Bob Dylan at United Palace

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When someone has toured as much as Bob Dylan, and has such a long relationship with a particular city, the venue can really inspire both the audience and the performer to new excitement.  Such was the case with Bob Dylan at United Palace last week.  As always, it was the place to be (Rita Houston was tweeting from the venue) and Dion as opener added an historic flavor — this is his turf!

Over the past few years at minor league ballparks and less serious music performance venues, the “subtleties” of Dylan’s vocal style on his recent material (the trilogy of Love and Theft, Modern Times and Together Through Life) has been lost on me, so I had a time-worn lack of expectation for the show.   Last week at United Palace, however, songs like “I Feel A Change Coming On,” “It’s All Good” and especially “Forgetful Heart” came to life. 

Dylan played keyboards, which were audible to me for the first time (and fit the songs well) and a bit of guitar.  More interestingly, he appeared with neither instrument for several songs, and with the use of footlights, cast a larger version of himself as a shadow on the curtain.  The effect was excellent.

Note that there are a minimum of instruments and amps on the stage and that most of the musicians barely move during the show.  Charlie Sexton, newly returned to the Dylan fold after many years away, plays and looks great on stage.  But he moved around and seemed too comfortable on stage.  It was only slightly distracting and it’s good to see Dylan’s supporting players show a bit less reverence toward him.

For a full set list, please check out Bob Dylan’s highly advance site here.

The United Palace is an exquisitely decorated former Loew’s theater on 175th Street and Broadway, in the heart of Washington Heights.  It’s an “up and coming” (Dominican) neighborhood, far from midtown, where Dylan played last at the Beacon Theater, and even further from the Village, where some of the clubs Bob Dylan played at the start of his career are still in business.  The building has been booking excellent rock shows for the past few years, however, including The Stooges and Sonic Youth — Dylan is one of the first classic rock artists to perform there.

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