Every hardcore Bob Dylan enthusiast has a fantasy setlist. It typically spans pretty much all of the rock poet's 50-plus year career. The songs are usually a meticulously chosen mix of personal favorites, rarities and perhaps a couple warhorses we dream of being miraculously revived as if it were 1966.
Here's mine. Which I would gladly give at least half my left pinkie to witness performed Thursday at MidFlorida Amphitheatre in Tampa. Of course, any of the songs would probably be even more special if enhanced by esteemed openers Wilco, Bob Weir or My Morning Jacket; all acts that have covered Dylan songs wonderfully in the recent past.
1. "Things Have Changed," "Wonder Boys" soundtrack, 2000: Let the show begin with this awesomely quirky rocker filled with doomsday zingers, cinematic imagery and Hollywood weirdness.
2. "High Water (For Charley Patton)," "Love and Theft," 2001: Keep the momentum up with this propulsive, natural disaster ditty that also serves as a moving homage to the titular Delta blues king who provided Dylan with the song's framework.
3. "Idiot Wind," "Blood on the Tracks," 1974: This breakup song, which Dylan hasn't played since 1992, starts off slow and builds into a terrific twister of brilliant emotional bile.
4. "Mozambique," "Desire," 1975: A sweet, melodic song celebrating "sand and sea," it hasn't been performed live since 1976.
5. "Masters of War," "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan," 1963: Originally issued as a two-chord solo attack on the warmongers of the world, Dylan has been performing it as a blazing, full-band rocker since the late 1970s. I'm partial to the '84 "Real Live" version featuring ex-Rolling Stone Mick Taylor playing lava-hot lead guitar.
6. "License to Kill," "Infidels," 1983: Dylan eloquently espouses a Kubrickian fear of technology on this song not performed since '98.
7. "Tell Me That It Isn't True," "Nashville Skyline," 1969: Culled from Dylan's country crooner period, the highly hummable song, delivered from the sad perspective of a cuckold, made an interesting live debut in 2000 but hasn't returned to the setlist since '05.
8. "She's Your Lover Now," "The Bootleg Series, Vol 1-3: Rare & Unreleased 1961-1991," 1991: An unfinished masterpiece from the "Blonde on Blonde" sessions, it would be worth the price of admission to hear Dylan perform this stinging song — especially with the last verse, which has only been released as printed text.
9. "Most Of The Time," "Oh Mercy," 1989: One of his most plaintive and smartly constructed busted relationship songs, Dylan has only performed it three dozen times and not once since 1992.
10. "Brownsville Girl," "Knocked Out Loaded," 1986: An 11-minute monologue set to music coauthored with playwright Sam Shepard, Dylan has played this superbly odd song one time in concert, about a month after its release.
11. "The Man In Me," "New Morning," 1970: A fun, uplifting pledge of love used to great effect in the "The Big Lebowski;" I would love to hear this song in particular as a duet with Jim James, the lead singer from My Morning Jacket whose vocals often recall Dylan's of the early 1970s.
12. "I Believe in You," "Slow Train Coming," 1979: Dylan's hippie fans hated him for the collection of gospel originals found on "Slow Train Coming" but it's one of my favorites; the singer has probably never sounded this impassioned. "So it turns out to be a wall-to-wall Jesus album," legendary producer Jerry Wexler said when I interviewed him at his Siesta Key home in 2003. "I couldn't care less. They were beautiful songs."
13. "Red River Shore," "The Bootleg Series, Vol 8: Tell Tale Signs," 2008: Dylan left this gorgeous, 7-minute meditation on life, love and redemption off his Grammy-winning 1997 album "Time Out Of Mind" for reasons we'll never understand and has also refused to play it live.
14. "Roll On John," "Tempest" 2012: Of all the great rock stars of the 1960s, none have continued to maintain the same level of genius of their youth like Dylan, who closed his latest critically acclaimed and commercially successful album with this touching ode to his old rival and pal John Lennon. Dylan has played several songs off "Tempest" in concert but not this one; not yet.
15. "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Bringing it All Back Home," (1965): Dylan would perform this song,which inspired Hunter S. Thompson and thousands and thousands of other writers thanks to its amazing imagery, solo on acoustic guitar with lots of wheezing harmonica as the first encore during my ideal concert.
16. "Like a Rolling Stone," "Highway 61 Revisited," 1965: OK. It's my fantasy setlist, right? Right. So my show would end with Dylan returning to the stage, backed by his band, to find the crowd of mostly college students restless and rude. He would turn his back on the audience, yell to his backing musicians something along the lines of "Play (expletive) loud"! and deliver the greatest kiss off of all time like he had just chewed up a fistful of Adderall; thus recalling the spellbinding, proto-punk performance captured on "The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The 'Royal Albert Hall' Concert."
BobDylan.com was used for this story, most notably to determine when and how often each song has been performed live.