Bob Dylan at the Palladium, Night Three: Hollywood Swinging
Bob Dylan & His Band at the Hollywood Palladium, Thursday, October 15
Click here to read Falling James' review of night #1 of Dylan's three shows at the Palladium. Click here to read his review of the second night.
After the unexpectedly smooth vocal performances and the many sublime moments at the first two shows of Bob Dylan's three-night stand at the Hollywood Palladium, it's understandable and perhaps inevitable that there would be a slight letdown at the final concert. Thursday night, Dylan's vocals were raspier, and the mix wasn't quite as good, which by itself was a significant distraction, especially in comparison to the fuller, louder, slightly watery sound on Tuesday and especially Wednesday, when it seemed like everything was swimming in a sea of love.
(Editor's note: apparently security was being more vigilant during Thursday's show regarding video. Most of the clips are ... clipped. No photographs, either.)
But these mixed feelings also point to the subjective nature of musical experiences, which can be affected by everything from where you stand in the room to what you ate that day. If I hadn't happened to catch the first two nights of Dylan & His Band's shows in Hollywood, I would've thought that the Thursday-night concert was simply wonderful, with the usual ups and downs, perhaps, but also with the usual unusual surprises and irreplaceable, ephemerally transcendent, you-had-to-be-there gems. If anything, the set list on Thursday had more of my recent favorites, and the crowd was considerably more into it than the passive folks at the first two gigs. Perhaps it's unforgivably silly to attempt to play umpire here and rank the varying emotional responses to sonic vibrations bouncing off 4,000 pairs of ears over the course of three uncontrolled experiments in a pleasantly refurbished landmark ballroom. Didn't some guy once say, "Don't think twice, it's all right"?
Following the standard piped-in introduction/gratuitous Bob Dylan history lesson, the band ambled onstage, dressed tonight in matching grey suits with black shirts and black hats (apart from guitarist Charlie Sexton and multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron, who weren't wearing hats). Dylan was attired in a black hat and one of his usual black suit-like outfits. He looked good for his age, a thin mustache framing his quick smile with a hint of wickedness as he hunched slightly over his electric keyboard.
The band kicked off with "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking," which also started Tuesday's show. It was a good version, but it didn't have the same fire & brimstone as it did the first night. The guitars sounded muted and toned down, which would be a problem the entire evening, and while you could generally hear the vocals, they didn't have the same clarity and bite, and you couldn't always pick up Dylan's subtler, quieter phrasings. The new sound system is still a million times better than the way it used to sound in the old Palladium, but the overall volume was quieter than it was the first two nights, until near the end.
Dylan switched gears on the very next song, "This Dream of You," a weepy Tex-Mex slow waltz from his most recent non-Santa Claus-related album, Together Through Life, which came out earlier this year. Sent aloft by Tony Garnier's gentle push of upright bass, Stu Kimball's salting of acoustic guitar and Donnie Herron's weave of electric mandolin, the song is tethered to Earth by Dylan's low, gruff vocals, making for an oddly beautiful contrast and a bittersweetly moving idyll so early in the set. "There's a moment when all old things/Become new again/But that moment might have come and gone," he lamented movingly. "Everything I touch seems to disappear."