, the album’s least-played song by some margin. “Summer Days” has been played 888 times. “Po’ Boy” has been played 41. Very unfair…especially because, on those couple dozen occasions, he tends to nail it. He sure does here! Absolutely stunning rendition from an NYC show, with several terrific Donnie Herron violin solos to boot. Would anyone be mad if he slotted “Po’ Boy” into the Rough and Rowdy Ways set and played it every night for the next year or two? Not me.
And, finally, one of only two one-offs to come outside of that spring U.S. tour (the other being “Million Dollar Bash”): “Down in the Flood” aka “Crash on the Levee.” Seriously, is there a consensus on what this song is called? Either way, the music feels like another fairly generic blues-rocker at this show in Sweden, but Bob bites into the words with enough enthusiasm to elevate it way above the “Leopard-Skin” earlier. It’s a total blast.
So, of course, he hasn’t played the song again since.
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