Chapter 15   Into Kentucky with The Wild Feathers

Half the population of Murray, Kentucky could pile into the campus auditorium where Bob Dylan and his band will perform on Saturday night. This town was neutral during the Civil War, but that didn’t stop the damn Yankees from burning and pillaging it. That whole damn war was little more than bands of bastards from the North burning farms, killing boys, and raping girls. And when they finished with the poor Southerners, the Armies of the North spent the next 25 years decimating what was left of the Indian nations.

History is written by the winners of the wars, and so it is written that the Civil War was fought to liberate the slaves from their fiendish owners.  It would be closer to the truth to say that the origin of the conflict between the North and the South was the decision to house the National Bank in Philadelphia rather than the agreed-upon Washington DC, as it would give the northern industrialist a financial advantage over the agricultural South.  The South responded by establishing its own government with a separate economy.  This succession from the Union provoked the Northern Army to attack.  As far as the slavery issue goes, most of those slaves were kidnapped from Africa by Northern adventurers who sold them to Southern plantation owners. By destroying the South, these slave traders were able to retrieve the people they had sold into bondage and put them to work at sub-standard wages in their northern factories.

Dylan fans have been complaining about the static set-lists, and last night in Champaign, Illinois, they were somewhat appeased when the singer switched out the exquisite Scarlet Town for the tires Workingman’s Blues #2, the chorus of which he lifted from Merle Haggard, with whom he had toured shortly before the release of “Modern Times.”  So much of Dylan’s latter day work is embroidered plunder that it was not surprising when it was discovered today that Duquesne Whistle, which had seemed the most original music on Tempest, was stolen outright from Jelly roll Morton’s “Each Day,” Now, those people in Champaign didn’t get an extra treat with the switch-out. All they got was one less song from Tempest. The only people who benefitted from this change in the program where the players in the never-ending pool who had put their bets on Working man Blues #2 rather than Scarlet Town when they made their prediction of what would be played on this tour.

Now, I play the pool as well, and each night that he plays “What Good Am I” I lose 12 points.  If Dylan , switched that song for something from Tempest, my team, which has been jumping between  #6 (when Thunder in the Mountain is played) and #8 (when it is replaced by Summer Days), would likely  jump to the #1 position. But I don’t want that to happen.  I don’t want the rest of the cities on the tour to be deprived of one of the concert’s highlights just so I can score more points and some other people can score less.  That isn’t the point of the pool.  But it seems there are many people out there who think a race card is more important than the race. Back in the 80’s, when I was writing music for the Russian theatre, there was a director who liked to change scenes each night before the show.  One of the actors rebelled against him, saying that the audience deserved to see the show that had been rehearsed, not a try-out of a last-minute inspiration.  Although I enjoyed the nightly changes in the show, I think the actor had a point. Since this tour is the first in several years that was actually arranged and rehearsed with any degree of solidity, I don’t think it was fair to deprive the Champaign audience of Scarlet Town just so Bob and the Band could enjoy a romp through Workingman’s Blues #2.  If he wants to give the crowd something extra, he should extend the encore.  That is what the encore is for.  First you play the show as laid out on the playbill, and then you come back and play a mess of tunes that are different each night, depending on what the performer feels like playing.

Dawes will be sitting out the two Kentucky shows and The Wild Feathers will be filling the opening slot. I don’t know if Dylan pays any attention to his openers, especially when they are neophyte acts, but if he does, it will be of some interest to note how their set might alter his own, if not in the setlist, then in his performance. They are a snazzy and energetic little combo made up of some polished, good-looking kids who might set his blood to rolling.