After a forced hiatus of a year and a half in his Never Ending Tour Bob Dylan returned online on Sunday. It could not be called a concert, because the thirteen songs were clearly recorded in advance and separately from each other. In a sober café setting, 80-year-old Dylan sang a selection from his early work, up to and including the rarely played live ‘What Was It You Wanted’ from 1989.
Fans had to pay $25 for 50 minutes of Dylan in moody black and white. About the title Shadow Kingdom was speculated in advance. Nobel laureate Dylan would refer to Robert E. Howard’s 1929 short story of the same name, about a shadowy realm ruled by ghosts. That theme corresponds to the dark atmosphere of Dylan’s acclaimed recent album Rough and Rowdy Ways and the song ‘Murder Most Foul’, about America after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Dylan, however, did not sing anything from his recent work and limited himself to oldies such as ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’ (1971) and ‘Pledging My Time’ by Blonde On Blonde from 1966. A sober ‘To Be Alone With You’ by Nashville Skyline (1969) matched the country atmosphere that His Bobness evoked in deviating versions of his songs. Musicians wearing face masks, including Big Thief guitarist Buck Meek, assisted him in his role of humble café singer, surrounded by dancing and smoking people.
In fairly good voice, Dylan sang ‘Forever Young’ and ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’, songs that have taken on a deeper meaning as the years go by. Is it indeed ‘all over now’, now that he is raking in more revenue with this glorified video clip than usually on an entire tour? The addition The Early Songs of Bob Dylan seems to imply that there will also be a second edition with the later work. Maybe it can be released on DVD right away, because as an online event this was a bit sparse.