When Bob Dylan broke out the Grateful Dead’s ‘Truckin’ earlier this week at the Tokyo Garden Theater in Japan, it seemed like a one-off fluke. But then he followed it up at the next show by attempting their “Brokedown Palace,” though he gave up midway through when he seemingly forgot the words. And then on Saturday, he trotted out another Dead staple, “Not Fade Away.”
“Not Fade Away” was written by Buddy Holly, but the Grateful Dead played it 566 times between 1969 and 1996. Dylan first covered the song in 1997, and it became a staple of his shows in early 1999 to commemorate Holly on the 40th anniversary of his death. He stopped playing it in 2002, and only brought back for one night in 2009 when he played in Holly’s hometown of Lubbock, Texas. This new performance in Japan is the first time he’s covered it in the past 14 years.
Dylan was in the audience when Holly’s Winter Dance Party Tour played the Duluth Armory in Duluth Minnesota on January 31, 1959, just three days before the singer’s death. The show left a huge mark on Dylan. “I was three feet away from him,” Dylan said at the 1998 Grammys after winning Album of the Year for Time Out of Mind. “And he looked at me. And I just have some sort of feeling that he was—I don’t know how or why—but I know he was with us all the time we were making this record in some kind of way.”
Dylan’s five-night stand at the Tokyo Garden Theater wrapped up April 16. He once again attempted “Brokedown Palace,” but this time he gave up after just 90 seconds and launched into “Goodbye Jimmy Reed.” We’re still waiting for audio to emerge of either of the broke-down “Brokedown Palace(s),” but we should feel lucky fans captured “Truckin’” and “Not Fade Away.” Security has really cracked down on cellphones at Dylan shows over the past years, which explains why this footage of “Not Fade Away” looks like it was shot in the rafters by Abraham Zapruder.
It’s impossible to know what exactly is causing Dylan to dip into the Dead’s catalog, but their history together goes back decades. The Dead had 17 Dylan songs in their live repertoire, including “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” “Queen Jane Approximately,” and “Maggie’s Farm.” In 1987, they co-headlined a U.S. stadium tour together that was chronicled on the live record Dylan & the Dead. The critics were underwhelmed by it.
“The album is an all-too-typical late-Eighties Dylan album, fascinating for the expectations it raises and frustrating in the ways it keeps missing the mark,” Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke wrote in a review. “The Dylan-Dead tour was a historic collaboration certainly worth recording for posterity. Dylan & the Dead, though, makes you wonder what the fuss was about. You really had to be there.”
In 2003, Dylan went on a summer tour with the Dead. Midway through, he started joining them for special sets where they played songs together like “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad,” “Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power),” and “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” He hasn’t done anything remotely like that with another group since that tour.
The Dylan tour continues April 18 when he begins a four-night residency at the Aichi Prefectural Arts Theater in Nagoya. We’d love to see him attempt a complete “Help on the Way/Slipknot!/Franklin’s Tower” suite before this is all done, though that’s probably just a bit ambitious considering he hasn’t managed to get through a single complete “Brokedown Palace” yet. It should be noted that John Mayer’s tenure in Dead & Company ends after this summer. Hey guys, if you need a new singer, there’s a guy in Japan openly auditioning for the job. If you get him a teleprompter, he’ll be good to go.