November 21 2008
Review by Kevin Ouellette
Just got back from the show. It was better than I expected. Bob came out
center stage and began the show with a bang, Gotta Serve Somebody. He was
center stage with just his harp and man was he playing the hell out of the
harp tonight. Never heard his harp playing this good.
The Times was nice to hear in the second spot. His organ playing was
actually very good tonight as well. It added a lot to many of the songs.
The first real big surprise of the night came when he walked center stage
strapped on the big hollow body and started into Tomorrow Is A Long Time.
I wish his vocals had been better on this one though. He really growled
through most of it. I believe that I witnessed the last performance of
this tune in Boston '05 at the Orpheum, it was better in '05. Still good
to see and hear Bob play the guitar though.
Things Have Changed was a nice number. Haven't heard it live in a while
and with Bob's oscar near by it was good to hear.
Desolation Row was actually sung really well until about the 3rd verse
when Bob started doing this staccato phrasing which he did on a couple
other songs. It kind of really killed that verse. Other than that it
was a very nice arrangement.
I was very glad to hear 'Til I fell In Love With You. I am a huge Time
Out Of Mind Fan and Bob came center stage with harp in hand for this one
too. It was a real down and dirty blues number with Bob taking some very
extended harp solos.
Make You Feel My Love is one of my favorite Dylan tunes. His voice was
really rough on this one though. I was hoping he would give it a little
more care. Still a treat for me to hear.
Spirit On The Water was easily the best vocal of the night along with
Ain't Talkin'. Bob was much easier to understand on the softer numbers.
Bob and the boys came out for an extended encore. Bob actually hopped out
from behind the curtain to his keyboard for Like A Rolling Stone, my
friend thought it was one of the best parts of the night. Bob walked
over and picked up the guitar for Blowin' In The Wind. He really played
exceptionally well on it too. He had a blistering solo at the end that
had the whole theatre going nuts. Then the band took its bows and exited
A few other thoughts and observations, Stu took a lot of solos tonight.
He is apparently off Bob's shit list and allowed to play more than rhythm
guitar. He actually played very well tonight too. For those who care the
band was dressed in matching black suits and Bob was wearing a black suite
with white piping on this pants. He had a blue shirt and blue scarf on
with a white hat. Bob was very energized tonight for being at the end of
a long tour. He had more energy than I have seen him have in years. You
can tell he's still having fun after all these years.
Review by Scott Kareff
Bob Dylan returned to NYC to wrap up the latest leg of the Never Ending
Tour in a show that was announced last-minute after his barnstorming tour
of Ontario was well underway. Bob must have been feeling good and some of
the set lists and reviews show that. Tickets only available on
bobdylan.com. We had great center sightlines from our orchestra seats.
Show logistics were a thing of beauty. Took the N train to 42d and then
the 1 to 168th and broadway. Quesedillas at Tipico's right next store and
an order of plantains. And leaving, dr scott flew across crossbronx to
cross island and to little neck inn in about 24 minutes.
Speaking of the venue, as many know, the theater is an old, majestic movie
theater from the 1920's or so, rescued in the 1980's and turned into a
churh, presided over by Reverand Ike. This was not lost on Bob, who
opened the show with Gotta Serve Somebody. Coincidence? I don't think
Overall, a strong showing by bob. Lots of energy. I'd say he out-performed
Phil Lesh for artist of the week but it was quite a contest. His outfit
was standard fare late never ending tour issue. Black outfit; gold lame
stripes down the outsides of his legs like racing stripes. Western hat,
bolo. Harmonica around his neck and he played it.
Stepped out a couple of times into the light. Softpeddled a few steps.
Played a little guitar (yeah!) Highlights were Tomorrow is a Long Time,
Desolation Row and Its Alright Ma. Many songs had a reggae feel to them
and his stacatto delivery on Blowing in the Wind and Its Alright Ma stuck
Review by Mike Skliar
This was a hit-and-miss show for me, never quite reaching that sustained high
point that I had seen at so many other shows… and while a bit disappointing,
there were some wonderful moments. I should mention that it's a beautiful
theater, dating, I think, back to the 1920's.
First out of the gate was an interesting version, Bob center stage with mic
and harmonica, of "Gotta Serve Somebody" For a second, minus the lumps
of gravel in the circa-2008 Bob voice, it had echoes of perhaps the last time
I had seen him open with it- a show I had seen him (my second Dylan show)
at the Palace Theater in Albany NY, 1980, when he played just gospel songs,
and gave a somewhat strange but incredibly moving and powerful performance.
The unusual first song choice had an 'anything can happen now' feeling-
unfortunately that spell would be broken about halfway thru the show.
Another big minus tonight is that from where I was sitting (orchestra about 8
rows back but all the way on the side) the sound was bassy and boomy, with
the vocal nuances, along with whole phrases at times, being lost in the
Bob went behind the keyboard for the first time in the evening on the second
song, a somewhat bottom heavy version of 'times are a changin'. It didn't
have that ¾ waltz time "lilt" that I've heard him play it before, more of a
straight rock 4/4 feel. Didn't totally work, but it did have its own power, and
was perhaps the closest he would get to topical for this show, coming after
the presidential election but before the inauguration. Next up was an
unremarkable version (aren't they all?) of "Levee's gonna break"
He followed that with one of the nicest surprises of the evening- playing
center stage what looked like a Gibson ES 175 guitar (electric, but with a
full thickness acoustic-type body) on a version of "Tomorrow is a long time" .
It's one of his most beautiful songs, and I hadn't heard him do this live for
many years. Unfortunately, what could have been a huge highlight was
eclipsed somewhat by the bad sound (at least from where I was sitting) as
well as a fairly unimaginative arrangement which had the band playing fairly
loudly behind him. This song really needs a more quiet space to breathe
then what it got tonight. He also sung it in a much lower register then I've
heard him sing it before, and a higher key might have brought out a little
more sweetness in the vocal. That being said, it was a wonderful moment
to hear Bob up there playing guitar and singing this song.
From there, his performance started to really catch fire with a wonderful
'Things have Changed' with the band and the song working together.
Next up was a very good, but not exceptional, version of "Desolation Row".
Bob tried several different phrasings here, sometimes resorting to a more
sing-song style, sometimes a rhythmic chant, sometimes playing it more
straight. Any one of which could have been good choices, but it felt a bit
like he was throwing it all against the wall to see what would stick. His
delivery of the last verse, playing it fairly straight, was some of his best
singing of the night, though.
He followed up that surrealistic epic 1965 masterpiece with another, "It's
alright, ma, I'm only bleeding" I don't think the current (since about a
year ago) arrangement works quite as well as the last few arrangements
of the last decade or so, as the band leans too heavily on the same blues
lick at the expense of more subtle melodic exploration. It's still effective as
hell, though, as the song is so incredible and there are so many great lines
he always delivers well. I was pleased that the 'sometimes even the
president of the united states must have to stand naked' line got a big
cheer, as this is probably his last concert in the current presidential
Just when it was getting interesting, a run-of the mill version of 'Beyond
the Horizon' had much of the audience sitting down, where they would
remain until much later in the show.
Another great highlight was next, a center-stage with harmonica and
hand movement-version of "Till I fell in love with you". He seemed to
relish the idea of being a blues frontman, swaying to the music, bending
his knees, and played some great harmonica. His movements at times
here had that Chaplinesque quality that has been written about him since
his very first shows in NYC more then 45 years ago.
After that blues workout, it was time for a bit of a more pop/country song,
"To make you feel my love". It's a song despised by many Dylan fans for its
uncharacteristic generic sounding simplistic lyrics, and has never been one
of my favorites. Strange thing was, however, I found myself enjoying it a
bit more then I thought. He again played some great harmonica on it,
especially at the end, and the more rigorous structure of the song was a
welcome respite to the I-IV-V standard blues patterns of some of the
From here, the show reached a bit of a low point with the three unexciting
to me choices of "Honest with me", "Spirit on the water", and "Highway 61".
The band was, I have to admit, very tight on Honest with me, though it's
one of my least favorite Love and Theft songs. The others were about the
same as they've been for a while now.
An exciting and moving version of "Ain't Talkin" was next, and was really
delivered well, with stage lights so low you could barely see Bob and the
band, although it didn't really matter. Of the Modern Times material done at
this show, this was probably the most powerful song. "Thunder on the
Mountain" which followed and concluded the main set, was, well, same as
its ever been.
Encores were "Like a Rolling Stone", "Watchtower" (fine, though not
exceptional versions), and then Bob back on his Gibson ES 175 guitar for that
r & b styled version of "Blowin in the wind" he's been doing for about a year
and a half or so. He even played one of those "two note solos" in there, and
got the crowd applauding with the rhythm of it all. It was a fine ending to
the show. All in all, it wasn't the best or the worst Bob show I've seen, and
was not the epic tour-closer that many of us had hoped for, but those Bob
at center-stage moments were a great sight to see and hear.
Review by Charles Gardner
Last night's show was a satisfying Dylan experience. Though Bob's singing
was a bit better than when I saw him at the end of '07, it was the
phenomenal harp playing, the mix of organ, guitar, and center-stage harp
playing that made the show stand out. Apart from the opener, which was a
great addition, and an over-arranged Tomorrow Is A Long Time, there were
no surprises on the setlist.
The theater was something that must be seen to be believed. Built in the
20s as a vaudeville concert hall, the place is decorated in an
unbelievably ornamented style that looks as though the architect of Angkor
Wat had collaborated with the builders of the Taj Mahal, the Alhambra and
the Hagia Sophia and thrown in some Art Deco concepts to boot. The entire
interior is gilded from top to bottom. An interesting neighborhood, too
-- Washington Heights, where British troops gave ol' George a beating back
in 1776. Wasn't able to do much looking around, though, as the temperature
at showtime was in the 20s with a gusty wind hitting you square in the
face whichever way you might turn.
Back to the show: the highlights as far as singing goes were clearly
Spirit on the Water and Ain't Talkin', which Bob took great care with.
Gotta Serve Somebody was a great opener -- reminiscent of those '98 shows
in a way -- and Bob was really enjoying it too, out at center-stage mic
with left knee bent, moving around in his unique Bob way, growling out
verses and interspersing them with licks from the harp. Having Bob front
and center for both the start and the end of the show really lifted up the
whole experience for me.
He picked up his acoustic guitar twice: on Tomorrow is a Long Time and
Blowin' In The Wind, but I will echo another review in saying that I think
"Tomorrow" was a bit overplayed by the band. The acoustic set disappeared
sometime in early 2003, for reasons known only to Bob, but he seems
unwilling to rein in the band on even the songs that most deserve a
delicate treatment. "Upgrading" a traditionally acoustic tune to a full
drums-electric-and-bass arrangement can be a great success, but when all
the songs are treated in such fashion, from Desolation Row and Blowin' in
the Wind to Tomorrow is a Long Time and Times are A-Changin', the method
loses its effectiveness and the show becomes a bit musically monotonous.
Does Bob feel his voice is no longer up to the task of carrying a soft
acoustic tune? Or is there some other reason?
That gripe aside, 'Til I Fell In Love With You, It's Alright Ma, and
Things Have Changed were all great and continue to work well. 'Til I Fell
in Love With You seemed like an odd choice for a center stage guitar-less
performance but Bob made it work, treating it old-bluesman style with harp
notes in between verses, and even between lines of verses to great effect.
It is a testament to Time Out of Mind how well this song continues to
hold its own. Honest With Me, Hiway, Horizon, Watchtower and Rolling
Stone were just what they were, and no more. Thunder on the Mountain,
though, was terrific, and a step up from 2007. Stu had out an acoustic
guitar, and played aggressive rhythm that worked wonderfully with Denny on
electric lead. It added a new dimension to the song (making me miss those
early 90s days when Bob himself played acoustic on the electric numbers)
and Bob was signing his heart out besides.
A nice end to '08, and now a good long break for Bob and his band. Hope
to catch him again in '09!
Review by Willy Gissen
It seems like ages since Dylan played in New York City, and I nearly missed it.
Yes, the same person who took a vacation in November 2002 after a grueling
political campaign -- for the McCall/Mehiel ticket against George Pataki -- to
follow Dylan up and down the East Coast for eight (or was it nine?) concerts.
You see, I recently started a financial course called the Financial Peace University
and was committed to the second month of following a budget. The budget
doesn't have to be punitive; you can allot $200 for entertainment, for example,
but the concept demands you plan the spending of every dollar one month in
advance and then use an "envelope system."
And Dylan wasn't on my list; in fact, he would be a budget buster. So even
though I saw the concert listed on the tour section of Dylan's web site, I
hesitated about the cost and didn't plan my day to be on the phone at 10 AM.
Then, later that evening, when I succumbed, there were no tickets left.
And how foolish was that! A budget is one thing, but seeing Dylan in New York
City??? Come on. Anyway, after coming to my senses, I resolved to keep
checking Ticketmaster because the web site advised visitors to keep trying
because extra seats often became available shortly before the show opened.
A week ago, I tried again, and bingo! Orchestra seats!!! At least, I saved some
money by picking up my tickets at the window instead of getting them by mail.
As I explored the venue -- all I knew was 175th street -- I got a preview about
how special this concert would be. Hoping to avoid the depths of Harlem, even
though I was prepared to travel there for my Dylan splurge, I must still admit a
little relief when I realized it would be in Washington Heights. Not because of any
prejudice --- I'm an enthusiastic support of Barack Obama -- but growing up in
the New York City area, you realize you must be cautious where you go. There
are some places where you can actually lose your life, and a natural wariness
In fact, the United Palace is in Washington Heights, and the building is an
architectural wonder. It opened in 1930 and has been fully restored to its
original extravagance. At the time, it was the third largest theater in the
United States. By the 1960's, all the other great movie palaces had closed
down, but this one still remains. Its style was described as Byzantine,
Romanesque and eclectic.
When I got inside, I realized all the raves were not just hype. The inside is
stunning, and despite the 3,000-seat capacity, it fosters a sense of shared
experience and community. Surprisingly, the sound system was remarkably
Oh, and you're wondering when I'll get to the concert? To put it in a sentence,
"This was a special event, even for Dylan fans." As a born-again Christian,
awakened by Slow Train Coming, Dylan's Christian songs have always held a
special poignancy for me. Thus, I was thrilled when Dylan opened his set with
"Gotta Serve Somebody." I follow his set lists on a regular basis and can't
remember the last time he's done that. Dylan was in a good mood the entire
evening, and one song followed another in a kaleidoscope of feelings. In light
of the first song, his second one was particularly prophetic, "The Times They
Are A-Changing." I imbued this with religious connotations as well as political
The crowd and Dylan were interacting with enthusiasm the entire night. And
when Bob sang "You think that I'm over the hill…" everyone yelled "no" in the
traditional audience response that has been institutionalized like some of the
interaction you used to hear from fans of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Dylan's voice was also in fine form the entire night, and he had an interesting
new style for his arrangements in a combination of staccato and singsong. While
he has used staccato before, this refinement was different and unique.
And how great was it that he sang three, instead of two songs for his encore.
They were the three most famous songs all together for what I think is the first
time ever: Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower, and Blowin' In The
Wind. He used the staccato/singsong for Blowin' In The Wind, too. Finally, when
Dylan said his final goodbye, he said, "Thank you friends." That one word,
"friends," -- coming from Dylan, because when he says something you know he
means it -- that one word in Dylan's terse style, obviously came from the heart,
and it made me feel the same in return, knowing the debt of gratitude for all
the ways he has influenced my life. Yes, Bob, you are my friend, too.
When it was all over, as usual, the crowd was buzzing as we stepped out into a
cold New York City night. Thank God, I had enough good sense to put this
concert on my credit card (a form of payment supposedly taboo per my financial
course). I'll have to carry it over into my December budget!
Review by Iris Seifert
Mostly the assessments of Kevin Ouelette in terms of the musical
aspects can be seconded. Only a bit strange to presume to know about
Mr. Dylan's "Shit List" and other sentiments.
Mr. Dylan came back to New York City, and to come back myself was
inevitable. And between Chicago at the close of 2007 and this final
show in 2008 a major transformation seems quite visible.
It seemed no co-incidence that the show was in an old theater in
Spanish Harlem, used now for services by 'United Church', and that the
opener for this show was "Got to serve somebody"! This alone was worth it
all to come to NY again. A sign seen earlier was forebearing: 'A star is
The first 3 songs were definitely a 'Bang' and Mr. Dylan pulled all
the registers, putting the finishing touch on song 4 when he ventured to
play this wonderfully sounding guitar performing a song not recognized at
first, but it did not matter: while the words were drowned in the muffled
sound, the melancholic energy and pain came through without the words.
This was his message to me in a nutshell.
Hey, but that was only 4 songs! Now, having told it all, the show
unravels with 3 more blistering tunes, and yes, it's all right Ma,
it's life and life only, and it left me breathless. Change of gear. A more
somber and melancholic streak colors the next 5 songs, and I feel lucky to
be caught just in time beyond the horizon; the love was to be felt, and
the pleading to be honest made you reflective, just in time to appreciate
the spirit on the water. Then to the finish line: the never ending highway
61 as good as ever, only to abruptly settle into the circle-closing
highlight: ¨Ain't talkin'¨ to top it with another bang: "Thunder on the
And in a manner observed in many shows, but this time to a new height:
when you think it cannot get any better, Mr. Dylan is able to turn it up
another notch, well several notches this time. This Rolling Stone is still
rolling, the Watchtower is still manned, and then: tears still come to my
eyes just recalling the finale with this indescribable version of Blowing
in the Wind with commanding his guitar. An earthquake seemed to be
striking my body, and for a moment it was not clear if I could manage to
keep standing on my seat.
The harmonica, organ, and especially the guitar playing makes you want to
come back for more. The effect of every note played being ¨like an
ice-pick to your heart¨ was for sure achieved.
The Mr. Dylan that emerged last year from the Chicago Theater, worn,
torn and exhausted looking, really like a ghost, is no longer he. The Mr.
Dylan that skipped onto the stage today for his 3 encores, and who just in
the same mode emerged from the back-door of the Palace Theater (another
lucky gift to see on the way to the subway) today aren't even close to the
same person: bouncy, energized and with a rosy complexion, in short:
happy. A star re-born indeed.
Well, this Dylan-year seemed like a task to fulfill ; an attempt to
give to him appreciation and attention to his 'public service', to let him
know that he definitely has heavenly aid, only to find out that he is
showing us that instead.
Mission accomplished; sad to leave it behind, yet with a light and free
So all there is left to say is THANK YOU! Sincerely
Review by Howard Weiner
Almost two years ago to the day (11-20-06), Dylan closed out his initial
Modern Times tour with a barnburner of a performance in Midtown at the New
York City Center on a seasonably warm evening. It was windy and chilly on
this occasion as I left work and boarded an A Train for Washington Heights
and the United Palace Theatre. This renovated theatre also serves as a
place of worship for Rev. Ike’s Church, so Dylan opened with “Gotta Serve
Somebody.” Bob hadn’t played that in awhile. It sounded great as Dylan
stood and delivered from center stage swiping in nifty harmonica licks
between lines. A few songs later, Bob sang, “This is a day only the Lord
can make,” as he concluded “When the Levee Breaks.” What a version!
Hellfire blues, lean and mean. “The Times They Are-A-Changin”
and “Things Have Changed” sizzled in the second and fifth spots
respectfully – awesome songs to contemplate as I swayed in my third row
dead center loge seat. I was locked in tight and out of range as I pounded
tap beer in my dark blue business suit, I was dressed like a member of the
Cowboy Band. With the economy disastrously freefalling, anthems like “It’s
Alright Ma” were more relevant than ever before –“Money doesn’t Talk it
swears…Even the President of the United States sometimes must have to
stand naked.” Good luck Obama, you’re gonna need some help from the Lord
above. Dylan looked out into the crowd truculent as a rooster as he
howled, “He not busy being born is busy dying.” I’ve seen a lot of
versions of this song over the years, but none were as powerful or as
electrifying as this one. As one would certainly expect, “Desolation Row”
was a thrill to witness, though it started out a little choppy. Dylan’s organ
playing was magnificent here, fascinating stuff; nobody is on this guy’s
wavelength, though the Cowboy Band does a magnificent job following
along. This was a great night for the band. Surprising the faithful with
“Tomorrow is a Long Time” in the fourth spot, Dylan had unleashed a
supreme concert through the first half.
After spoiling us with lobster medallions, Dylan served cheese puffs for
the next five songs. I’m quite fond of “Beyond the Horizon,” but
Dylan has yet to nail it in concert. The musical arrangement was fetching,
but his vocal cadence was way off. “Make You Feel My Love” had a great
harp finale. “Spirit on the Water” was well played and received, but it
was the fifth consecutive uninspiring selection in a row. However,
everybody was happy. Much ganja filled the air. There were no lines for
fresh tap beer or the restrooms. Seeing a concert at this venue is a
pleasure you must experience. Bob stripped all the meat off the
carcass with a curt “Highway 61,” knives scraped against bone. Recile
was a beast pounding the percussions wildly. Tenacious rock-and-roll
thundered through the palace, 67 year-old Bob Dylan had conquered NYC all
over again. As the crowd went bananas, Dylan shuffled out from behind the
organ, looked at Garnier, looked at the crowd, and then raised his arm and
began to fidget around with the back of his neck behind his top hat. He
looked like a pitcher in search of a foreign substance for the purpose of
doctoring a spitball. We were back on track. Dylan performed “Ain’t
Talkin” with visceral preacher-like charisma –“They say prayer has the
power to heal so pray for the mother.” The band crisply played four unique
and succinct solos. An incredible masterpiece was painted at the theatre.
Dylan’s vocals were exuberant during “Thunder on the Mountain” and he
dished an extended organ instrumental. The three-song encore consisted
of the usual culprits with more zest. That “Watchtower” was positively
wacky and the crowd adored Dylan’s guitar solo during “Blowin in the
Wind.” Dylan’s still leaving a greasy trail, so I’ll be back for many more in
Review by Don Miller
I came into the office yesterday morning and intended to spend a few minutes
writing about Friday night's concert. I noticed that Mike Sklair had already
written a review which pretty much said anything I had to say. I don't know
Mike but I guess we have both seen Bob many times and saw the same show.
Anyway I am a fan and not a critic so I thought I would try and say something
about the night.
I went to the show with my daughter and found myself thinking about the fact
she was exactly my age when I first saw Bob thirty five years ago. In those days
a Bob Dylan concert was more "The Musical Event of the Year" then a rock and
roll show. It was tough getting tickets and the day always approached with
great anticipation and expectations. This ended for me when Bob played with
Tom Petty in 1986. For the first time I thought the show was kind of flat. I
was also critical of the early Never Ending Tour shows a few years later. It
didn't occur to me for a number of years that he had decided to become a
working performer. I dropped my expectations and have never been
I don't care about the set list. In fact it seems to me Bob and his band hit
those magical moments when they perform a rarely played song or one that
is not a "fan favorite". On Friday it was "Gotta Serve Somebody". I hadn't
heard it in a long time and it conjured up images of Lehman Brothers and
Barack Obama and New York City in the fall of 2008. Bob stood alone in front
of the stage with his harmonica which brought back near forgotten images of
"Isis" from long ago.
I do want to say that not only was his harp playing was awesome (verified by
my 16 year old……since I would have thought it was great regardless) but
that his keyboard was high in the mix and sounded great all night. He caught
a mood that lasted through most of the evening.
Bob just has a way of making things work. At one time or another during
"Desolation Row" I think he managed to employ pretty much every vocal
style that has been critized over the years. It sure worked for me. I tend to
think he has a close relationship with his fans…..but it is dictated by him.
Something to the effect of" This is what I feel like doing tonight.....It may
not be what you want to hear but that's your problem and anyway I will
throw in a few hits and even play guitar on a few numbers".
Bob has to be the only performer his age that doesn't play an oldies show.
It's the songs he cares about that day that count. I love "Like a Rolling
Stone" and "Watchtower" as much as the next aging Dylan nut…….but the
show on Friday night was about "Make you feel my Love" and "Spirit on the
Water". As to the memory of Dylan and the Band in the winter of
1974…….well "Things have Changed" (Ok that's was trite)
Despite all that has been written, I don't think Bob Dylan is a songwriter or
a poet as much as he is a performer of songs. I really hope this tour goes
on for years so that at the turn of the next century my grandchild who is
not yet born can say "I saw the great Bob Dylan with my grandpa".
I don't care what he plays.
Review by Monica
Autumn In NYC
After shaking off the horrible experience of buying tickets to this show
which brought me about an hour of undue anxiety when the website went
down, we lucked out with 4th row isle seats which were stellar. Whew!
This show was well worth the trip!
With storm warnings forecast in the Syracuse, NY area we packed a bag and
got out of Dodge before the snow flakes flew and we made our way to NYC.
We parked the car and settled into the Hilton hotel downtown. From there
we continued our journey, as we hopped the A train and headed uptown, WAY
uptown to Harlem.
With the cold winds blowing we found our way to the United Palace
Theater/Church. Once through the ID process to obtain our tickets we
grabbed some beers and found our way to our seats. Sat down and said WOW!
Take a look around and what you see is a beautifully restored 1930's
theater. My first thought was Moorish architecture, maybe Byzantine, with
a little Romanesque, but mostly what I was thinking was how beautiful a
theater it is. I probably never would have made it here if it wasn't for
Bob Dylan and his cowboy band.
I think maybe the reason I like Bob Dylan is, of course the music that is
a given, but it is all the things I am exposed to, that I learn in
addition to enjoying the music. Just listen to his radio show, music 101,
coupled with some literary recommendations, trivia and recipes and oh so
much more (but don't try to tune into XMX to listen, it has vanished).
After seeing Dylan and the boys in Kingston last Saturday and again at
SUNY Oneonta College on Wednesday we knew this was going to be good, but
this was one for the books! On the four hour drive home I thought about
the show and what I could possibly say to convey the experience. I am
mostly at a loss for words (so unusual for me), but here it goes.
The show opened with Gotta Serve Somebody and the crowd was on their feet!
Bob and the band were just warming up and the crowd was getting into the
You would have never guessed by his energy level that this was the 100th
concert of the 2008 tour. Bob and the boys turned it up a notch tonight
and gave us a spectacular show. By the time we reached Highway 61 the
palace broke loose as everyone stormed the stage, ouch that was my foot
but that's okay I have another one.
The sound, absolutely no complaints from where we were sitting. The set
list all good choices with good vocal and how very sweet to hear those
guitars. What stood out the most here would be: Tomorrow Is A Long
Time, Till I Fell In Love With You, Make You Feel My Love, and Honest With
Me. Bob's guitar on Blowin' In The Wind, very sweet as he brought it all
to the end. There was no "same ole, same ole" tonight.
Bob and the boys rocked the palace! The band was tight and Bob was in
very good form. Nice guitar work. It was an experience well worth an
hour or so of anxiety to purchase tickets.
Hope that Bob and Boys have a Happy Thanksgiving. We're heading to
Worcester to check out Neil Young. Looking forward to the next time Bob
and the boys find their way back to our neck of the woods.
Review by Brian Slattery
I know I’ve said it before. I know it probably sounds trite or
clichéd. Still, I will say it again. There is something special about a
Bob Dylan concert in New York City. If you were at the 2001 MSG show
when Bob told us that “no one has to ask (him) how he feels about this
town,” you know what I mean. If you were at the Garden when he sang
“Something” in remembrance of George Harrison because they “were
such good buddies,” you know what I mean. If you were at the
Hammerstein shows, either one of the two before the East Coast blackout
or the show he did a week later to make up for the show that was
cancelled due to the blackout, you know what I mean. If you were at
City Center in 2006 when Bob did the first “Ain’t Talkin,’” you
know what I mean. If you were in Brooklyn this past summer, you know
what I mean. If you weren’t, you probably still know what I mean. Bob
holds New York City close to his heart. And whenever he’s in town, it
is an event. To borrow from the great Johnny Cash, Friday night’s
concert at the United Palace Theatre was alike, alike, alike, yet unalike
his other New York shows.
It was an event, like his other New York shows. It was a special
performance, like his other New York shows. Bob delivered the goods,
like his other New York shows. Yet, this show was unique. But then, no
two Dylan shows are the same. Even if he played the same set, he would
play the songs differently, which is one of the reasons it’s always
exciting to see a Bob show. Also, while Bob sometimes plays arenas, his
performance is more suited to a smaller venue, and when he plays a good
venue, the show seems to be raised to a whole other level. Such was
the case Friday night. The venue was a funky old movie palace with
great character and damn good acoustics from where I was sitting. It
looked like a place Bob would have visited in his boyhood to watch the
flickering images upon the screen, perhaps imagining being the Lone
Ranger or even Tonto as he did so. Given the smile on Bob’s face most
of the night, perhaps he was thinking of those long ago days after all.
The fact the venue is a church apparently wasn’t lost on Bob, either, as
evidenced by his opening with “Gotta Serve Somebody,” standing
center-stage and blowing some killer harmonica throughout the song,
punctuating some lines with short harp bursts, bringing cheers from
the sold-out crowd. I’m not going to give a song-by-song account
of the show, although some performances tonight must be mentioned.
In general, it wasn’t the choice of songs that made it a great concert,
it was the way he performed the songs. He sang with power and
energy throughout the show. Sure, there were a few flubbed lines
here and there, but Bob was on point the whole night. He seemed to
feed off the energy of the crowd. Our response elevated his
performance. If not, it’s nice to think it did. Whatever motivated him
to perform the way he did, I hope it remains with him. I was
particularly moved seeing Bob back on acoustic guitar singing a beautiful
“Tomorrow Is A Long Time.” And I really enjoyed the interesting
arrangement to “Desolation Row,” where Bob seemed to change direction
and tempo in mid-song, and the band turned with him without missing a
step or a beat. “’ Til I Feel In Love With You,” with Bob
center-stage, harmonica in hand, was a bluesy good time. “Make You
Feel My Love” was beautiful and featured some great harmonica work,
too. And to end it all, Bob donned the guitar again for “Blowin’ in
the Wind.” Overall, it was an excellent concert. Bob seemed to enjoy
being back in New York City, and the venue suited him well. And,
besides the performances making tonight a unique experience--one of many
unique Dylan experiences (thank goodness for that)--the company also made
the show special. It was great sitting with fellow Bobsters Dee, Jake,
and Jason. Thanks Dee! I must say, our post-concert discussion on all
things Bob made the night an even greater experience. I’m already
checking the tour dates to see when Bob will be back on the road. I
hope it is soon.
If you have any questions or comments, or just want to
talk ‘Bob’, get in touch. You can reach me at email@example.com
Also, you can check out our NYC Dylan Meetup page on Myspace.
Keep On Keepin’ On,
Brian J. Slattery
Review by Anton Tibbe
It wasn't really an idiot wind in our faces as we trudged up Fort
Washington Avenue toward Reverend Ike's temple on an upper Manhattan
hilltop, nor did it quite howl, but it sure did sting.
I'd been to the United Palace Theater a year ago to see Neil Young. I had
the navigation and parking issues sussed out from my misadventures then,
so that part had gone smoothly - an easy blast from Jersey across the
George Washington Bridge, a quick bail from the traffic at the first local
exit and a short drive downtown to the parking garage, keeping just west
of the gridlock around the Palace.
This year we walked straight into the theater and slipped through the
first door on the left directly into our back-of-orchestra seats; couldn't
have been easier. We had a tunneled view of the stage; I wondered whether
the overhang of the loge, suspended ovver seemingly half the orchestra
seats, would muddy the sound. I was also disappointed that we were so far
back because we couldn't take in the gilt rococo splendor of the Palace.
It's one of New York's most remarkable spaces; it was a shame to miss the
full effect of the place.
We had a few minutes to de-layer and try to arrange coats & sweaters. The
crowd around us was genial and so young! I'd wager that most of their
parents hadn't even met when I was seeing Mister Dylan at the piano
scowling "Something is happening here but you don't know what it is,"
backed by the musicians who a few years later would become known as The
The lights flickered about ten minutes later, then went dark There was the
usual Copland music and the spoken "poet laureate / forced folk into bed
with rock / haze of substance abuse / strongest music of his career "
intro and then:
Every Dylan show has its Señor moment, where he plucks an unexpected song
from the catalog and delivers it with such intensity that you'll remember
it for the rest of your life. This time Dylan opened the show with that
moment: he delivered You Gotta Serve Somebody from center stage in his
usual opening growl, holding a mike and harmonica playing the role of
front man in a white skimmer, pale green shirt & scarf under black suit
with single-side-striped trousers. Bob held the mike and harp in his left
hand, leaving his right hand free to gesticulate and emphasize. A bold
gambit. The sound was clear and sharp; the song penetrated. Where could
the night possibly go from there? Would it all seem anti-climactic?
The show would meander a bit, but it would return to the level set at the
start, perhaps even exceed it. Bob slipped back to the organ for The Times
They Are A Changin' and Levee, throwing some deft harp lines into the
breaks. He returned to center stage and picked up his guitar for Tomorrow
Is A Long Time. His instrument seemed to be a Gibson ES 175 hollow-body
electric. It's been a long time since I've seen him hold any sort of
guitar. He played some rockin' lead lines at the end, interspersed with a
few Chuck Berry-style chords. By this point his voice seemed to have shed
a good 30 years, it was clear and strong.
An intense version of Things Have Changed was next, with Bob back on the
organ. They flew into a scatter-shot version of Desolation Row, each verse
featuring a different attack, from straight-up declamatory rock to
carnival oompah to Brechtian cabaret. I'm not sure that it all worked, and
it seemed to lose focus as it went on, but I have to give Bob & the band
credit for trying new approaches.
They followed with It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding). This rendition
emphasized a bluesy riff at the expense, I thought, of the ferocity I'd
heard in the more sparse 2006 arrangement. But it's a great song. The
line, "Even the president of the United States sometimes must have to
stand naked," drew a huge cheer.
The band seemed to settle into an easy groove for the next five songs,
slowing things way down with Beyond The Horizon and gradually ramping it
back up. This hypnotic interlude was shattered by a smoking, foot-stomping
version of Highway 61. The stage backdrop, which had remained black till
then, was splattered with a projection of white dots that seemed like a
closeup view of the Milky Way.
Ain't Talkin' followed. The subdued stage lights were lowered even further
and the backdrop became a twisted tangle of white lines with sharp points,
suggesting ghostly tree roots. The band gave a fiery performance that
conjured up some serious voodoo in the night's spookiest moment.
The lights came back up, the backdrop faded to black again, and the band
closed the main set with Thunder On The Mountain. They gaive it a good
swing but it seemed a bit anti-climactic at that point in the set.
The band returned to the stage underneath the Eye Of Horus logo. I was
struck by how effective the three stage backdrops were, the more so for
being sparsely used, a marked contrast with the busy images that surround
the typical rock concert.
Like A Rolling Stone was the first of three encore songs. I'd been
watching Bob through my binoculars all night; halfway through the show,
he'd begun cracking little smiles here and there. By the time he got to
"Napoleon in rags" the smile had become huge, as big as it was two years
ago when the band was nailing Tangled Up In Blue. The man is so focused on
his delivery of every song, you can still see why he became known as The
Great Stone Face; these days, he's not so stony.
Watchtower was rousing, as always. The way he ended the song with a
reprise of the first verse and, this night, a special emphasis on the
final phrase, "Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth, None
of them along the line know what any of it is worth," really seemed to
resonate with the state of the world. You can read as little or as much
prophecy into that 40 year-old line as you want, from a foreshadowing of
the subprime mess to agribusiness to Herman Daly's vision of a
post-capitalist economy. Dylan, I'm sure, would tell you it's just a song.
Blowin' In The Wind was been transformed into a fractured country blues
tune. Bob strapped on the brown & yellow guitar again, returned to center
stage and gave us one last shot of tinkling lead lines during the song's
outro. It was the perfect iconic moment to end the night.
Dylan's band was serously tight. You don't go to a Dylan show to be
dazzled by instrumental shredding, though Tony Garnier on bass and George
Recile on drums in the center of it all will mesmerize you whenever you
can focus on them. From stage right, Denny Freeman stood and delivered
clean Texas blues-tinged lead lines on his custom white Strat. Stu
Kimball, billed as rhythm guitarist, switched between acoustic and
electric; on several songs he played thoughtful acoustic leads while Denny
held the rhythm, a nice textural variation. Donnie Herron sat above and
behind Dylan's organ at stage left, virtually inaudible on pedal steel
guitar and banjo; only his violin on Things Have Changed and haunting
viola work on Ain't Talkin' cut thrugh the mix, but he seems to have a
special rapport with Bob's playing and vocal phrasing that anchors every
song. With their black suits & hats (except for Donnie - can't muss that
great hair!) and the muted stage lights, they seemed less a band than a
group of backroad conjurors led by the wizard with the white hat and the
quirky gestures, there for one cold night in Reverend Ike's glittering
church on the hill atop America's ultimate city to raise those songs from
our collective memory and give us the rare chance to dwell in the space of
that music for a spell.
There's magic of the best kind here. Long may it run.
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