Bob Dylan: United Palace Theatre, New York, NY 11/19/09

Bob Dylan shifts and changes his live performances so much it has become an adventure to dissect his tunes from tour to tour.  A constant tinkerer, his arraignments are fluid and give him space as an artist to express himself with those he chooses to place onstage.  The current outing finds him playing with four familiar players that he has toured with over the last few years and one from his not-too-distant past.  Charlie Sexton returned to the lineup on lead guitar and added a chicken fried layer of playing that has jolted Dylan into some powerful sonic structures this time around the world.


Throwing surprises from the start Dylan opened with the heavy gospel of “Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking” off Slow Train Coming, which his rabid fan base ate up inside of the gorgeous uptown theater.  Continuing down the road less traveled Dylan broke out “The Man In Me” now immortalized by The Big Lebowski.  This version was engaging with Bob singing assuredly, and Donny Herron piping in on trumpet; makes you wonder if Bob would ever consider touring with a full horn section? 


Dylan surprisingly didn’t focus on his newest release, Together Through Life, only playing 3 tracks off of it, instead he spent a fair amount of time with his Modern Times songs.  “Ain’t Talkin’” and “Working Man Blues #2” were both excellent with Dylan giving the lyrics careful attention.  The band was happy to back him on these slower numbers but really caught fire when the blues were thrown down.  “Thunder On The Mountain” boogied and when “Highway 61 Revisited” got rumbling there was no stopping it, Sexton in particular put the pedal down and never let up, it is nice to have him back in the fold.  “Ballad Of A Thin Man” had an extra dose of aggression as compared to recent versions and was cutting before the encore trifecta of “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Jolene” and “All Along The Watchtower” closed this leg of the Never Ending Tour.    


Dylan seemed in great spirits even playing guitar on a few tracks and harmonica on at least half of them.  When he ventured out from behind his keyboard setup (which lent itself well in the house mix) he stalked the microphone like an obvious crooked boxer waiting to take a dive; always on the verge of collapse, but performing to the hilt.  The fix may have been in, but everyone came out of this show a winner.            





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