The Petty Archives

Tour may be no big deal for Dylan, but it is for Petty
The Montreal Gazette - July 24, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) -- Bob Dylan, whose live shows over the past 25 years have been acoustic, electric and always eclectic, shrugs off his worldwide tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, wondering what all the fuss is about.

"People forget it, but since 1974 I've never stopped working," he says.

"So for me, I'm not getting caught up in the excitement of a big tour," Dylan told Rolling Stone magazine in a recent interview. "I've played big tours and I've played small tours. I mean, what's the big deal about this one?"

The True Confessions tour, dubbed "the summer's hottest ticket" by many, marks Dylan's first U.S. tour since 1978 and follows Dylan-Petty shows in Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Virtually every ticket on the U.S. tour has been sold; about one million people will see the show by its completion.

By latching onto Petty and Co., the reclusive Dylan has continued his string of unpredictable live performances.

"I mean, Dylan's just a guy like anyone else -- except he's a guy who has something to say," Petty told Rolling Stone. "And he has a personality that makes it his own."

Dylan's had plenty of practice.

Some of his earliest live shows were in Gerde's Folk City, the recently closed Greenwich Village club where he appeared with just guitar and harmonica on "hootenanny" nights when the stage was open to anyone.

He subsequently toured in 1965-66, introducing his new material with a new band: the Hawks, who later achieved notoriety as The Band.

Dylan's infamous "electric period" kicked off with a blistering version of Maggie's Farm at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival where he was booed and condemned by folk purists. "They must be pretty rich to go someplace and boo," Dylan said at the time. "I mean, I couldn't afford it if I was in their shoes."

Robbie Robertson, guitarist with The Band, recalled it this way: "We set up, we played, they booed and threw things at us. Then we went to the next town, played, they booed, threw things, and we left again.

"I remember thinking: 'This is a strange way to make a buck.'"

Dylan and The Band were far more successful with their 1974 tour, the singer-songwriter's first national tour. The sold-out concerts produced the fine, live LP Before the Flood.

For the U.S. Bicentennial, Dylan mounted The Rolling Thunder Revue, a tour with an ever-changing cast of characters ranging from Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell to Roger McGuinn on any given night.

A 1978 tour featured an 11-piece band -- with horn section -- supporting Dylan, but his next live shows found him with a new bandmate: Jesus. A born-again Dylan outraged fans and critics with performances from his much-maligned Christian records, Slow Train Coming and Saved.

Oddly, Dylan -- who had defined a generation with his music through the 1960s -- earned his first Grammy award with the Slow Train album in the gospel music category.

Since the get-together, Dylan and Petty have co-written several songs, releasing the single, Band of the Hand, a winding, gospel-flavored number which was the title cut for the unsuccessful film's soundtrack.

Dylan has also just released a new album, Knocked Out Loaded, with the Heartbreakers playing on the Dylan-Petty collaboration, Got My Mind Made Up.

"This has been a good time for us in general," Petty said. "I think we feel pretty glad to be together."