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The most famous shows from this leg both came from California: Anaheim and Santa Cruz. Both double-headers and both probably attended by more prominent reviewers and tapers than the middle-America shows. But those coastal locations weren't really characteristic of this tour. He played two Iowa cities. He never made it east of Minnesota. He spent the better part of a week just in the Dakotas. Today is the first of three different stops in Montana.
This is the advantage of touring constantly. You can hit a lot of what the music industry derisively refers to as "secondary markets." Well, they're not secondary to those who live there! And I'm speaking as someone who recently moved from New York City to a so-called "secondary market": Burlington, Vermont. Most of the big tours don't stop here. Bob's coming in July. He was here in 2017 too.
I'm looking at that fan-selected "Top 75 Dylan Concerts" list I mentioned a few weeks back. Dylan concerts in big cities pop up again and again as fan favorites. New York. Los Angeles. London. Sydney. “Secondary markets" make fewer appearances. Less attention gets paid to shows there. But, of course, that's where Bob spends most of his time. Most nights on the road are not spent in global capitals of culture and entertainment. They're in cities like Missoula, Montana.
This is Bob's first show ever in Missoula. He must have liked it; he's played three more times since. (Only two songs got airings at all four shows: "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Like a Rolling Stone.") He's returned again to the next two towns he played this tour as well, Bozeman and Billings. And it matters to places like this. Artists of Dylan's calibre doesn’t perform in these places that often. Here's how the local paper began their review of this show:
I missed Elvis. I barely missed the Beatles. But now I can say I got to see Bob Dylan live. Right up front I need to point out that I didn't view the trip over to Missoula [from nearby Great Falls] for Wednesday's concert as a trip to a concert. It was a pilgrimage. I didn't go to be entertained; I went to pay homage. The fact that I was thoroughly entertained was a bonus.
It's hard to imagine an opening like that from a reviewer living in New York.
The show followed what has become the standard spring-2000 format. Gospel opener ("Somebody Touched Me," its first time played this year). Four old folk songs in the acoustic set. A second gospel number to wrap up the acoustic portion. Then a bunch of electric songs, a mix of new stuff and greatest hits. A lengthy encore mixing electric and acoustic numbers: "Love Sick," four more hits, the crowd-pleasing "Not Fade Away" cover tossed somewhere in the middle.
Listening to all these shows, this formula is beginning to feel - not boring exactly. These shows are never boring. Let's say predictable. But if you're living in Missoula, Montana, a show like today's is a major event. There's nothing "secondary" about it.