Dylan in the shadows
I’d read that Bob Dylan had liked Girl from the North Country, the musical by Conor McPherson based on his songs which transferred from the West End to Broadway shortly before the pandemic closed everything down. The proof was in tonight’s streamed 50-minute concert, Shadow Kingdom, in which a baker’s dozen of his early or earlyish songs were subjected to the kind of treatment devised for the stage show by its musical supervisor, Simon Hale, who assembled a small acoustic band to play in a hotel bar.
That was the mood created for Shadow Kingdom: low-key, intimate, respectful of the songs. Acoustic and lightly amplified guitars, mandolin, accordion, double bass or (on a couple of songs) bass guitar and harmonica were lightly woven around Bob’s voice in three or four different settings, all in deep monochrome chiaroscuro and mostly approximating the ambiance of a funky roadhouse: the audience drinking, smoking, and dancing to one or two of the tunes.
It was all mimed, of that I’m pretty sure because the fingers didn’t always quite match what we were hearing and a microphone mostly obscured the singer’s mouth. But it didn’t matter at all — to me, anyway. Dylan has arrived at an ensemble style which suits songs from every one of his eras, and it’s a joy to hear. When he sat down to sing a beautiful “What Was It You Wanted”, it might have been taken from Rough and Rowdy Ways. That was a highlight for me, but so were a most elegant “Queen Jane Approximately”, a lazily swinging “When I Paint My Masterpiece”, a full-bodied “Pledging My Time”, a Mexicali “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and a rubato “Tombstone Blues”. The codas and intros linking the sings were a delight, and the whole thing would certainly justify an album release.
The players were masked. Their names were given in the credits as Alex Burke, Janie Cowen, Joshua Crumbly, Shahzad Ismaily and Buck Meek. The director was Alma Har’el and the DP was Lol Crawley. You can catch it again over the next 48 hours, until Tuesday night, at http://www.veeps.com.