Reviews

New York, New York

United Palace Theatre

November 18, 2009


[Mike Skliar], [Dweezil D.], [Hermann Rechberger]

Review by Mike Skliar



This is the first Dylan concert I've seen since last seeing him at the United
Palace almost exactly a year ago, and about my 60th show overall, perhaps.

This was an absolutely fantastic show on just about every level.  It's hard to
know where to begin, but I'll start by saying that Bob was focused, engaged, and
seemed very much 'there' all evening, frequently standing center stage and
giving it his all. The band has lost a lot of its 'let's be tame and do the
usual' thing that had dogged the post- Larry/Charlie band for several years from
time to time. Having Charlie Sexton on lead guitar seemed to energize both the
rest of the band as well as Bob. Those who have seen this tour know how Charlie
prowls the stage, adding accents, energy and being a great foil/counterpart for
Bob.  Many of the new arrangements worked exceptionally well, too, and the
setlist for the most part stayed clear of many of the 'same old same old'songs
such as Honest with Me, Tweedle Dee, etc that we've all heard too much of in
recent years.

So, starting with the opener, we got "Stuck inside of Mobile" which I've never
seen as an opener before, as far as I can remember. He doesn't perform the song
as well as  say, in Rolling Thunder 1976, but it's still a fine bit of Blonde on
Blonde surrealism, which, when you think of it, wouldn't  have been out of place
on Love and Theft as well. It works in Bob's current voice, and was a fine
opener, much more interesting, say, then "Cats in the well". (Wish I had gotten
to hear 'Gonna change my way of thinking' which he's been opening with as well,
but you can't get everything.)

Next we got a slightly rearranged version of "It ain't me babe". Just a bit too
bass-heavy and too much of a 'rocking uptempo' thing , perhaps- the arrangement
needs Bob's 1974 voice a bit, but still very good, interesting, and still, after
45 years, a great song. Already, this is turning out to be a great and
interesting show.

Slot three gives us a fine, even tremendous version of   "Man in a long black
coat' with Bob at the center microphone, giving it his all. I realize that  Bob
alone out there, without the ever present lyric sheets that he uses at the
piano, and facing the audience completely, seems to generate  a much more
engaged performance  then the 'standing  behind  the keyboard facing the band'
thing he's been doing a lot in the last few years. A well thought out 
arrangement, which has power, a bit of country swing to it, but never drowns out
the passionate  vocal. Bob is doing  wonderful phrasing on this, and indeed all
night, which is a real treat, especially on quieter songs like this one.

Next comes a personal debut for me, one of the "Together thru life" songs. It's
an uptempo fun version of "It's all good" and it moves along nicely. Charlie
injects lots of great fills in there. Sometimes Bob's vocal is drowned out a
bit, but there's a lot of words and it's clear he's having fun with it.  Fine
song that's probably one rewrite away from being really wonderful, perhaps.

After that, its time for some "Modern Times' swing with 'Spirit on the Water".
It's not my favorite song to hear in concert, probably as it seems to go on so
long every time it's played.  I could be wrong but I think I heard the only
lyrical flub of the evening, which was that he did one of several bridge
sections (the 'put some sugar in my bowl' section) twice.  This version was a
tiny bit snappier, more rhythmically precise and faster, then prior versions
I've heard, and better for that.

Then comes one of the great versions of "Highwater" I've heard.  I've heard this
song in concert a lot, in fact I was there for the Niagara Falls version from
2002 or 2003 that made it onto the deluxe version of Tell Tale signs. This is
not nearly as guitar-heavy, but features (in addition to Donnie on banjo) Bob
center stage, singing and occasionally playing harmonica (thru a traditional
harmonica 'bullet' mic) for emphasis.  The arrangement, with the old time banjo
prominent, but with an almost r & b energy,   emphasizes the crazy- Americana
story, with its allusions  to so many 1920s and 30's blues songs, it's got that 
Cohen Brothers meet Great Depression "Oh brother where art thou" feeling deep
down in its bones.     Fascinating performance, not stopping for any long solos,
but all the more powerful for its sustained intensity.

Then comes a very good-verging on great "Most likely you go your way". Well sung
and played, with Charlie attacking the main riff from every angle.

Next, probably the highlight of the concert for me. The stage gets dark, very
dark, and Bob, alone center stage with just a harmonica, and with the band
whisper-quiet, delivers another personal debut for me,   "Forgetful Heart". This
is not only wonderful on every level, but reminds me of latter-day Frank
Sinatra, doing "angel eyes' or 'one for my baby, one more for the road'. It's
got a drama and intensity that's positively theatrical, and is in every way a
standout.

Next comes something else really wonderful- a fairly major (to my ears at least)
rearrangement of "Cold Irons Bound". It's, again, a tremendously symphatic
arrangement, which somehow doesn't sound too gimmicky (which the circa 2001-3
arrangements , dramatic as they were, sometimes seemed) and which is somehow
smoother but still with plenty of mystery and energy.    

Where to go after that?  A rollicking, organ-driven version of another debut for
me, "I feel a change coming on". It's played and sung like its been an old
friend for years, (in a good way, that is) and is great fun. 

Highway 61 follows, and the band delivers as fierce and intense a sound as I've
heard this band deliver- Charlie playing, I think, a silver colored  Fender
Telecaster really rips it up, and theres a great interplay with Bob doing some
great organ lines in an old fashioned 'each person take four bars'  cutting
contest  with Charlie. A song I've heard a million times but tonight was more
fun then most. 

Then comes another highlight, Workingmans' blues. I've seen him do this song
several times and he always seems to pour himself into this one. This was as
good a version as I've heard, although to be fair, they've all been good.

Thunder on the Mountain is next, and this one is simply ok. Not my favorite song
(sloppy writing and generic blues backing, if you ask me).

The following song, which is the last song of the main set, blows the roof off
the place. One of the best versions I've ever heard him do of Ballad of a Thin
man. The lighting really added to the spookiness of this, with Bob's shadow
magnified above his head about 20 feet up.  The lighting, in fact,  was
excellent all night, a great counterpart to the music, and which I enjoyed even
better from my second row in the loge (center, too) seat.

Again, Bob was center stage for this, giving it his all and not missing a word. 

The encores were a fine version of Like a rolling stone, an ok version of Jolene
(which is not one of my favorites, actually) and a really interesting version of
Watchtower. Interesting version of watchtower? Hasn't it been done to death in
the 35 years he's been playing this song live? Well, perhaps, but what I heard
tonight was a real elasticity of phrasing, drawing out some words, and somehow
making it all seem logical, that shows what effortless command Bob had all
night.

Fantastic show, and I should mention that it was also great after the show
meeting a few of the folks who had flown across the pond from the UK for these
shows.  Glad all of you (and I) saw a great one!

Mike Skliar

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Comments by Dweezil D.



Just got in from my 43rd Dylan show.  I didn't think I could be stunned anymore
but Bob proved otherwise.  The arrangement and performance of Forgetful Heart
was hands down the BEST performance I've ever seen Bob give.  Man in the Long
Black Coat was also done in a new and interesting way.  Bob was in fine form
throughout the show.  He was much more animated than I've seen him recently. 
Dancing behind the keyboard and standing center stage at the mic stand and
gesturing with his hands and arms.  A huge welcome back to Charlie.  Boy how
I've missed you.  I've seen these songs before but never in quite the same way. 
Wow. 

[TOP]

Review by Hermann Rechberger



Having arrived the second time at United Palace things easier on Will Call and
ticket is handed out wihtin minutes. A very relaxed crowd greets Dylan with
enthusiasm and Bob gave us all back. Stuck Inside of Mobile kicked the off to
110% with Dylan hammering his keybpard and the band beeing ecaxtly was it sould
be: 6 musicians playing together. Doubtless Bob and Charlie are the leaders, but
- for exaample - Stu Kimball is the partner without this wouldn't work. Not to
mention all the other band members. The good mood holds on throughout the show,
both on stage and on audience side. 8 songs in row different to yesterday, first
repetition was Cold Irons Bound. But this could not call repetition: again a
powerful performance with Bob center stage and the band doing it magical fine.
Every night this is surprising me in it's new arrangement, i first heart this
live in Berlin 1998 but can't get enough. It's hard to name highlights, so let's
call it magic moments in a row of highlights: The guitar work on Most likely You
Go Your Way, the 3 songs from this years album (It's All Good, Forgetful Heart,
I Feel A Change Comin' On), Workingman's Blues and of course, the electric
storms on Highway 61 and All Along The Watchtower. I assume Bob's intention is
to show Neil Young how it sounds when a power station is exploding. Low points:
not from Bob and his band, but from the location; how can it be that a theatre
offers only one (1!) restroom in the upper floor whre people have stand in a
line of 100 ore more persons? And why there is no cloakrooms? Poeple have to
bring in all their clothes which makes the seating very uncomfortable.
Expections for night 3: of course a Dylan in disguise doing Must Be Santa!

Hermann Rechberger
Salzburg, Austria

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