Bob Dylan, ‘Shadow Kingdom Exclusive Broadcast Event’ (Nanker Dog – 003)
CD: When I Paint My Master Piece / Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine) / Queen Jane Approximately / I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight / Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues / Tombstone Blues / To Be Alone With You / What Was It You Wanted / Forever Young / Pledging My Time / The Wicked Messenger / Watching The River Flow / It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue / Outro (50:13)
DVD: Intro / When I Paint My Master Piece / Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine) / Queen Jane Approximately / I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight / Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues / Tombstone Blues / To Be Alone With You / What Was It You Wanted / Forever Young / Pledging My Time / The Wicked Messenger / Watching The River Flow / It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue / Ending Credits (50:21)
Following the great pandemic, it took a few acts a little while to get back on the road, a few more were more immediate. A few took to Zoom and Twitch to get broadcast, a lot of the less tech savvy were slower on the uptake. We now know Paul McCartney was busying himself up with a new album (the benefit of being a solo act and a virtuoso was that you CAN do that), and while we were sent entertainment around one month in by the Lady Gaga organised ‘One World’ simulcast, it took until the gates started to open to live venues that we heard much from the rock acts of the 1960’s.
Bob Dylan, however, did things a little differently. Launching ‘Murder Most Foul’ 3 days after the UK had locked down, it took all of us by surprise. A 79 year old rock star dropping the longest song of his career, entirely out of the blue with the legend that it was “an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting”, instantly getting his fans and followers theorising when it might have been recorded, was this a long forgotten outtake from the ‘Tempest’ sessions almost 10 years previous? It took a twist from Fiona Apple who played piano on the track to throw in the filament that it was actually recorded in February 2020. Was this actually then, a gift from Dylan as we all hunkered down waiting for this to pass or was this one of the best marketing tools that Dylan could have been afforded – albeit the one that he surely really didn’t need. The album, ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’ followed soon after in June of the same year, much lauded by critics and writers in the press, the oddly in cohesive album marked a small resurrection for Dylan who, after three albums of singing other peoples songs, came back with an album worthy of being talked about again.
One concern, had it mattered was how to promote the album – With venues still closed and travel pretty much still out the question, there would be no chance that Dylan could get out on the road again, fine, it seems he was more than happy to sit it all out and paint but performance is in his blood, the heartbeat of brand Dylan, the plaudits for his 2019 shows were solid, he must have been aching to get his back back out on billboards, flyers and posters again .. but this IS Bob Dylan so what’s he going to do? That’s right, a pay-per-view on the internet. Once the preserve on many a band via cable, the internet is now the place to go and through policed and pair for servers, we finally get to see 2021 Bob, hear the new tracks in a live setting, see how his voice has fared in the past year without the trickery of going through the studio. But this IS Bob Dylan ..
What were we treated with on the 18th of July 2021? Certainly not we expected. This CD and DVD set features the audio and visual for all of the 50 min presentation for the ’Shadow Kingdom’ show. Directed by Alma Har’el, known for arresting films such as Honey Boy and Bombay Beach, alongside the video for Beirut’s ‘Elephant Gun’, what it turned out to be was wildly reappropriated versions of Dylan’s past catalogue skirting through the 1960’s to the late 80’s, stopping before the last 30 years even happened – How’s that for a career! The visuals were all broadcast in black and white, the stage was set with Dylan stood to the side of his band, the free-standing microphone or a guitar (Guitar!) in his hand, his band of four, all masked, dotted around the circular, the audience, sat in a speakeasy bar, smoke whisping around the venue, chintzy tinsel hanging from the stages roof, take sips from bottles of booze from time to time. Parts of it shot like it was filmed with a handheld camera, some of it with a fixed lens. It takes it’s time about itself, while the reverie goes on, the camera floats around like a lazy fish through sticky water.
The performance is just as you might have heard in 2019 – That is to say that Dylan’s performance is correct, his rusted and worn voice, a beautiful experience – Stripped of the piano to hide behind, he makes a striking provocateur, clasping his lapels, stiff hipped like his shoes are nailed to the floor – Both unassured and bold all at the same time. His band as animated as it gets when you’re sat on a stool, they almost look like they’re miming in a way.
At times things are wonderfully comical – Note the version of ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ as Dylan, unaffectedly staring at the camera is shoulder to shoulder with two beautiful women who equally won’t take their gaze away from the camera – to look at them staring back at you is unusually affecting but very appealing at the same time – Especially as one breaks contact to brush the shoulders of Bob’s jacket, awed but also of a power herself.
It’s a thrill to watch, I’ll be honest – I was fully intent on reviewing the disk while I watched it but I did put aside my laptop and sat sipping my water while it rolled on. I had to then put it on a second time so I could write this up. The Tanker Dog label have also added a very mini bonus of adding the online trailer for the event. Nothing added, nothing gained maybe but we are in the form of collecting everything are we not? The film itself, ripped in high quality from the internet, is glossy hi-def – as good as you’ll get from DVD anyway. The wet-fart of the presentation is that Nanker have spelt ‘Shadow Kingdome’ on the menu. An easy slip maybe but the titles are right there!!
The CD, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, takes the audio from the stream and has it for us to hear. To me, it’s a winter listen, a Sunday sound – though you may disagree – Not many of these tracks ramp up the speed barrier, they’re mainly languid, bluesy and warm. A perfect mix.
I wholeheartedly recommend this set. It’s nicely if simply packaged, comes with an obi strip, offers the full event – Which is itself a gem. A solid keeper.