Serving The Palace (Tambourine Man Records TMR 162/163)
The United Palace, New York, NY – November 21st, 2008
Disc 1 (74:05): Intro, Gotta Serve Somebody, The Times They Are A Changin’, The Levee’s Gonna Break, Tomorrow Is A Long Time, Things Have Changed, Desolation Row, It’s Alright Ma, Beyond The Horizon, ‘Till I Fell In Love With You, Make You Feel My Love, Honest With Me
Disc 2 (50:04): Spirit On The Water, Highway 61 Revisited, Ain’t Talkin’, Thunder On The Mountain, crowd applause, Like A Rolling Stone, band intro, All Along The Watchtower, Blowin’ In The Wind
In reviewing Bob Dylan’s November 21st, 2008 show in New York Rolling Stone magazine observed: “Bob always saves his best for his old stomping ground, and last Friday night he absolutely destroyed shit up on 175 Street at the United Palace Theater.” After the accolades in 2006 for the release of Modern Times Bob Dylan capped off a satisfying year by playing a show in New York City with the surprising live debut of “Ain’t Talkin’.” He ended touring in 2008 with a well publicized show at the United Palace in New York with an absolutely sublime setlist and performance. Serving The Palaceon Thinman contains and excellent sounding stereo audience recording of the event capturing ever detail and nuance of the performance.
The show’s novelty occurs at the very beginning with the opening song “Gotta Serve Somebody.” The anthem of his “born again” period, this is the first time it has been performed live since February 5th, 2002. He sings at the front of the stage accompanied only by the harmonica and he adds new verses like: “Over and Out/Under and In/No matter where you are/No matter where you’ve been/You still gotta serve somebody.” The hard rocking arrangement of “The Times They Are A-Changin'” follows with new meaning after the election of President Obama.
Afterwards someone close to the recorder shouts out “I Believe In You.” But instead of revisiting more of the gospel period numbers he follows with a very heavy rendition of “The Levee’s Gonna Break.” Dylan plays guitar, and adds a little solo, to the rare “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.”
“Desolation Row” is played in a happy, sunny arrangement that is in conflict with words. A review in the Village Voice points out: “When he and the band launched into a raucous, upbeat version of the originally-acoustic and melancholy ‘Desolation Row,’ I felt the disappointment ripple through my companions. ‘This song shouldn’t be treated this way,’ complained my usually open-minded husband. And I had to agree. A songwriter capable of penning lines like ‘They’re selling postcards of the hanging. /They’re painting the passports brown. /The beauty parlor is filled with sailors. /The circus is in town,’ should know enough to let a good thing alone.”
Donnie Herron’s banjo is featured on “It’s Alright Ma” and Dylan takes center stage again for “‘Till I Fell In Love With You.” Dylan harp center stage. The audience is given three encores including “Blowin’ In The Wind.” The aforementioned Village Voice review concludes by stating: “As three-thousand-some people at the Palace applauded ecstatically, Dylan and the members of his band walked to the front of the stage and took a modest bow. Then the spotlights were turned on the audience. Dylan’s too reticent to tell the public how important they are to him as a performer, but that’s what this gesture conveyed. ‘It’s all about you, now!’ Dylan seemed to be saying. And so it is.” Serving The Palace is package in high quality glossy paper inserts and is an overall excellent document of the extraordinary event.