(c) 2008, Hernan Hernandez
United Palace Theater
Friday, November 21
The banners of Rev. Ike (the Prosperity Pioneer!) hanging in the jewel-box lobby of the United Palace Theater-cum-cathedral, where Bob Dylan and his band played on Friday, welcomed the 67-year old singer like a visiting colleague. “When you discover who you are, it doesn’t matter who you’ve been,” one read, which is certainly true enough of the fairly literal Wandering Jew character Dylan has portrayed on the Never-Ending Tour for the past 20 years.
Dylan came out swinging, strutting center stage over the last beats of his introduction. The band cooked into “Gotta Serve Somebody,” its first airing in five years. Dylan growled. He danced with awkward authenticity, gripping his harmonica. There were Bob-squats.
But soon returned the Robo-Bob of the Tour’s most recent vintage, repeating more than half the songs and nearly all the ambiguous blues-rock grooves from his Prospect Park gig in August. (Though a country swing through a rare “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” Dylan on guitar–and soloing!–was lovely. Ditto “Make You Feel My Love.”) Dylan mangled his vocals a bit (he was lost two lines into “The Times They Are A-Changin'”) and, in his improvisations, occasionally took the tone of an obstinate child. On “Things Have Changed” and “Desolation Row,” he snapped rhymes into monotonous syllables, as if out of sheer stubbornness.
“Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked,” Dylan chugged on the banjo-aided “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding”), and the place freaked. But for who? Bush? Obama? Bob, of course. The times are always modern (always changing, too, or just changed), the end is always nigh, and the President always needs undressing, in prosperity, depression, or whatever the hell is about to occur. Bob here now! —Jesse Jarnow