Where Has Bob Dylan Not Played in 'Never Ending Tour'? Alaska and Africa Craving Some Attention
Jack White announced this week that he would be playing his first-ever acoustic shows, and that those performances would take place only in states that White has never before played (a White fan site suggests those locations will be in North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho and Alaska). The guitarist has certainly found his way around since The White Stripes broke it big, but he's got nothing on Bob Dylan, the ultimate road warrior. The folk icon has been enrolled on his "Never Ending Tour" since 1988, and the statistics demonstrate just how far he's gone. As of a report from 2013, Dylan had played 2,500 shows in more than 800 cities and travelled more than 1,000,000 miles...enough to have travelled to the moon and back by bus...twice. With a travel log like that, it's even more interesting to check out where the performer hasn't been, versus where he actually played. We found some interesting anomalies since updating the numbers for the past two years:
It's interesting to note that although Dylan's "Never Ending Tour" had at least a 12-year head start on White's career as a touring musician, the latter performer will probably beat the 73 year-old to the accomplishment of having played in every U.S. state. The last stop of 50 for Dylan would be Alaska, isolated from the rest of the union by a long trip up the Canadian-Pacific coast, and a locale without the appealing weather of the insular Hawaii. Although many Americans misperceive the 49th state as barren of population, Anchorage is also the largest city in the United States that Dylan has never visited (no. 63 overall by size, which is still larger than more "popular" towns such as Orlando, Cincinnati or Newark, NJ...all of which Dylan has played). Although greatest lyricist in American music continues to tour readily, residents of Alaska have to wonder if Dylan will ever get to his "last frontier."
Dylan, unlike Metallica, hasn't played on all of the continents. Although it's not at all surprising that he's skipped playing in Antarctica as part of some promo, it's rather shocking that he hasn't once played a gig in Africa during the last 27 years. We're not going to make light of the many reasons why no Western performer sets long African runs: Poverty makes attending concerts an absurd notion for much of the population and regional conflicts make it plain dangerous. Putting on a show in Nigeria or Kenya is not outside of the realm of possibility for someone of Dylan's stature however, even if it was a free show. Perhaps he protested playing South Africa during the early '90s due to Apartheid, but those days have passed. Egypt has a reasonable GDP, and other of Africa's 10 richest nations—such as Morocco and Algeria—are literally less than 100 miles from where Dylan has performed in Spain.
The Middle East...except for that Israel place
The absence of Dylan appearances over the last few decades in Africa is bothersome but at least he hasn't played the continent as a whole—he's not ignoring some regions in favor of the rich or anything like that. That's what makes his choice of gigs in the Middle East all the more problematic. Dylan has played four dates in the region over the years...and all of them have been in Israel. It would be incorrect to label it as an Islamic problem, as Dylan is assuredly not racist. He's notably of Jewish heritage however, yet his actual religious identity is a literal mixed-bag: The performer went through an evangelical Christian period, claims to still hold a degree of faith in Christ, yet has also been known to wear a yarmulke from time-to-time. If anything is keeping him out of the rest of the Middle East, it might be his 1983 song "Neighborhood Bully," in which he expresses support of the Jewish state...words not taken lightly by the pro-Palestine neighbors of Israel. Dylan has played numerous shows in Istanbul, but that Turkish city is located so near to mainland Europe that it can hardly be considered "Middle East." It's not as if the Gulf states don't have the money.
Dylan can hardly be the only performer accused of ignoring a bubble waiting to burst in India. Despite being the world's second-largest nation by population, the subcontinent hardly gets the attention it deserves from Western performers. That's starting to change however, as more and more concert promoters begin to stage Western festivals, EDM and otherwise in Goa and other locations. Analysts should expect huge cities such as Mumbai and Delhi to start welcoming more and more foreign acts in years to come. The problem isn't that India has necessarily been ignored, but it has huge music/film industry that has tied in the traditional forms of the nation's heritage more successfully than say, the more Western sounds of Japan and Korea. The openness to Western pop and jazz has made markets such as Japan huge for Western performers, and indeed Dylan has played the nation many times. He's also gotten around to touring the West coast of China as well as Korea and Taiwan. Out of all the aforementioned listings, we feel that India is most likely to get played by Dylan in the near future.
One thing you take from Dylan's touring regime: He's not interested in becoming a tourist attraction. Although he's made stops in Las Vegas and Reno over the years, it's never part of a residency. So you can also assume that the folk icon will never take part in a themed cruise or similar. Understanding that, it doesn't make much sense for Dylan to head down to the Caribbean for many shows, where most of those interested in attending a concert would probably be tourists. That said, it's somewhat surprising that Dylan has never made it to the largest American city that's not actually a state—San Juan, Puerto Rico—or even over to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, which might be able to drum up enough interest in hosting him for at least concert.