July 25, 2021

Bob Dylan in the kingdom of shadows


“An unattainable artistic truth if the arrangements, pure honey combined with whiskey, weren’t so magnificent, or if the performances weren’t that exquisite”

It was Bob Dylan’s first concert since 2019: a must-see show titled Shadow kingdom in which he performed twelve songs with a band and an audiovisual texture typical of film noir. By Julio Valdeón.

A section of JULIO VALDEÓN.

Shadow kingdom, Bob Dylan’s “concert” via streaming, it was as surprising and unusual as the great man’s counter-current fame deserves. With the shots recorded in a studio, the artist and his group, recruited for the occasion, make playback in a juke joint idealized. In front of an audience of models dressed as jazz lovers in 1940s Harlem. In front of doubles of Sam Peckinpah or Ernest Hemingway. More than a concert, there is a series of postcards set in the video clip of Closing time, the incandescent wonder of Leonard Cohen. To top it all, neither Bob nor the group seem to make an effort to trace the prerecorded notes: out of sync moments abound. Nor does it attend to the superb repertoire of the last 25 years, of Time out of mind (1997) a Rough and rowdy ways (2020), more appropriate for his tattered voice and lyrically closer to his current leanings. His everlasting aversion to rules rejoices: he will hardly touch a hit. Nothing from “Blowin ‘in the wind”, “Don’t think twice, it’s all right”, “My back pages”, “Rainy day women No. 12 & 35”, “Just like a woman”, “Ballad of a thin man “,” I want you “,” All along the watchtower “,” Lay lady lay “,” Knockin ‘on heaven’s door “… By the way, it contradicts everything that the department of marketing: they sold that the concert would go on early Dylan. Nothing further. Although it rescues deep cuts of discs such as Bringing it all back home (1965), Highway 61 (1965), Blonde on blonde (1966) the Nashville skyline (1969), any graduate in rock and roll knows that the first Dylan is not that of the electric trilogy; neither the one that embraces the country, but the former folkie, king despite the protest song and the social commentary. Come on, the one with the first four albums, from 61 to 64, Bob Dylan, The freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, The Times they are a-changin’, Another side of Bob Dylan. To round off the play, he sneaks a song from 1989, “What was it you wanted.” Of course, in a shocking shot.

But, and it’s a but the size of a peak in the Himalayas, and it’s a but as deep as the Mariana Trench, the theoretically most viewed repertoire, delayed lips and fingers, the use of actors instead of audiences, and the smoke, the cinematographic touch, the glare and mirrors, far from crystallizing into a dressing task or a commercial product for a distracted audience, enhance the phantasmagorical, magical condition of an exercise in tightrope that is more real by being dramatized. An unattainable artistic truth if the arrangements, pure honey combined with whiskey, weren’t so magnificent, or if the performances weren’t that exquisite. In Shadow kingdom Dylan sings and phrases with unusual care, while the melodies, markedly acoustic, pure protein, emphasize the vintage clothes, halfway between the re-enactments. noir which he did from Sinatra’s songbook, the sounds of the Delta and Bob Willis.

Everything in this lynchian and mysterious work shone high. Classics like “Just like Tom Thumb’s blues” or “Queen Jane approximately” saw overwhelming reincarnations. “Forever young”, despite the brutal classic take with The Band on The last waltz, received the definitive treatment. Painfully twilight. Deliciously delicate, light and vital. Related to the Sun Records recordings and the Jimmie Rodgers slates, emphasizing the bluesy pulse that beat in many of his original albums, Dylan supplemented with wisdom, elegance and humor, with transfusions of rockabilly and aromas of Raymond Chandler, the old pose of the hipster original. Aware that the only possible way to make the codes and sounds of ancient music his own was to avoid mimicry without falling into pastiche. Something unattainable for almost anyone, but that embroiders with insulting ease and, above all, with slit. Beyond the play of shadows, poetic winks and costumes, propelled by a carnival vocation but also by prospective desire, all in Shadow kingdom oozes the indomitable bravery of the works leaning over the precipice.

Previous delivery of Burns: Nobody to the height of Amy.