October 13, 2009
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
"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
| Click Here
to return to the
page by Bill Pagel
| Bob Links
| Set Lists
| Set Lists