Three gospel songs in Saarbrücken tonight

In Saarbrücken, Germany, this very night, Bob Dylan included three tunes from what’s commonly known as his gospel period in the set list. He kicked off the show with Gotta Serve Somebody, did Every Grain Of Sand as the fourth song, and I Believe In You as tune number twelve. It seems to me that it probably hasn’t been since sometime in the 1980s that he included three songs from those gospel albums in one set list, although I could certainly be wrong. At any rate, it’s got to be an extremely rare occurrence in any post-gospel-era gig.

I’m in no position to say if it means anything specific, beyond the fact that he felt like doing those tunes, but it seems worth noting around here. It is symbolic at least of the complete ease Dylan has with his song selection, and the freedom he’s earned in that regard.

Looking even closer at tonight’s set list, it can be noted that no fewer than eight of the seventeen songs performed come from his two most recent albums. Three, as mentioned, are from his 1979 – 1981 gospel-oriented records. The remaining six tunes are from the 1960s. Nothing from the 1990s, and nothing from the 1970s or 1980s other than the gospel tunes. Few artists who’ve been around even half as long as Dylan could easily get away with doing so many relatively “new” songs in their live show, and by virtue of that leaving out so many “classics” or greatest hits. But, for a major segment of Bob’s live audiences these days, the new tunes are just fine, clearly. Every so often it’s worth remembering what an achievement that truly is for this soon-to-be sixty-eight year-old harmonica player — just in pure showbiz terms, aside from anything else. Good for Bob. And it’s good to be around to see it.

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