Bob Dylan is now four shows into his U.S. theater tour, and every night has focused heavily on material from 2020’s Rough and Rowdy Ways. But he’s also dug into his back catalog for old favorites like “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” “To Be Alone With You,” “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” and “Watching The River Flow.”
The first two shows wrapped up with “Love Sick” and “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry,” but on Friday night at Cleveland, Ohio’s KeyBank State Theatre, he ditched them both in favor of “Every Grain of Sand.” It was the first time he’d played the song since 2013.
“Every Grain of Sand” was written near the end of Dylan’s gospel period in the fall of 1980. It first appeared on 1981’s Shot of Love, but ten years later the original demo was released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991. It featured background vocals by Jennifer Warnes and the occasional bark by one of Dylan’s dogs, and many fans feel it’s the definitive rendition of the tune. It became a live favorite and has been done 188 times. But it fell out of rotation after Dylan’s November 6th, 2013 show in Rome.
The Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour continues Sunday night in Bloomington, Indiana and wraps up December 2nd in Washington DC. Along the way, he’s playing three nights at the Beacon Theater in New York City and two nights at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York. That gives him plenty of chances to break out surprises. Our votes go for “I and I,” “Caribbean Wind,” “Covenant Woman,” or “Most of the Time.” But as long as he keeps “Every Grain of Sand” in the mix, we’ll be happy.