Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways tour has stuck with a remarkably consistent setlist since it kicked off in November 2021. The show is heavy on tunes from Rough and Rowdy Ways, extremely light on hits, and features just a tiny smattering of Sixties tunes, including “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” “To Be Alone With You,” and “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine.”
Fans had essentially stopped anticipating surprises, but they got a big one Wednesday night at the Tokyo Garden Theater in Tokyo, Japan, when he broke out the Grateful Dead’s 1970 classic “Truckin’” for the first time in his career. Check out a fan recording right here.
“Truckin’” was one of the 66 songs he highlighted in his 2022 book The Philosophy of Modern Song. “Arrows of neon, flashing marquees, Dallas and a soft machine, Sweet Jane, vitamin C, Bourbon Street, bowling pins, hotels windows,” Dylan writes, “and the classic line, ‘What a long, strange trip it’s been.’ A thought that anybody can relate to.’”
Dylan is a longtime fan of the Grateful Dead. He toured with them in 1987 and considered Jerry Garcia a good friend. “There’s no way to measure his greatness or magnitude as a person or as a player,” Dylan told Rolling Stone when Garcia died in 1995. “I don’t think eulogizing will do him justice. He was that great – much more than a superb musician with an uncanny ear and dexterity. He is the very spirit personified of whatever is muddy river country at its core and screams up into the spheres. He really had no equal.”
“To me he wasn’t only a musician and friend, he was more like a big brother who taught and showed me more than he’ll ever know,” he continued. “There are a lot of spaces and advances between the Carter family, Buddy Holly and, say, Ornette Coleman, a lot of universes, but he filled them all without being a member of any school. His playing was moody, awesome, sophisticated, hypnotic and subtle. There’s no way to convey the loss. It just digs down really deep.”
This is the fifth Grateful Dead song that Dylan has added to his Never Ending Tour repertoire. Over the years, he’s also done “Friend of the Devil,” “Alabama Getaway,” “West L.A. Fadeaway,” and “Black Muddy River.”
Dylan’s Japanese tour continues Friday night with another show at the Tokyo Garden Theater. It wraps up April 20 at the Aichi Prefectural Arts Theater in Nagoya. He then heads to Europe in June for a long series of shows ending July 9 in Rome. That’s plenty of time for more surprise song picks like “Truckin.’”