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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

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nick L-C #

    It was outstanding – beautifully sung and played. A continuation of the brilliant Rough & Rowdy Ways.

    July 18, 2021
  2. Mike Fahn #

    Mike Fahn

    Sent from my iPhone


    July 19, 2021
  3. I can promise you they were miming. Not all that well either but it was great music so no big deal. I do wonder why the Screen Extras Guild couldn’t find folks better at miming music. 🤔

    July 19, 2021
  4. mick gold #

    Marvellous vocal performances. Bob’s best singing in the 21st century? Director Alma Har’el made a weird, poetic study of marginal likeable inhabitants of an inland sea in southern California, Bombay Beach.

    July 19, 2021
  5. Pete Cummins #

    Why do I get the feeling I was conned and ripped off? first it was sold as a live stream not a showing of a video, the sound was obviously pre-recorded, the stream froze straight from the start and despite being refreshed at the beginning of every song it never worked, really disappointing. Dylan and /or his people have done damage to his credibility here.

    July 19, 2021
  6. Peter Jones #

    The brilliance of a young protest singer/songwriter of the60s would wither and pass into that epoch, I convincd myself.
    How wrong was.i! Dylan transcended the ages .
    He has no equal, his unique catalogue acknowledged by Nobel and academia.
    To his lifelong fans his music defined who we were .

    July 19, 2021
  7. Belinda #

    It was glorious! The whole production was perfect! Whoever found that bar in Marseilles is the best location scout ever. It had such a “you are there” feel. I am so glad I bought a ticket!!!

    July 19, 2021
  8. Stephen Holland #

    A lovely, evocative evening. Beautiful playing and Dylan’s voice in remarkably good shape. It reminded me a little of one of Dylan’s early US TV appearances singing a selection of songs seemingly set in roadside cabin with diners who, for the most part, just ignored him. The crowd here was much more engaged and added to the occasion.

    July 19, 2021
  9. Alan Codd #

    A nice description of something you’re tempted to want to listen to. Sounds like a terrific set list. And a recommendation of a possible album must go down as a Memo. All in so few lines! I like the way you summarize the musical setting as appropriate to all Dylan material. It’s a good way of understanding what is still his contemporary status.

    July 19, 2021
  10. I saw it late in it’s online run, so there were no surprises for me with “not really a live stream” aspect. I agree the performances worked well and the setting/photography/actors playing audience thing added something, even though it would work as audio only.

    Yes, it’s faked. I once heard that sometimes artists do stuff that isn’t real. I got over it.

    Besides the songs already pointed out, I broke out laughing at the re-arrangement of “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” as if done by Roy “Treat Her Right” Head. I don’t even know if that one succeeded, but it was so much fun, I didn’t have time think about that.

    July 28, 2021

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