Bob Dylan made some pretty significant changes to his live show earlier this month when he added drummer Matt Chamberlain and guitarist Bob Britt into to the mix. Gone from the band is drummer George Recile, who played continuously for Dylan (onstage and in the studio) since he joined in 2001. No drummer in history has played even close to that many shows with Dylan. Chamberlain — best known for his work with Tori Amos, Pearl Jam, and the Saturday Night Live band — has never played with Dylan before, but Britt did contribute to the Time out of Mind sessions in 1997.
The set list was also reworked in some small, but significant ways. “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’” sometimes takes the place of “Things Have Changed” as the opener and he’s brought “Not Dark Yet” and “Lenny Bruce” into the regular set. The latter song was recorded for 1981’s Shot of Love and was a regular part of his show in the 1980s. Here’s a video of him singing it with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on their 1986 co-headlining tour.
Much like “George Jackson,” “Hurricane,” and “Joey,” the song is a straight-forward tribute to a man that Dylan greatly admired. “I saw [Lenny Bruce] perform in the early Sixties, around 1963, before he got caught up in all that legal stuff,” Dylan said in 1986. “He’s someone who’s never really been attributed the respect he deserves for what he did and the influences he had on so many people. Guys like Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, they owe such a huge debt to him, but no one makes the same fuss about him as they do about all those other guys that died before they should have.”
Prior to this month, Dylan hadn’t played the song live since 2008. It’s likely to stay in the show as the tour continues during the next six weeks, wrapping up December 8th at the Anthem in Washington, D.C. Dylan then takes a break before heading over to Japan in April 2020 for 10 shows in Tokyo and three in Osaka. He’ll be pretty close to his 79th birthday by that point, but at this point it’s easy to imagine him touring long into his 80s. Unlike Lenny Bruce, he’s been fortunate to have an extremely long career.