Bob Dylan’s tour touched down at the William B. Bell Auditorium in Augusta, Georgia Wednesday night and wrapped up with a surprise cover of the 1966 James Brown classic “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” Dylan strips much of the soul out of the original and turns it into a haunting ballad. It’s the first time he’s ever played a James Brown song in concert. The soul legend was born in Atlanta, but he moved to Augusta at a young age and began his professional career in the town. Cellphones are often banned at Bob Dylan concerts and there’s no great video of it at the moment, but one fan managed to capture most of the song.
The Never Ending Tour tour quietly celebrated its 30th anniversary over the summer. In the past few years, Dylan has mixed in many covers from his recent standards records into the setlist. But on this current leg, he’s cut almost all of them out in favor of originals. Nearly every show this year has concluded with either “Ballad of a Thin Man” or “Blowin’ In The Wind,” but two days before the surprise James Brown performance he finished up a show in Savannah, Georgia with Henry Mancini’s “Moon River.” For whatever reason, he clearly is in the mood to surprise the crowd with oddball covers.
Dylan’s newest release is the Blood On The Tracks box set More Blood, More Tracks, but the only song from that era he plays in the show is “Simple Twist of Fate.” “Tangled Up In Blue” has been a consistent part of his setlist for the entire run of the Never Ending Tour, but he hasn’t played it since a New Zealand show in late August.
Dylan will be on the road in the U.S. over the next four weeks, including a seven-night stand at New York’s Beacon Theater. That gives him plenty of time to work up a Ramones or Velvet Underground song, or at least “New York, New York.” He’s devoted his last three albums to songs associated with Frank Sinatra, and yet he’s never touched that one.
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