Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Bob’s)

By John Marshall

Bob Dylan and His Band

United Palace Theatre

New York City

November 19, 2009

Gonna change my way of thinking

Make myself a different set of rules

Gonna change my way of thinking

Make myself a different set of rules

Gonna put my best foot forward

And stop being influenced by fools

United Palace

Bob Dylan kicked off the final night of his three-night stand (and the last show of his current tour) at the United Palace Theatre with “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking,” a lean, mean, blast of religion & blues from 1979’s Slow Train Coming.  It was a raucous, joyous opener (and perfect for a theatre that was home to Reverend Ike for 40 years).  Standing behind his piano, imposing in a black suit and wide-brimmed hat, Dylan punched out the lyrics with the clarity and passion of a preacher.

Then came a bright, chugging “The Man in Me” and the tone was set for the evening.  Everything was upbeat – even “Desolation Row” – and the show was heavier on his amazing new material than it was on classics.  There was no “Blowin’ in the Wind,” no “Mr. Tambourine Man,” no “Tangled Up in Blue.”  Instead, there were new warhorses, including “Thunder On the Mountain,” “Ain’t Talkin’” and “When the Deal Goes Down” from 2006’s Modern Times, “High Water (for Charley Patton)” from 2001’s Love and Theft, “Cold Irons Bound” from 1997’s Time Out of Mind and three from 2009’s Together Through Life, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” “My Wife’s Hometown” and “Jolene.”

He did “Like a Rolling Stone” and “All Along the Watchtower,” but they weren’t nearly as poignant as his ode to current economic woes, “Workingman’s Blues #2,” from Modern Times. Through incessant touring and a steady release of CD’s for the past 12 years – and a refusal to play his old stuff the way it sounds on the records – Dylan has created not just another new Dylan persona, but an entirely new sound.  Whereas the press (and some of the audience) is hell-bent on keeping him in the 60’s, he has become a new artist, one who pays respect to his own past but is not mired in it, the way most of his peers who still perform live are (see interview below).

Stylistically, Dylan’s music now is more 1940’s and Western Swing than rock (one of the best numbers tonight was “When the Deal Goes Down,” maybe the first time I’ve seen a house rocked by a waltz).  But sonically and emotionally, he’s still pure rock and roll.  You can’t understand the lyrics unless you know them, and even then he doesn’t make it easy.  He changes the meter and the phrasing, sometimes mumbling and croaking his way through some of the best songs ever written.  This is partly due the limitations of his voice and partly because he’s more interested in the overall sound. He’s a solo performer, but he’s also part of his band, which is as much the point of the live show as he is.

Although the show was perhaps even better than the other 12 or 13 times I’ve seen him, this time the spokesman of his generation was playing to a generation that couldn’t stop speaking (or texting). I couldn’t help but notice during “Ain’t Talkin’” that the people in front of me and in back of me were doing exactly that.  When Dylan sang, in “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is,” he could have been singing to half the twenty-somethings in my section.

Still, even the talkers couldn’t dampen spirits.  It was a thrilling show from beginning to end and his band is the best band he’s ever played with (including The Band, Tom Petty and the Dead).  The only thing that could have topped it would have been “Must Be Santa,” Dylan’s current single from Christmas in the Heart, which he didn’t play.

Also a thrill was the opening act – Dion!  It was great to see him in a non-rock and roll revival show.  The 70-year-old Teenager in Love blew the roof off the place (I realized how much Springsteen owes to his sound), blazing his way through “Runaround Sue,” “The Wanderer” and other hits.

Dylan closed out his tour proving yet again that when it comes to music, he has not only always put his best foot forward, he has never been influenced by fools.

_________

Set List

1. Gonna Change My Way of Thinking

2. The Man in Me (Bob center stage)

3. Beyond Here Lies Nothin’

4. Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine

5. My Wife’s Hometown (Bob on guitar)

6. Desolation Row

7. High Water (for Charley Patton) (Bob center stage)

8. When the Deal Goes Down

9. Cold Irons Bound (Bob center stage)

10. Workingman’s Blues #2

11. Highway 61 Revisited

12. Ain’t Talkin’

13. Thunder on the Mountain

14. Ballad of a Thin Man

(encore)

15. Like a Rolling Stone

16. Jolene

17. All Along the Watchtower

_________

Videos

“Gonna Change My Way of Thinking” – Live in Los Angeles, October 2009

“Must Be Santa” video

_________

Excerpt from Huffington Post Dylan Interview by rock critic and MTV producer Bill Flanagan, April 15, 2009

Bill Flanagan: A lot of the acts from your generation seem to be trading on nostalgia. They play the same songs the same way for the last 30 years. Why haven’t you ever done that?

Bob Dylan: I couldn’t if I tried. Those guys you are talking about all had conspicuous hits. They started out anti-establishment and now they are in charge of the world. Celebratory songs. Music for the grand dinner party. Mainstream stuff that played into the culture on a pervasive level. My stuff is different from those guys. It’s more desperate. Daltrey, Townshend, McCartney, the Beach Boys, Elton, Billy Joel. They made perfect records, so they have to play them perfectly … exactly the way people remember them. My records were never perfect. So there is no point in trying to duplicate them. Anyway, I’m no mainstream artist.

BF: Then what kind of artist are you?

BD: I’m not sure, Byronesque maybe. Look, when I started out, mainstream culture was Sinatra, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Sound of Music. There was no fitting into it then and of course, there’s no fitting into it now. Some of my songs have crossed over but they were all done by other singers.

BF: Have you ever tried to fit in?

BD: Well, no, not really. I’m coming out of the folk music tradition and that’s the vernacular and archetypal aesthetic that I’ve experienced. Those are the dynamics of it. I couldn’t have written songs for the Brill Building if I tried. Whatever passes for pop music, I couldn’t do it then and I can’t do it now.

BF: Does that mean you create outsider art? Do you think of yourself as a cult figure?

BD: A cult figure, that’s got religious connotations. It sounds cliquish and clannish. People have different emotional levels. Especially when you’re young. Back then I guess most of my influences could be thought of as eccentric. Mass media had no overwhelming reach so I was drawn to the traveling performers passing through. The side show performers – bluegrass singers, the black cowboy with chaps and a lariat doing rope tricks. Miss Europe, Quasimodo, the Bearded Lady, the half-man half-woman, the deformed and the bent, Atlas the Dwarf, the fire-eaters, the teachers and preachers, the blues singers. I remember it like it was yesterday. I got close to some of these people. I learned about dignity from them. Freedom too. Civil rights, human rights. How to stay within yourself. Most others were into the rides like the tilt-a-whirl and the rollercoaster. To me that was the nightmare. All the giddiness. The artificiality of it. The sledge hammer of life. It didn’t make sense or seem real. The stuff off the main road was where force of reality was. At least it struck me that way. When I left home those feelings didn’t change.

BF: But you’ve sold over a hundred million records.

BD: Yeah I know. It’s a mystery to me too.

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Posted on 20 Nov 2009 at 9:05pm
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