Bob Dylan has entered the third year of his Rough and Rowdy Ways Worldwide Tour. For the most part, he sticks with a static setlist every night. In fact, there have only really been three setlist surprises the entire time. The first two were covers, of the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” and the late Jerry Lee Lewis’s “I Can’t Seem to Say Goodbye.” The third came just last night in Tokyo (actually tonight for many of us, given the time difference). He busted out another Dead cover, his first-ever performance of the band’s “long strange trip” staple “Truckin'”!
“Truckin'” has clearly been on his mind of late. He dedicated an entire chapter in his latest book The Philosophy of Modern Song to it last fall. He wrote in part:
“Truckin’ ” is one of [the Dead’s] signature songs and lyrically it combines the goings-on of a wild and wide world. The Doo Dah man even appears in this song. “I came down south with my hat caved in.” This could easily be a Dead song from one hundred years earlier.
This song is medium tempo, but it seems to just keep picking up speed. It’s got a fantastic first verse, which doesn’t let up or fizzle out, and every verse that follows could actually be a first verse. Arrows of neon, flashing marquees, Dallas and a soft machine, Sweet Jane, vitamin C, Bourbon Street, bowling pins, hotel windows, and the classic line, “What a long strange trip it’s been.” A thought that anybody can relate to. Cards that ain’t worth a dime. All in the same town. But you’re moving anyway. The lyrics just pile up on top of each other. But the meaning is understandable and clear. The song also changes pace and changes back and the chorus has got that triple harmony again. “Truckin’ ”—it conjures up something different from traveling. It’s arduous. But the Dead are a swinging dance band so it doesn’t seem like hard work to go with them.
Thanks to a fantastic taper, we can already hear a recording of Dylan’s “Truckin'” cover. He mangles some of the words – it moves along at quite a clip – but is clearly having fun singing it. Listen below (and read a full report from the concert here).