Ranking Every Spring 2000 Song, Part 1

2000-04-03, Five Seasons Center, Cedar Rapids, IA

Flagging Down the Double E’s is a free email newsletter exploring Dylan shows of yesteryear. If you’ve found this article online or someone forwarded you the email, subscribe here to get a new entry delivered to your inbox every week:

We have four shows to go in this Spring 2000 tour. After that, I will resume this newsletter's original premise: jumping around across the years and decades. So as we prepare to say goodbye for now to the year 2000, I thought I'd wrap up with a more comprehensive look at this run I’ve been exploring. Comprehensive, yet silly. 

I'm a big fans of ranked lists. And the more esoteric, the better. Best Books Ever? Meh. Best Books Ever to Include a Prime Number in the Title? Hell yeah! So, because this is the way my brain works, I decided to rank all 79 different songs he played across these 25 shows. A truly pointless thing to rank! That’s what makes it fun.

That 79 number alone is an impressive figure. He only played 33 different songs in all of 2019. But setlists were much more fluid back then. Some of these 79 songs he played every night. Some he played just once. How often he played them had little to do with how well he played them.

How am I determining these rankings? The indisputable objective authority: Gut reactions. Okay, not objective at all, but I'd like to think after hearing all these shows these are at least informed gut reactions.

Today we start with the worst songs of the bunch (ironically, since the show on today’s date - April 3rd in Cedar Rapids - is superb. On fire throughout! Five tour debuts! Definitely download this one). Then over the next three days we'll count up to the best. So don't feel disheartened by today's snarkiness. Most songs this tour were really good! Just not these…

(And, if you want to play along at home, at the bottom I've added a bonus download link containing one version of every song he performed on this tour)

79. Hoochie Coochie Man - If you were at a bar and the band in the corner was playing this lame blooze-rock, you'd talk louder.
Times performed: 1

78. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 - This song is what it is. I'm sure it was fun in person.
Times performed: 17

77. Knockin' on Heaven's Door - Clearly they didn't rehearse this enough. The band’s vocals seem tentative, like they're not sure if they're even supposed to be singing or not. At least Bob solos endlessly (ha!).
Times performed: 1

76. Dear Landlord - Always exciting to hear such a rarity, but this one proves kind of a mush. Could have used a more distinctive arrangement.
Times performed: 1

75. Just Like a Woman - Bob played a lot of greatest hits on this tour. Many get new life with fresh arrangements and passionate performances. This feels like going through the motions.
Times performed: 3

74. Drifter's Escape - When I first saw "Drifter's Escape" live in 2004, it featured a killer arrangement borrowed from "Crossroads." This more muddled version doesn't live up to that.
Times performed: 1

73. Highlands - Cool on paper, but, absent Time Out of Mind’s atmospheric production, 11 minutes of the same mandolin riff repeated endlessly is a real momentum killer.
Times performed: 1

72. One Too Many Mornings - Only played a few times. Maybe because the audience fell asleep.
Times performed: 2

71. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat - Remember that lame bar band that played "Hoochie Coochie Man"? They might have played this next.
Times performed: 6

70. White Dove - Seems churlish to complain about something like “White Dove.” In another context, it would be a standout. But this was a tour where Bob performed many other bluegrass covers in a similar vein, all just a little more appealing.
Times performed: 1

69. Simple Twist of Fate - One of Bob's most brilliant songs, performed sleepily. Pity the Reno audience who had to sit through this and "One Too Many Mornings" in the very same show. Hope the concession stand served coffee.
Times performed: 3

68. Watching the River Flow - "I don't have much to say," but he says it for six long minutes.
Times performed: 11

67. It Ain't Me, Babe - An encore staple, it never rose about an excuse for the crowd to sing along.
Times performed: 9

66. Duncan and Brady - This would become a standard opener later in the year. It would get a good deal better, too.
Times performed: 1

65. Like a Rolling Stone - I've long held the theory is that "Like a Rolling Stone" is the only Dylan song whose studio version has never been bettered live. None of these challenged that hypothesis.
Times performed: 19

64. To Ramona - Plods along without ever achieving liftoff. Perfectly okay, but gets lost in a tour with so many transcendent acoustic performances.
Times performed: 1

63. Big River - An enjoyably underrehearsed one-off. Bob only half-remembers the lyrics, and some atonal guitar skronks don't help matters, but it could have gotten good with a few more runs.
Times performed: 1

62. We Better Talk This Over - Bob reportedly hated this performance so much he almost bailed halfway through. He never performed the song again. It's not that bad! Kind of a mess, sure, but, again, it could have gotten good with time.
Times performed: 1

61. Mr. Tambourine Man - Another greatest hit that feels a little "greatest hits"-y. That said, by this point I'm obviously grading on a curve. In a lesser year, performances like these would rank higher.
Times performed: 13

Part two coming tomorrow…

2000-04-03, Five Seasons Center, Cedar Rapids, IA

Bonus: Download one version of every Spring 2000 song