[UPDATE 6/25/23]: Bob Dylan plays Grateful Dead songs now, you guys. What started as a couple unusual cover selections by Dylan earlier this year eventually turned into a full-blown “thing.”

During his 2023 Rough and Rowdy Ways spring tour in Japan, the legendary singer-songwriter added the Dead’s “Truckin'” and “Brokedown Palace”, Bob Weir‘s “Only A River”, and frequent live Dead cover “Not Fade Away” (The Crickets) to his typically rigid setlists in roughly the same spot each night. Dylan has continued the trend to some extent as his tour has moved through Europe this month with renditions of “Not Fade Away” in Lisbon, Portugal (6/4, 6/5) and Madrid, Spain (6/7).

On Thursday, June 23rd during a performance at Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Spain, Bob Dylan added yet another Grateful Dead song to that list: Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter favorite “Stella Blue”—and truth be told, it’s pretty solid. Plus, bonus points for debuting it on Robert Hunter’s birthday.

Listen to Bob Dylan’s first-ever live rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Stella Blue” below (h/t Rolling Stone). Scroll down the whole story of Bob Dylan’s recent Grateful Dead kick.

Bob Dylan – “Stella Blue” (Grateful Dead, live debut) – 6/23/23

[Audio: Irenehilda]

[4/20/23]: It seems Bob Dylan may be feeling a bit of U.S. Blues as he makes his way through Japan on his Rough and Rowdy Ways world tour. Throughout the Japanese outing, the famed singer-songwriter tried a slew of new Grateful Dead covers on for size. The experiment went… okay.

On Wednesday night, April 12th, toward the end of his performance, Dylan and his band threw a curveball into their relatively rigid setlist with their first-ever live cover of “Truckin'”, the Grateful Dead’s famed 1970 ode to the road. We wouldn’t call it “good,” necessarily—as you can hear in the audience recording of the cover below, Bob seems to know a decent chunk of the words but is characteristically unconcerned with singing them in the right order, or on the right beat.

Related: Bob Dylan Busts Out Grateful Dead “Friend Of The Devil” Cover In Oakland [Listen]

Still, the “rough and rowdy” rendition of “Truckin'” is worth a listen if only for its context in the broader connection between Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead, longtime friends and collaborators who have traded tunes on numerous occasions. In 1987, after maintaining a decades-long relationship as artistic peers, Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead teamed up on a joint tour during which the Dead would play two sets on their own before serving as Dylan’s backing band for a third frame. The Dead, like countless other bands, habitually adopted Bob Dylan songs as their own, from “When I Paint My Masterpiece” to “The Mighty Quinn” to “Queen Jane Approximately” to “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and beyond. Dylan, for his part, has tried his hand at a number of Grateful Dead tunes over the years including “Friend of the Devil”, “Alabama Getaway”, “West L.A. Fadeaway”, and “Black Muddy River”.

Bob has extolled the virtues of “Truckin'” in the past. In his 2022 book, The Philosophy of Modern Song, he singled out the tune as one of the Dead’s signature songs: “Medium tempo, but it seems to just keep picking up speed. It’s got a fantastic first verse…and every verse that follows could actually be a first verse. Arrows of neon, flashing marquees, Dallas and a soft machine, Sweet Jane, vitamin C, Bourbon Street, bowling pins, hotel windows, and the classic line, ‘What a long strange trip it’s been.’ A thought that anybody can relate to.”

Bob Dylan – “Truckin'” (Grateful Dead) – 4/12/23

Whether he heard the stateside buzz about Wednesday’s Dead cover or just liked the way it felt, Bob Dylan opted once again to add a new Grateful Dead tune to his setlist at his Friday, April 14th performance. If Wednesday’s “Truckin'” was rough, Friday’s “Brokedown Palace” was probably even rougher: Dylan stopped the song midway through after relenting that he didn’t really know the words. Instead, he took on another rare cover from the great American songbook, “Melancholy Mood”, popularized by Frank Sinatra, which he hadn’t played live since 2021. Listen to a clip of the cover below.

The Bob Dylan nods to the Grateful Dead songbook in Japan continued from there. On April 15th, in the same post-“I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You” slot on the setlist, Dylan dusted off a cover of The Crickets‘ “Not Fade Away” for the first time since 2009. While that tune is not a Grateful Dead original, it was a longtime staple of the Dead’s live shows and has carved out its own place in the band’s canon. Watch a video of the cover below.

Bob Dylan – “Not Fade Away” (The Crickets) – 4/15/23

[Related: 0003778]

Bob wasn’t done there, either. On April 16th, his final night in Tokyo, took another shot at the Grateful Dead’s “Brokedown Palace”. Once again, he made it only a few minutes in before calling an audible and opting for a different tune, this time “Goodbye Jimmy Reed”.

He proved that the third time’s a charm the following week in Nagoya, Japan with his first complete performance of the song (4/18). While the lyrics may not have been 100% on point, Dylan gutted it out to the end in his own mercurial style. Dylan also treated his audiences at Nagoya’s Aichi Arts Center to his debut rendition of Bob Weir solo tune “Only A River” (4/20) and threw in additional takes on “Truckin'” (4/20) “Not Fade Away” (4/19) for good measure.

Bob Dylan – “Brokedown Palace” (Complete, Grateful Dead) – 4/18/23

[Video: classictbone]

Bob Dylan – “Only A River” (Bob Weir) – 4/20/23

[Video: TheSkinnyMoo]

[Originally published 4/13/23]