Los Angeles, California

Hollywood Palladium

October 13, 2009

[Ron Wells], [Ken Windrum], [Mike C.], [Falling James]

Review by Ron Wells

The Hollywood Palladium is located on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, Ca.  
Built in Art Deco style, the interior holds about 4,000 people, has a  
wooden  and partially circular dance floor, two balconies on the  
sides overlooking the floor, and chandeliers hanging in a semi-cirlce  
around the dance floor.  It opened in 1940 with the Tommy Dorsey band  
playing and an unknown singer by the name of Frank Sinatra  singing.  
Fast forward and everyone from the Rolling Stones to James Brown to  
Jimi Hendrix has played there.

And tonight the Palladium welcomes Bob Dylan.

The first surprise is that Johnny Rivers is the opening act. Johnny  
Rivers? Yep, that Johnny Rivers, who is quite a few miles and many  
decades removed from his glory days at the Whiskey a-Go-Go on the  
opposite end of the Sunset Strip. He plays a short, forty minute  
greatest hits set which includes Mountain of Love, Poor Side of Town,  
Memphis, Maybelline and Secret Agent Man. Nothing wrong with that,  
and the crowd is generous with it’s applause.

Bob Dylan, playing the first of a three night stand here, comes on at  
8:35 and most of the people on the packed dance floor move torward  
the stage. It’s immediately noticeable that something is different.  
Bob’s keyboards are facing a little more towards the crowd and you  
can even see his face. Donnie is still behind him and next to George,  
but Tony and Stu are on the opposite side facing Bob with Charlie  
Sexton between them.  Charlie  immediately begins prowling around the  
center of the stage.

The first song is Gonna Change My Way of Thinking from Slow Train  
Coming and this sets the tone for the evening. This is not the same  
Bob Dylan Show of a year ago. He has reinvented himself and his band  
yet again, and Charlie is the focal point of this change, so a song  
about a rededication to the Lord becomes just as much a song about  
Bob’s rededication to his art, specifically his live show.

He follows this with Shooting Star, as he steps to the microphone  
front and center against a black backdrop filled with white “stars.”  
In something he will do more than once on this night, he sings into  
the mic standing in front of him, while simultaneously holding a mic  
(perhaps a bullet mic) in his right hand which he then uses when he  
plays his harmonica.

He follows this with Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, one of four songs from  
the most recent album.  Bob remains at center stage with Donnie now  
playing trumpet. What was apparent from the beginning is now even  
more obvious, as Charlie stands next to Bob challenging him, prodding  
him, playing off of him, as Bob blows his harp and Charlie responds  
with his guitar. The interplay is a fascinating thing to watch.

If the first three songs were not necessarily my all time personal  
favorites, what was taking place on stage was spellbinding. The  
interplay between Bob and Charlie continues, and the band is picking  
up on this and playing with a renewed energy and focus.

A change indeed.

Then, amazingly, Bob picks up his electric guitar and again remains  
center stage as he plays Don’t Think Twice, with Tony on stand-up  
bass. His voice is as solid and  clear as I’ve ever heard it, and  
from my vantage point at the back, the sound of the entire band is  
very good.

In Cold Irons Bound, Bob remains center stage as the song is given a  
slightly different treatment then heard recently, and once again  
Charlie is right there with his guitar playing off of, against, and  
around Bob’s harp.

Eventually Bob moves back to the keyboards for Most Likely You Go  
Your Way. But no matter where he goes, Charlie follows and confronts  
the keyboard player.  Bob Dylan seems to be having a great time,  
ratcheting up his playing and welcoming the challenge of his  
rediscovered guitarist.

My Wife’s Hometown, with Donnie on mandolin, is played as gloriously  
and  dirty as a blues song  can be played. Tony pounds his stand-up  
bass and the band jams the song hard, harder, hardest. For me, this  
song takes the show into a whole different realm. With Charlie  
prowling the stage seeking out Bob, who is once again on guitar, the  
band plays tight and sharp, pounding away those blues.

Stuck Inside of Mobile finds Bob still on keyboards with Charlie  
center stage, crouching down in front of the monitor, picking,  
listening, then standing and moving over to push the master  
songwriter once again.

High Water has Donnie playing a wonderful sounding banjo with Tony on  
stand-up again. Bob moves once more to center stage with his guitar.  
He and Charlie play off one another, though Bob hardly looks at  
Charlie. Bob lets his guitar’s notes speak for him, and then Charlie  
reponds. A really nice version of the song played on a rainy night in  

With Bob now behind the keyboards, I Feel a Change Comin’ On, is not  
one of my favorite songs from the new album, but watching the stage  
is more than entertaining. Charlie is again down in a crouch in front  
of the stage, until he moves over to play off of Bob when Dylan picks  
up his harp. There is just so much restless, driving energy about  
everything going on on that stage, that even on songs one might not  
like that much, it is impossible to be lulled away from what is  
transpiring in front of you as the songs transform into something you  
might never have suspected they were.

To state the obvious: there is definitely a huge reworking going on  
with this band and this performer.

Highway 61, that old war horse of a song, comes out, and it rocks  
like I have seldom heard it. This is not the same old band anymore,   
and this song and this band threatens to bring down the house.  
Charlie is a restless blur, crouching, moving, now back in line on  
the left before marching across the stage to stand directly in front  
of Dylan coaxing him on to slam those keyboards even harder on a a  
song Bob has played seemingly thousands of times before. This is just  
too much fun.

Nettie Moore drops the energy considerably, but then, they had to  
after the preceding song. It is still a beautiful song and played  
very nicely.

Thunder on the Mountain rocks behind the energy of this born again  
band. Charlie plays part of his solo kneeling in front of the monitor  
yet again, then pushes himself and the band even harder. All the  
players are so focused, so in the moment, it is a beautiful thing to  
watch while your body dances around to the thundering beat.

Ballad of a Thin Man brings Bob front and center again, singing into  
one mic while holding the another mic in his hand. He almost  
pantomimes the song as he sings, “You know something is happening  
here, but you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones.” Well, I know  
what it is, and it is Bob Dylan not being satisfied, always moving,  
always changing, always seeking something new and different in his  
songs, and for this tour, he has chosen Charlie Sexton to inject new  
blood, new vitality into his band. As the song continues, one notices  
Bob’s shadow thrown by the front stage lights against the black  
curtain behind him. A mystery man.  A ghostly presence. The outline  
of genius.

As the band comes out for encores, Charlie has taken off his jacket,  
the only one in the band to do so, and is now wearing only his black  
shirt. Any rules there might have been, have now been broken as Mr.  
Dylan has definitely changed his way of thinking.  Bob says, “Thank  
you, friends” and introduces the band with some comments about a  
couple band members that are not intelligible from the back of the room.

Like a Rolling Stone and All Along the Watchtower are played, with  
the wonderful Jolene squeezed in between them. The encores, with Bob  
behind the keyboards again, are primarily for the casual fans who eat  
them up as usual. Still, the songs are played well and the energy  
level of this band never sags, and even Stu gets in some really fine  

The band stands up at the front of the stage and Bob nods to the  
audience. Then they are gone. It’s 10:30 and they’ve played for  
almost two solid, mesmerizing hours.

Before the band had come on, one of the songs played on the tape in  
the auditorium was Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On”. That will  
never be a problem with Bob Dylan. He is always moving, always  
changing. Always looking for something to keep him interested and  
inspired. With the addition of Charlie Sexton, he has once again  
found that something. If the choice of songs is not what you might  
have hoped for, be assured the band’s playing will be everything you  
can ever want. This is a tight, focused outfit looking for ways to  
expand and reinterpret some of the greatest songs ever written.

And that’s because Bob Dylan would have it no other way.

Ron Wells


Review by Ken Windrum

Dylan should pay Charlie Sexton whatever that man asks because when Sexton is in
the band, the energy level goes up tremendously.  I've seen Dylan about 8 times
in the last 6 or so years and he's been good to dull but never as exciting as
tonight or as loud and energetic.  From the second he started with "I'm Going to
Change my Way of Thinking" his voice was strong and he actually seemed involved.
 I credit this to the fact that Dylan respects Sexton in a way he doesn't the
rest of his band and Sexton functions as a bandleader who keeps the others on
their toes and far more energized.  He played some great solos and also had the
volume at a level I've never heard before at  a Dylan show.  On certain songs
such as a completely reinvigorated Highway 61 and a truly rocking Thunder on the
Mountain, Sexton was even raising the level to something that almost sounded
like feedback or noise.  Even Watchtower came to life.  Dylan responded by
jamming with Charlie while on keyboard (some great Dylan organ on Highway 6

The other great thing: Dylan was out front on guitar or simply singing for about
half the set.  Even when behind the keyboard (which for once you could hear. 
The Palladium, once notorious for awful and muddy sound has really improved
their sound) he was energetic.  He even smiled and laughed a few times.  Dylan
also was a master of many moods tonight.  He was humorous on Most Likely You'll
Go Your Way, menacing like a demented fun house clown on Ballad of a Thin Man
(aided by frontal lighting), apocalyptic and sad on Nettie Moore (a line about
rain was appropriate since it was raining tonight in Hollywood) and poignant on
Shooting Star.

And none of the dull clinkers like Beyond the Horizon/Spirit on the Water
(almost the same song) or the "blooz" numbers Honest with Me or A Million Miles
and no goddamn Tweedly Dee.

I also enjoyed the opening act-Johnny Rivers whose voice is exactly the same as
on his 1960's hits.  He did the beautiful song "Summer Rain" and ended with
"Secret Agent Man."  He sounded really good and was clearly enjoying himself 
Plus I love seeing Dylan in smaller ballroom setting rather than arenas or
baseball stadiums.

Ken Windrum


Review by Mike C.

This show was great!  By the way, Johnny Rivers opening was fantastic!  He
brought back memories that were long lost. I thought I was back at the   Whiskey
in 66. He looked great! Dylan was in fine form as he rolled from tune to  tune,
tossing off lines with ease as he seemed well rested and the band cooked.  The
re-addition of Charlie Sexton seemed to bring a different dynamic to the  band
and I wasn't sure if it was good or bad at first. Sexton's up front  presence
seemed at first to be slightly overpowering and unnecessary but the  band seems
to be getting used to it. It was Dylan and Tony and George driving  the band but
now it seems Dylan and Charlie and Tony and George. Having  said that, Charlie
Sexton was wonderful on guitar and his interplay with Dylan  was good.

On to the show: The band rocked four new songs and the highlight for me was 
 My Wife's Hometown. Watching this performance seemed like watching Dylan 
2009 at  its best. This seemed like where Dylan is at right now. Back on 
guitar he was on  fire as he also shined on Don't Think Twice and High Water
(with a different  arrangement for the latter). Nettie Moore was a gem as he
segued into Thunder  which was phenomenel thanks to George Recile. I Feel A
Change Comin' On was  splendid. The encore was a blistering Like A  Rolling
Stone as Tony Garnier  whips out his red Rickenbacker 4001 and then switches to
stand up for Jolene.  His attention to detail regarding  Dylan's thinking is
amazing. That's why  he's been Bob's bass player for 20 years! 


Review by Falling James

"For years, they had me locked in a cage/Then they threw me onto the stage,"
 Bob Dylan once sang/confessed/bragged/warned. "Some things just last longer 
 than you thought they would."

It's impressive that Bob Dylan is still touring heavily at the age of 68, but what's 
really amazing is that the notoriously unpredictable singer has been on such a 
consistently creative roll over the past decade or so. He admitted in his 2004 
autobiography, Chronicles, Volume One, that the muse often abandons him, 
seemingly for years at a time, as was the case for much of the 1980s. He's never 
been good at faking it when he's not motivated, unlike so many folks from classic 
rock's self-anointed greatest generation (i.e., the '60s) who've made a fine art 
of embalming their nostalgia and dutifully trotting out their ancient hits with a 
depressing slickness and regularity.

But Dylan remains fascinating because he's motivated by his impulses and is 
constantly evolving. He may upset diehard fans by tinkering with the arrangements 
of his old classics, but that's precisely why he's still relevant. That musical 
open-mindedness seems to be a major reason why he's been so prolific since at 
least the 1997 release of Time Out of Mind. In fact, there have been so many 
disparately great tracks (like "Mississippi" and the above-quoted "Dreamin' of You") 
that didn't make the cut on such excellent, so-called "comeback" albums as 
2001's Love and Theft and 2006's Modern Times, Dylan had to issue a special 
three-disc version of his Bootleg Series of rarities, Tell Tale Signs, last year.

Given that he has such a wealth of recent material, as well as that awesome back 
catalog to dip into, we though it would be interesting to review and compare 
each of the shows at Dylan's three-night stand at the Palladium this week. That 
might seem a bit obsessive, but this consecutive set of gigs offers a rare chance 
to see him really dig into his repertoire, and see what surprises he might have in 
store for his adopted hometown. Many of his fans, who follow him on tour around 
the country like Deadheads, already know that he mixes up his set lists every 
night, with the ever-present possibility of an out-of-left-field cover song.

Of course, there are also risks with being so unpredictable. Dylan has a good 
voice -- several of them, in fact -- but he often flounders around wildly attempting 
to find it. His temptation to try spontaneous new melodies sometimes leaves him 
behind the beat and stuck out on a musical limb like a cat who can't find his way 
back down from a tree. His vocals can be so erratic, they sometimes make such 
famously inconsistent front men like Mick Jagger, Joey Ramone and Lou Reed 
seem like opera singers. At the Dylan concerts I've seen in the past decade, his 
vocals have frequently been phlegmatic and hoarse, especially at the beginning 
of his shows.

But Tuesday night at the Palladium, Dylan was in fine voice from the opening song, 
"Gonna Change My Way of Thinking," an ominous "Jesus is coming" warning from 1
979's Slow Train Coming, which stalked with a bluesy intensity. You didn't have to 
believe in God to get a chill from its foreboding atmosphere. The singer was 
dressed in a black hat and a black suit with red buttons and a red collar, while the 
band was decked out in matching grey suits. In something of a surprise, regular 
lead guitarist Denny Freeman was missing, replaced for this tour by former Dylan 
sideman Charlie Sexton.

The second song, "Shooting Star" (from 1989's Oh Mercy), was an early highlight, 
with jangling guitars creating a sublimely spacy, mellow backdrop. Dylan even s
wung down low to intone a few deep, bassy lines like a cabaret crooner. It's a 
voice he rarely uses, but it sounded warm and sensual.

"Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" was the first of four songs from Dylan's recent CD, 
Together Through Life, that would be played over the course of the evening. 
As the rolling swells of zyedeco/Tex-Mex-fueled rhythms rose and fell behind him, 
Dylan wailed on harmonica, blending it artfully with multi-instrumentalist whiz 
Donnie Herron's trumpet blasts to create an awesome sheet of sound that 
moved from swanky blues to No Wave dissonance.

Originally intended for big bands, the Palladium historically had a muddy, echoey
sound whenever electrified rock bands performed there, but the newly renovated 
ballroom not only looked much cleaner, lighter and airier tonight, the sound system 
was a vast improvement from the old days. There was a sharpness and clarity to 
instruments like acoustic guitar, mandolin and banjo, which would have been 
buried in the murk in the past.

Dylan strapped on an electric guitar for an amiable ramble through "Don't Think 
Twice, It's All Right," as the crowd sang along with him. It was a pleasant 
interlude, but nowhere near as heavy as the contrasting shock of a 
hard-and-heavy "Cold Irons Bound" (from Time Out of Mind). Dylan again 
spit out some soul-piercing, bluesy harp. His harmonica playing has really e
volved in recent years, becoming deadlier and much more melodically exacting 
compared to the seemingly random flurry of notes he blew through in the 
early years.

"Most Likely You'll Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)" was the first weak performance 
of the night. The breaks were sloppy, and the rollicking drum fills that give the song 
its snappy hook were too tentative. That's probably not entirely drummer George 
Recile's fault. Even though the singer's underrated, sympathetically intuitive band 
have been playing with him for a long time and have done these songs hundreds of 
times, Dylan still has a tendency to change the length of verses and even individual 
phrases without warning, which means that Recile and the band have to be 
constantly vigilant and ready to reign him back in if the song goes off the track. 
That's probably why the musicians often look worried and uptight, focusing intently 
on every one of Dylan's twitches for a potential sign of an imminent chord change 
or an extended vamp.

There's a reason why they're called His Band as opposed to, say, The Band. They're 
there to follow him, not the other way around. (Of course, it's hard to imagine 
Dylan having ever followed anybody else's lead, except maybe when he's chasing a 
beautiful woman he has the hots for.)

These days, Dylan generally prefers to play keyboards onstage, slinging on his guitar
just once or twice per show. Standing behind his keyboards seems to give him more 
control. When a jam gets going or a song changes direction, it's usually Dylan who 
launches it, sending out shifting chords or repeating a pattern he really likes. He's 
like a captain at the wheel of his ship when he's behind his keyboards, which are 
not set up to face directly at the audience. Instead, the keyboards are angled so 
that they're pointed at the rest of his band, who are largely on the opposite side 
of the stage, staring back at him like serious, attentive students.

Herron switched to mandolin and Tony Garnier leaned on his upright bass for the 
next song, a slinky and luridly rocking take on "My Wife's Hometown" (from Together 
Through Life). It's here where Dylan's craggier, rawer vocal style works best, sort of
like Tom Waits or an old bluesman putting his rough burr against the sexy shake of a 
roots rhythm. Musically, "My Wife's Hometown" is like an especially seedy cross 
between "Heartbreak Hotel" and "I Just Want to Make Love to You." It may 
disappoint folk-music purists who only want to hear Woody Guthrie songs, but Dylan 
has clearly thrown his allegiance over to the blues in recent years. Maybe that's where 
he's been all along, since brainy folk really isn't that far away from the more 
rhythmically compelling blues, meeting somewhere down that ol' Highway 61.

"Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again" was next, and it was a little 
disorganized at first, with the chords clashing chaotically in the early going, and the 
tempo speeding up by the end. But the band managed to hold it together, and at 
times it was suffused with some of the same glow as the original version.

Bob was back on guitar for the throbbing blues rock of "High Water (For Charley 
Patton)." He clutched the neck almost vertically, like former Stones bassist Bill 
Wyman, as if he wanted to keep a tight connection and eye on his own scrappy 
lead-guitar licks, which he traded nimbly with Sexton's. There was a really lovely 
moment when Dylan's electric guitar, Sexton's lead guitar, Stu Kimball's rhythm 
guitar and Herron's banjo all met at the junction for an intricately knotty and lacy 
twining of string sounds.

Change seems to be word that best defines Bob Dylan, and it cropped up again in 
the title of another recent song from Together Through Life, "I Feel a Change 
Comin' On." It was a jaunty, nicely mellow change of pace, especially when 
juxtaposed with an ensuing throttling of "Highway 61 Revisited." That mid-1960s 
classic snaked to an inexorably compulsive John Lee Hooker makeover, culminating 
in an increasingly loud and stormy jam that drew the biggest audience response of 
the night. The song is usually a centerpiece at Dylan concerts, and tonight his 
keyboards really rocked, pulsating firmly, almost like a Deep Purple rave-up.

Dylan settled the audience back down with another ballad, "Nettie Moore" (from 
Modern Times), which had a sweetly lilting feel, thanks to Herron's expectant, 
staccato viola strokes. On the day of L.A.'s first rainstorm of the season, Dylan 
raised another cheer from the punters when he sang, "I think the rain has 

Speaking of rain, "Thunder on the Mountain," another tune from Modern Times, 
has become a regular selection on recent tours, and tonight it really swung, with 
Sexton pulling off a great solo, which was rooted at first in countrified twang, 
before it shifted into supersonic overdrive, with double-note rockabilly-blues licks 
he wrung out from his ax's neck and flung across the ballroom floor like 
heat-seeking laser beams.

"Ballad of a Thin Man" was even more dramatic, with the stage lights casting giant 
shadows of the band against the black curtain backdrop. This arrangement was 
especially stark. At times, there was little more than Recile's drums and Dylan's 
vocals, with an occasional stray splang of guitar. Then Dylan huffed a bitterly 
melancholic harp solo, leaving big, lonely spaces between each aching blast of his 
harmonica. Here was an oldie that didn't sound like an oldie, since it was felt fresh 
and cold and stinging like a new snowfall.

That was the end of the main set, although much of the crowd didn't appear to 
notice that the lights had gone down and that the band had left the stage. 
Eventually, a few folks mustered a timid round of applause for an encore. Maybe 
fans were still shell-shocked by the harrowing version of "Ballad of a Thin Man." It's 
not that people didn't like the show. Everyone stayed, waiting expectantly for an 
encore that most were too lazy to call out for. Eventually, Dylan & His Band
returned, whipping out what I call their usual Jimi Hendrix-themed encores, "Like 
a Rolling Stone" and "All Along the Watchtower," which were bookend around a 
lustily rocking version of the new song "Jolene" (which shouldn't be confused with 
the Dolly Parton song of the same title).

As usual, Dylan didn't say much to the crowd except when he introduced the band. 
"Like a Rolling Stone" was livelier than some recent versions, which have a little 
creaky at times. "All Along the Watchtower" felt urgent, as Dylan's insistent 
keyboards pushed the song along to a clipped beat. To Sexton's credit, his solos 
didn't fall into a predictable Hendrix trap, as he found his own bluesy way to make 
the song sound different. Recile released some saved-up tension with a couple of 
powerfully explosive, fast drum rolls that came out of nowhere, and which really 
sent "Watchtower" tumbling down the hill. Great stuff. The crowd didn't get 
(or deserve) a second encore, but Dylan & His Band came back for one last bow, 
before they slipped away into the shadows by the side of the stage.

Submitted to Bob Links by Falling James
LA Weekly Blog


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