New York, New York

United Palace Theatre

November 19, 2009

[Peter Stone Brown], [Paul Davies], [Charles Gardner], [Hermann Rechberger], [Brendan O'Sullivan],
[Susan M. Phillips], [Barbara in NYC], [Ken Cowley]

Review by Peter Stone Brown

I'm really glad I got to see the Philly show (which was added late in the game)
on this tour before seeing this.  I went to this show thanks to a rather
legendary Philly disc-jockey, who for decades has had one of the greatest radio
shows I've ever hear, every Sunday night, where he plays the greatest R&B, soul
Motown and doo-wop artists.  I mean someone who knows, understands, and has
experienced the entire history of rock and roll.  His show was so great that I
always wondered if he was into Bob, though Bob didn't fit the format of his show
was originally on Philly's number one Soul station.  I found out a few years ago
when one day to my great delight, I received an email from him, telling me how
much he liked my Bob reviews.  So I wrote him back immediately saying, hey, I've
listened to your show for years, telling him how way back, my friends and I had
a regular Sunday night ritual, where we'd get together, get stoned, play cards
and listen to your show.

So for the ride up he decided the only way to go was to rent a limo, which
turned out to be a Lincoln Town Car, and I got to hear a lot of great stories
about James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, seeing Elvis in 1956 (Wow!) and various
shady practices of the music biz, in addition to discussing various Bob
theories.  It turned out our driver was well aware of whom he was driving and
the reality of the current American economic situation hit hard when he revealed
he'd previously been an IT exec for major corporation, but was laid off. 
Workingman's Blues indeed.

Driving to New York City is always a major strategic operation, where you start
checking the traffic reports a good 40 miles before you're near the city so you
can decide which tunnel or bridge has the worst backup.  That doesn't
necessarily work out.  As we approached the George Washington Bridge, what had
been a 20 minute backup turned into a 40 minute backup.  Anyway we arrived about
10 minutes before show time and discovered that the seats were way better than I
thought about 12 rows back from the right side of the stage.  There was just
enough time to take a brief look at the ornate walls and ceiling which were to
say the least impressive.  

I was kind of excited to see Dion.  I've seen about four or five times before,
but the last time I saw him about ten years ago in Atlantic City, he was totally
great, going through his whole history from his doo-wop beginnings all the way
up, but leading a great band, and playing some very funky lead guitar as well. 
At the Palace, he was just okay, and a little too casual, playing a lot of
covers of old rock 'n' roll like "Summertime Blues."  He would have been far
better if he played his hits, some more of his later originals, such as "King of
the New York Streets," and played some stuff from his blues album, because he
really can play that stuff.  He talked a little about going to Reverend Gary
Davis' house in that very neighborhood, to take guitar lessons.  But what he
played to demonstrate Gary Davis was in no way anything close to Gary Davis's
style by any means. 

During the half-hour intermission I made the mistake of going to the one men's
room in the theater with the palace guards coming in checking for illicit
smokers.  Returning was a major as the too-small upper lobby was one of the most
incredible cases of human gridlock I've ever encountered in my life,
claustrophobia to the extreme.  At about 8:35 the lights were done, the
announcement made, and everyone stood up for the Bob entrance.  He opened with a
fierce, charged "Change My Way of Thinking," with Charlie Sexton playing an
Epiphone thin hollow body.  It was in every way great.  Bob's collar had some
kind of sparkling stuff on it.  Bob then moved to the center mic for an equally
good, "The Man In Me," with Donnie on trumpet.  It was about then that I noticed
the six-foot, seven, two-feet wide human pillar a few rows in front of me.  I
could not see Charlie interacting with Bob, I could not see the drums.  I could
not see Sexton playing.  I had to choose between Bob's head on one side of the
pillar, and Charlie's head on the other.  I looked to my left.  The entire
center section was sitting down.  Farther left the very front section closest to
the stage was standing, everyone behind them sitting down.  It was the same on
my side, except for the few rows right behind me.  

Bob returned to the keyboard and Donnie stayed on trumpet for a still-charged
"Beyond Here Lies Nothing."  "Most Likely You Go Your Way," was next and I spent
most of the song trying to see.  Every time the human pillar or the guy in front
of him would shift, I would have to shift.

Dylan then returned to center stage, playing guitar for the only time that
night, for "My Wife's Hometown," definitely one of the high points.  Sexton got
right up next to Bob and they were definitely getting down trading licks, and
Dylan was clearly having fun singing.  "Desolation Row" was next.  It wasn't
quite as insane as the Philly version, but there's something about the current
arrangement that definitely works and keeps building the song.  Dylan employed a
number of different vocal styles during the course of this song, growling one
minute, singing astounding clearly the next.  On the "They all play on the
pennywhistle line," he was singing so clearly it seemed the past 40 years had
suddenly vanished.  He seemed to be both concentrating and having fun at the
same time, pausing before certain lines, maybe remembering why he wrote them,
but also deciding how he was going to sing them.  

"When the Deal Goes Down," came next.  Everyone in the theater sat down except
the section in front of me, the section closest to Dylan.  If there was a point
when the show started to drag, this was it.  Dylan's organ dominating the mix
was just a little too circus waltzy.  Things weren't helped by various
interlopers deciding to take advantage of the wide aisle right in front me which
resulted in constant comedy between whoever decided to stand there and the
theater security force.

"Cold Irons Bound" revived the energy considerably and followed by another
totally moving "Workingman's Blues #2," with Bob starting at the keyboard and
moving center-stage for a great harp solo.  

A not bad "Highway 61" was followed by a totally stark, verging on scary, "Ain't
Talking."  I kept my eyes focused on Bob's head, but suddenly this woman
appeared in front of me dancing.  I couldn't believe it.  Dylan's singing about
slaughtering people where they lie, gardens without gardeners, and she's dancing
as if the flowers of spring were suddenly rising.  

I escaped briefly during "Thunder on the Mountain," and returned to see (well
sort of) a truly remarkable "Ballad of a Thin Man."  Again Dylan was totally
focused on how and what he was singing, making each image come alive, each line
count.  The way he barked out, "You've been with the professors, they all liked
your looks," was particularly enjoyable.  After that, the rest of the show
really didn't matter, and outside it was pouring rain.

Peter Stone Brown


Review by Paul Davies

We were treated to a night of music that rose up from the shadows and 
silhouettes that danced on the stage at the exotic and beautiful United Palace
Theater that moved majestically from the opening line of Gonna Change My Way of
Thinking through to the last line of the repeated first verse at the end of the
show closer All Along the Watchtower. “None of them   along the line know what
any of it is worth”. Ever the chameleon the shaman has turned showman.   Bob
and his merry band of black-suited troubadours put on a show of seamless,
stirring, heartfelt music that didn’t miss a beat from beginning to end.
Throughout the set Stu on guitar and Tony on bass stood rooted to their spots
virtually motionless while George plied his trade behind the skins with a wide
variety of beats and flourishes. Donnie at the back weighed in with vital
contributions on his usual array of instruments - pedal steel, mandolin and
banjo as well as some compelling trumpet work. The newly returned Charlie paced
the stage sometimes menacingly with his guitar slung low and sometimes with it
raised in the shouldering arms position with Bob standing next to him in the
same pose like two sentries at the gates. More than once Charlie got down on one
knee and pointed his guitar towards Bob while looking up at him as if waiting to
be anointed. The prodigal son looking for acknowledgment of his return. And that
swirling circus sound, those jazzy riffs, those stabs of sound? That would be
the man in the pale gray hat   - sometimes leaning forward on to the keyboards,
sometimes stepping back, sometimes playing the organ with one hand while holding
and playing his harmonica with the other, sometimes jigging from foot to foot,
sometimes striking a pose. Show time, folks. For some numbers, Bob would step
out from behind the keyboards and stand in the middle of the stage at the center
mike stand with another mike in his right hand and entertain the crowd with an
act that was part cabaret singer, part band front man, but there was no kidding
around as he delivered in a strong and direct style. Ballad of A Thin Man and
Working Man Blues #2  were performance masterpieces. “To just give a check to
tax deductible charity organizations”. “Some people never worked a day in
their life, don ’t know what work even means.” As he emphasized certain
lines you could start to feel how all of his songs fit together and interweave.
This effect was heightened by the way the band transition from song to song. The
stage lights would go down, then after a moment or two you would hear a partial
guitar melody or a bass line or even a drum break which was a clue to the next
song and then the lights would come up and the next song would be coming right
at you. 

We stood up and cheered as these battle-hardened road warriors took it home with
Bob singing the last line of the night “None of them   along the line know
what any of it is worth”. Everybody there must have known what it was worth as
Bob stepped forward from the rest of the band on the front edge of the stage
with his hands with palms open and a smile lurking under that hat and bowed ever
so slightly before he was gone and the stage lights went out. The circus had
left town.

Paul Davies


Review by Charles Gardner

It's not a Sunday, but Bob is back in the United Palace Theater and ready to
bring religion to an enthusiastic full house.  Having seen him open the same
venue one year ago with a powerful "Gotta Serve Somebody," it wasn't a shock to
hear the unmistakable opening riff of "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking" explode
out of the speakers to open the show.  The rewritten version here: "Jesus is
coming, coming back to gather his jewels;" "Oh, Lord ... you know I have no
friend without you!"  Dylan isn't performing his acoustic gospel openers
anymore, but it seems that the underlying theme has remained, lying in
hibernation at times, only to spring forth in new form during the current tour.

The entire show, meanwhile, has been wonderfully revitalized from past tours as
others have noted.  Partly this has to do with the stellar musicianship of
guitarist Charlie Sexton, who thoroughly impressed the New York crowd, and
partly it is due to Dylan's renewed willingness to put himself at the center of
the stage again.  Dylan seems to be comforted when behind his familiar keyboard,
but when he stepped out to the center mike, with guitar or harp in hand, in my
opinion the performances just soared.  The pure entertainment value increased by
a factor of ten, and the keyboard sound wasn't missed -- not surprising, given
the talented crew of players Dylan has with him.  Thus, a wonderful "Man in Me,"
with melody faithful to the original, and Bob gyrating in highly entertaining
manner at center stage; a surprisingly great "Wife's Hometown;" the always
welcome "High Water," which to my ear benefited considerably from losing Dylan's
keyboard playing, as it leaves more space for his band to fill out the sound;
the re-worked "Cold Irons Bound," an unusually touching and well-sung
performance of "Workingman's," and the ominous "Ballad of a Thin Man," which had
some excellent sonic effects.  Altogether the arrangements are more varied than
last year, although I refuse to give up my hope of again seeing some truly
acoustic performances.

Even those songs where Dylan retreated to the keyboards were inspired
performances.  "Desolation Row" was a huge improvement over last year's
performance of the song at the same venue -- better playing, and far better
singing by Dylan.  I only wish the acoustic guitar had been more prominent here.
 "Most Likely," a song I'd normally gloss over, is reinvigorated by Sexton's
improvising on the signature riff.  There were no let-downs last night (apart
from a fleeting dismay at not hearing any outings from "Christmas in the Heart,"
nor any other "surprise" choices) though "When the Deal Goes Down" dragged ever
so slightly, and "Rolling Stone," as much of a crowd pleaser as it is, sounds as
though it could use a bit of a break to catch its breath.

Overall -- a phenomenal show, and a great time.  Whereas only two or three
years ago, it would have been somewhat difficult for me to recommend a Dylan
show to a first-timer, I have no such reservations now.  Patience will now have
to attend as we await the inevitable (one cannot doubt) Spring 2010 tour!


Review by Hermann Rechberger

Three nights are gone and this is my personal resume: meanwhile all is written
ábout Charlie Sexton as the current lead player but I think the whole story is
still untold as the band does not consists only of Bob and Charlie! At a first
look of course Charlie is the most visible and audible person. A flickering
light, crossing stage from left to middle and back like a panther in his cage
waiting to be released, and sometimes, on his solos, he is! Donnie, Tony and
George are doing their usual perfect work but the most underrated player is Stu
"The Anchorman" Kimball with his constance. Without him nothing would be as
perfect as it is. He is the guitar twin that makes Charlie's restless work
possible. Tony and George are reminding me on Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts. Mick
and Keith filling the glamour news, but Bill and Charlie Watts delivering the
musical responsibility. Every perfect band needs this stabilizers. No doubt that
Dylan & His Band have reached a transcendent simultaneously of consistency and

P.S.: Low points? Not from Bob and the band but it seems like the City hasn't
even noticed Bob Dylan in town nor does it seems the United Palace Theatre has.
Not a snippet in the newspapers and the marquee at the theatre was the most
astounding I have ever seen. I pay respect to Rev. Ike whoever he is but reading
the announcement for his show on a Dylan is playing the Theatre is some kind of

Hermann Rechberger
Salzburg, Austria


Review by Brendan O'Sullivan

This week's Village Voice -  Phillip Mlynar writing of Rakim, MC

"And so the criteria for hip-hop greatness morphed: Now, message-board
squabbles are as likely to focus on a rapper's ability to coin hooks, stay
relevant, run a clothing line, and move units...[rather then]...their pure
ability to rhyme."

An apt jumping off point for last night's show.  Bob is now the consummate
show man, but he's got too much show.

Things I'd rather, and other observations:  Bob needs some jeans and a
t-shirt - the suits are starting to get bride groom-ish....when will they
wear them again (and where is the S.A. they drop em' off)? Tony needs to not
just maintain a rhythm, but play bass!  Donny needs to be given some leash to
improvise and, (gasp!) lead.  Charlie needs to maintain some discipline (Mex Tex
swagger is only cute for so long, Mr. Stray Cats, he ain't)...his lack of leash
is annoying at times.  Why do the drums still suffer from some of that blink-um
blink-um blink-um that fits so nicely with Tony's drum machine bass playing?

Last night lacked gravitas!  There was no veracity!  It was phoned in, cite a
few cohesive flourishes (and they were there) at the last bars of Desolation Row
or Thin Man...

AND...the set list was proper for a new album cycle and such....but to cite
another pop culture reference (paraphrased from some second hand comedy): "my
friend wasn't impressed by the new Transformer movie...what?   They'd be clawing
their eyes out 50 yrs ago if they saw that..." Yeah..the set lists have been
pretty good, but also pretty calcified...where's the Spring tour 2005?  My
Boston shows at the Orpheum that showed so much - EVERYTHING.   Worcester Palace
last summer...fired up!
  Why no Denny....what happened to maintaining the "Cowboy Band" to shape
and mold...?

Japan, Australia...really?  Must be part of the grand (business) design...
Why no MSG...not as a tribute show...but as Bob and Co headlining, no?...I
know he's got the rhyme scheme in him...
Tour with Los Lobos as the backing band, get the Flaming Lips to score acoustic solo shows with something...
Kudos to the recent studio output...shore up the live discharges of late...



Review by Susan M. Phillips

DION!!!  opened for Bob.  As the two guys in front of me said as Dion
left the stage, "If the concert was over now we'd be happy."  So you can
just imagine how great this Dylan concert was.  Dylan was prancing
around the stage full of energy and looking and sounding the best that I
have seen him in years, following Dion on that spectacular historic
United Palace Stage.  Unfortunately many in the audience missed the
significance of Dion, which causes me to say shame on whoever produced
this concert, the story should have been told in video before Dion
appeared. In fact, THERE WOULD BE NO BOB DYLAN to see if it wasn't for
Dion (and Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper). Most
everyone knows the story of how Bob, then a 17-year-old skinny kid in
horn-rimmed glasses saw Buddy Holly, a skinny kid in horn-rimmed glasses
perform at the Duluth Armory; and as girls screamed in his ears next to
him, Bob had his famous epiphany where he knew what he wanted to do with
the rest of his life.  This was the same concert where the Big Bopper,
Ritchie Valens, and DION performed.  Obviously, Dion never got on the
plane with Holly, because he had to pay his parents' rent and could not
afford a ticket. As I listened to a smoking rendition of Highway 61, I
wondered if Bob was thinking about that concert and seeing Dion at The
Duluth, Minnesota Armory which is located smack dab at the beginning of
Highway 61, which then leads north along Lake Superior.

I also thought back at this concert to when I would sit in my college
dorm and spend hours discussing the significance of Dylan's lyrics, but
this was the first concert in years where I really thought about what
Dylan is saying today in so many different ways, starting with the
Christmas album whose profits are gong to feed America's hungry
children.  So many of his songs focused on the struggles people are
facing in today's economy.  Working Man's Blues, Desolation Row, even
the love song, "When the Deal Goes Down" made me smile because I was
talking to a friend lately about how kids don't protest about health
care or global warming or any of these major issues and we were saying
kids today are just looking to make a deal.  Dylan created a love song
for America today.

I hated to see that there are no more dates in the states on Bill's
site.  I am so happy that I got a ticket to this sold out concert.  One
sour note was the new rendition of Like a Rolling Stone, it sounded too
much like everything he is doing now, and besides perfection should not
be messed with.  Otherwise, the best concert in years.

Susan M. Phillips


Comments by Barbara in NYC

To me, every minute of this particular show was enjoyable.  So much so that it
was perfectly alright, when it finally ended, for I couldn't have been more
content.  From the music to the venue to the audience, all ingredients made for
a truly fun atmosphere like I've last experienced it about three years back
during an April Bob Dylan stint at the Beacon Theatre in NYC.  (Only Richard
from Liverpool was missing:  Thank you for Bear's!) 

To me, every minute of this particular show was enjoyable.  So much so that it
was perfectly alright, when it finally ended, for I couldn't have been more
content.  From the music to the venue to the audience, all ingredients made for
a truly fun atmosphere like I've last experienced it about three years back
during an April Bob Dylan stint at the Beacon Theatre in NYC.  (Only Richard
from Liverpool was missing:  Thank you for Bear's!) 


Review by Ken Cowley

As is often the case during the American Fall, I found myself this week taking 
in a few U.S. Bob Dylan shows. Well, with the dollar so weak, and flights 
reasonable, it would have almost been reckless not to(!), so off I flew last 
Tuesday to New York.

This time, I was at the final three shows of what has become an already much 
celebrated tour, with Dylan finally playing most of the songs from his new 
album. This album, Together Through Life, is one of three he has released in 
the last year or so. The others having been both roundly ignored in concert, 
ie the Tell Tale Signs outtake collection, and the oh-so controversial Christmas 
in the Heart.

But this tour was notable for more than just new song premieres. Firstly, the 
return of Charlie Sexton to the band has added much more than I thought it 
would. I liked Denny Freeman, but Bob had all but stopped him playing in 
recent times, whereas Charlie has been given a much wider remit. Having said 
that, like all the best Dylan sidemen over the years, he knows when to hold 
back, and when to play a bit more, pending what his eccentric boss is up to. 
Also, one could argue Charlie is a better guitar player than he was 8 years ago.

The second development of note, is the return proper of Dylan to the centre 
of the stage. Having spent a few years hiding behind that keyboard, recent 
2008/2009 tours have seen him dabbling with the front of the stage again, 
but this Fall, he seemed to throw caution to the wind, and is now playing 1-2 
songs a night on guitar, plus another 4 or 5 right out front sans instrument, 
just Bob, his microphone stand, a lot of expressive (!) hand and arm gestures, 
and some exquisite harmonica.

The overall effect was both visual and musical. The visual, given Bob’s bizarre 
way of moving, his ever more elaborate suits, AND the hand gestures, 
seemed to combine in presenting a sort of Sinatra-esque demented cowboy 
appearance, but one which the crowd loved and responded to.

Musically, the lack of a keyboard or guitar on these songs, meant that Bob 
can concentrate on both his vocals and the audience, and his manner of 
achieving both certainly suggests an artist with a new found self-confidence.

And so, to the songs themselves. Where to start? Well, with show opener, 
Gonna Change My Way of Thinking, I suppose. A classic bluesy slab of gospel 
and a nice statement of intent from this reinvigorated band and artist, albeit 
he only plays it every 3rd show or so. And it’s always good to see him 
re-introduce songs from his Christian albums, especially in a venue that 
doubles as a Church.

The new songs are, to a man, very well performed. My favourite song on 
the album, I Feel a Change Coming on, is done very well, and the line about 
having ‘the blood of the land in my voice’ gets a good response. However, 
the most successful interpretation has got to be Forgetful Heart. Already fairly 
radically re-arranged (and it’s only out few months), this song is the first 
genuinely VERY slow, VERY quiet performance/arrangement we’ve had in a 
long time. Absolutely perfectly phrased, it’s true to say that even in a 
somewhat boisterous New York audience, you could hear a pin drop. 
Well, almost!

There were excellent performances too of things like Beyond Here Lies 
Nothing (fantastic to see and hear a trumpet in a live Bob Dylan band) and 
If You Ever go to Houston. Even songs that I thought were pretty 
mediocre on the album, such as It’s All Good and My Wife’s Hometown, 
were transformed in a live setting. And Jolene swings accordingly – a good 
choice for the mid encore song.

However, it’s not just the new songs that fare well. Virtually everything is 
good at the moment, a few dull moments notwithstanding (Ain’t 
Talking – I’m looking at you!) but I must especially single out Cold Irons 
Bound, Desolation Row, Workingman’s Blues (he puts in such a good vocal 
on this one that you wonder is it the same artist who is croaking his way 
around that Christmas album), and the current shows’ undisputed tour 
de force, the set closing Ballad of a Thin Man. Sung and performed with 
an intensity and passion, and at a perfect stately pace, that for me it 
topped any versions of this song, well, except 1966 I suppose. Worth 
googling on YouTube I suggest.

Overall, a really excellent tour, which it could be argued, saw some of the 
best shows since 2001. Or, if that's too controversial, I would at least say 
that 2009 was a good step up on 2008, with this Fall tour the year's best.

Before I sign off, a couple of quick points to mention – firstly, the venue, 
(the United Palace Theater up in Spanish Harlem) was stunning. Originally 
designed as an incredibly ornate 1920s movie theatre, it is now mainly 
used as a Church. Or the Church of Bob, as it transpired this week..

Secondly, a few of us went to Ray Davies the night after the Dylan shows. 
Ray was playing in the equally gorgeous New York Town Hall, a historic mid 
town venue. It was a good show, by an underrated songwriter who, for 
me, is pretty close to Dylan’s league. The most notable thing about this 
tour is the addition of a choir to the band, adding a fine extra dimension 
to all those classic Kinks songs.

Finally, the Dylan show on the 17th was a bit of a landmark for me, so
thanks to Susan for the front row seat!

See everybody next year hopefully..


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