I Shot a Man in Reno
2000-03-17, Reno Hilton Theater, Reno, NV
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With all due respect for Bruce Springsteen’s NSFW “Reno,” the more iconic lyrical homage to the city comes in Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues": "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die." And in 1999, Dylan had covered that song twice. Sadly, when he actually played Reno the following year, he did not bring it back.
Now, you might think covering "Folsom Prison Blues" in Reno would be too cornball a move for Bob. Think again. He's played the song exactly once since those '99 shows, in 2005. And guess where that concert took place. Yep: Reno.
But not today. Or at least, not exactly.
At the early show of today's double-header, he did nod to Reno's lyrical claim to fame in a more oblique way. For the first time in 2000, he performed the traditional "Duncan and Brady," which would become his most-played opening number of the year. Here's the opening verse. See if any of the lines looks familiar.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
'Long comes Brady in his 'lectric car
Got a mean look right in his eye
Gonna shoot somebody just to watch him die
He been on the job too long
I realize one can over-analyze the tea leaves with Dylan setlists, but this was the only time he performed this song until May. So I suspect it was an intentional homage, a one-degree-removed nod to shooting a man in the city that's hosting him.
In the late show, he opened with another apropos number. Though, once again, it came bundled with plausible deniability. The song was another traditional cover, "The Roving Gambler." No "This goes out to all the gamblers out there in Reno!" shoutout, of course. And, admittedly, he had performed it once already this year. But if "Duncan and Brady" was deliberate, I bet this was too.
Otherwise of note in these perfectly fine but not exceptional shows, Bob begins roping in members of opening act Asleep at the Wheel. In the early show's acoustic set, violin player Jason Roberts sits in for "One Too Many Mornings," "Tangled Up in Blue," and "This World Can't Stand Long." Later on, frontman Ray Benson plays guitar in the electric set on "Highway 61 Revisited," "Like a Rolling Stone," and "Not Fade Away." (Confusingly, Bob didn't group Ray's songs together, so he had to come and go every other song.)
Roberts adds nice violin accents, particularly during an extended coda on "One Too Many Mornings." It's a little harder to tell what exactly Benson contributes without video evidence; there are already three guitarists onstage, after all. But unlike Roberts, a one-time-only guest this evening, Benson will be back.