Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm"

In the 1960’s he was the voice of a new generation, a poet of sorts that changed the face of music forever. When he went “electric “ there was a storm brewing on the horizon and many of his fans temporarily abandoned him. As the 1970’s arrived some folks thought he went off his rocker when he started wearing makeup and face paint and then pretty much went into hiding. He showed up again in the 1980’s as a Jew who discovered Jesus. In the early 1990’s he was pretty much written off as a has been whose best days were clearly behind him.

However, starting in 2001 he arose from the ashes and to this date has put out some of his best work and in the process silenced most of his critics.

Love him or hate him, Bob Dylan has been continuously “on tour” since June 7, 1988 and if I had to hazard a guess it looks like that streak will still be alive for the foreseeable future.

And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I'll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm"

When November 21, 2012 rolls around Dylan and his band will have played 2,480 shows during that time period. Think about that number for a minute. 2,480. Now, think about your favorite band and how seldom they seem to go on tour. If I do a little fuzzy math that means for the last 24 years of the Never Ending Tour Dylan and his band have hit the stage about 103 times a year or about once every three days. I don't even want to begin to try and comprehend all of the logistics involved in staging that many shows during that period of time.

That my friends, says something about staying power.

I had the extreme pleasure of seeing Mr. Dylan and his band when he dropped in on Columbus, Ohio back in 2006. It was my daughter's first ever concert and I hope she remembers it as fondly as I do. Little did I know or dream that Dylan will still be at it to this day.

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes an' blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm"

I should note that the tour was interrupted only once and that was back in 1997. In May of that year Dylan was hospitalized for a chest infection called histoplasmosis that if left untreated might have proved fatal. The three month break that he took from May 3 to August 3 of that year represents the longest break in the tour since its inception.

Suddenly I turned around and she was standin' there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm"

If there’s one thing Dylan fans can count on is the fact that they can’t count on anything. The man is a human chameleon. For awhile, he abandoned the guitar and trademark harmonica altogether and just played keyboards. During the 2012 version of the Never Ending Tour he’s gone back to paying all three. Over the years several band members have come and gone. Here’s a list of the current troupe and the instruments that they play.

Bob Dylan – vocals, electric guitar, Korg organ, acoustic piano and harmonica.
Stu Kimball – electric and acoustic guitar
Donnie Herron – Pedal steel, lap steel, electric mandolin, banjo, violin and viola
Charlie Sexton – electric guitar
Tony Garnier – bass guitar and upright bass
George Receli – drums

I’m sure that during that 24 year span and all the miles in between one is bound to meet some interesting people along the way. Here’s a short list of some of the more notable people that have hit the stage with Dylan and jammed the night away.

Phil Lesh, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Patti Smith, Van Morrison, Al Kooper, Chrissie Hynde, Dave Mathews, Eric Clapton, Dickey Betts, Leon Russell , Roger McGuinn, Carl Perkins, Nils Lofgren, Sheryl Crow and Mark Knopfler.

I don’t care what kind of music floats your boat, that’s a mighty impressive cast of characters.

As if that wasn't enough this years version (2012) of the Never Ending Tour will take Dylan and his entourage to the following countries.

Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, England, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, France, Italy, Canada and the United States.

Now there's a wall between us, somethin' there's been lost
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm"

I should probably let Dylan describe his thoughts on the Never Ending Tour in his own words. As mysterious and vague as ever he had this to say to Rolling Stone back in 2009 when questioned on the matter.

"Critics should know there is no such thing as forever. Does anybody call Henry Ford a Never Ending Car Builder? Anybody ever say that Duke Ellington was on a Never Ending Bandstand Tour? These days, people are lucky to have a job. Any job. So critics might be uncomfortable with my working so much. Anybody with a trade can work as long as they want. A carpenter, an electrician. They don't necessarily need to retire."

Personal Thoughts

For reasons I can’t quite fathom Dylan has his fair share of detractors. Most of the ones I know on a personal basis blame the sound of his voice and wail of his harmonica. I just sort of look at them in disbelief and don’t even bother trying to make my case anymore. No amount of evidence will convince them otherwise and I’d just be wasting my breath.

However, if you look objectively at a career that spans over 50 years in the industry and the body of work he’s amassed over that time it’s hard not to be impressed.

Hopefully, Mr. Dylan and his band will be coming to a city near you in the not too distant future. If so, it’d be worth your while to check it out. Even if you don’t like the show at least you can say that you witnessed a piece of music history.

Besides that, Dylan’s pushing 72 years old and Lord knows how much longer he can keep this up.

Update December 2013: As of the end of December, the number of shows had risen to 2,561.


Selected lyrics lifted from the song Shelter from the Storm recorded back in 1974 on the album Blood on the Tracks


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