“A Night In Black And White” – Bob Dylan’s Shadow Kingdom, 18th of July 2021

Wow! Such a night! In black and white!

Intimate atmosphere, indeed – like in a small bar with people watching the small stage, digging the music – and even dancing. All the world’s a stage, and this place is the scene of the musical mime, back in time. A Dylan noir movie! Shadows are falling all over the place and over the faces. Reminding me a bit of that “Quest” from 1964. “Shadow Kingdom” is beautifully directed by Alma Har’el. Special thanks goes to Dylan’s dreamt Bon Bon Club in Marseille in the end credits, to the sound of what could be a French version of Watchtower, on a French-sounding accordion. Special thanks for the inspiration for the smoke-filled bar, maybe? All “club members” attending are credited.

New band – in black masks, but they are not the ones that plays, they are just the one we see. Janie Cowan on bass, then Alex Burke, Joshua Crumbly, Shahzad Ismaily and Buck Meek playing guitars, mandolins and accordion and some kind of keys. The story of how Don Was, Tim Pierce, Greg Leiz & Dylan himself met in studio the spring of 2021, to make the soundtrack to this movie, is fabulously described by Tim Pierce himself, here:

What a brave move, bringing it all back home with a fresh sound and a cool, new band, one you can see, another you can hear. Bob himself even playing the acoustic! Or is he? At least he showed the musicians some tricks when they were recording.

In the Shadow Kingdom you keep movie wondering: “What is real and what is not?” There is some kind of relationship with the Rolling Thunder Revue movie here. This is another Bob Dylan story. Another side of Bob Dylan. He wants to tell us something tonight. He is reaching out with his bare hands, he is acting the songs, too. We can see that, even if he is lip-syncing. It’s his voice we’re listening to, it’s his unmistakable timing and phrasing. It’s not live, but still it’s “live”. Close your eyes, close the door. This is the night of the performing artist. Hands down. He got his Bob Dylan mask on. Playing the venue of his dreams.

A great setlist – but you might find just one or maybe two of the songs on any Greatest Hits album, or in a list of the best Dylan songs. In the same way, there isn’t one of the songs you will find on the upper ten of a “most played list”. None of the most known classics are presented, maybe with an exception for “Forever Young”. Not a coincidence. This is Dylan’s choices of early songs, limited to the first half of his career.

New words in several of the songs, especially the rewritten “When I Paint My Masterpiece”, like we know it from 2019, and in “To Be Alone With You”: “Did I kill somebody? Did I escape the law?”

Every song was delivered in new arrangements and new phrasings.
Only the first song taken from the repertoire of the last years.

Many great highlights – for me the first was Queen Jane Approximately, then a fabulous Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, then almost a quiet recitation of Tombstone Blues, a fine What Was It You Wanted and an especially touching Forever Young. A great set list with some surprising choices. Nine of the songs from the sixties, two from the seventies and one from the eighties.

Every word rang true. Great timing. Great phrasing. Naked and armed with and without guitars, with and without harmonica. Passion. Dylan still busy being born. Still burning. Keeping on keeping on. Is it all over now, baby blue? Nobody knows. The Early Songs of Bob Dylan tonight. Will there be any more reports from Shadow Kingdom? Who knows?

A wonderful night, Dylan reminding us that he’s still here. Or there. Alive and kicking. This was something real, after all. The opening song is about the future, about creating. Last song ends with “Strike another match, go start anew, and it’s all over now, Baby Blue.” Is it an ending or is it a new start?

19th of July 2021 I wrote this: Is he ready for one more leg of touring? And then – let’s listen one more time to this one. And hope for The Late Songs of Bob Dylan, too.

(13th of March 2022 we knew that he was more than ready – Rough And Rowdy Ways Tour already into its second leg.)

The Songs:

  1. When I Paint My Masterpiece – Bob with guitar
  2. Most Likely You Go Your Way – No guitar – using his hands and arms a lot, underscoring the words
  3. Queen Jane Approximately – No guitar, with harmonica
  4. I’ll be your baby tonight – Bob with guitar – and two ladies close by
  5. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues – No guitar
  6. Tombstone Blues – No guitar
  7. To Be Alone With You – Bob with guitar
  8. What was it you wanted – No guitar
  9. Forever young  – Guitar
  10. Pledging My Time – No guitar, with harmonica – the audience dancing
  11. The Wicked Messenger – No guitar, with harmonica
  12. Watching the river flow – No guitar
  13. It’s all over now, baby blue – No guitar

P.S. 1: As we now know, five of the songs where implanted in to the Rough And Rowdy Ways World Tour Set List, several of them flowering even more live. DS.

P.S. 2: To Be Alone With You (New lyrics)

To be alone with you, just you and I
Under the moon ‘neath the star-spangled sky
I know you’re alive and I am, too
My one desire, just to be alone with you

To be alone with you even for just an hour
In a castle high in an ivory tower
Some people don’t get it, they just don’t have a clue
They don’t know what it’s like, to be alone with you

They say the night time is the right time
To hold each other tight
All our wordly cares will disappear
And everything will come out right

I wish the night was here, make me scream and shout
I’d fall into your arms, I’ll let it all hang out
I’ll hound you to death, that’s just what I do
I won’t sleep a wink, till I’m alone with you

I’m collecting my things in a pattern
Moving from place to place
Stepping out in the dark night
Stepping out into space

What happened to me darling?
What was it you saw?
Did I kill somebody?
Did I escape the law?
My heart’s in my mouth, my eyes are still blue
My mortal bliss is to be alone with you
My mortal bliss is to be alone with you

14 thoughts on ““A Night In Black And White” – Bob Dylan’s Shadow Kingdom, 18th of July 2021

  1. A magical new ‘To Be Alone With You’,, a touching ‘Forever Young’…all around great show with just the right atmosphere for the arrangements…I too saw reflections of the ‘Quest’ show…


  2. Fin fin gjennomgang, Johnny. Jeg trakk tidlig på smilebåndet og tankene gikk uvilkårlig hen til Quest 64, men etterhvert som som jeg ble oppmerksom på de fire maskerte marionettene, som ikke en gang forsøkte late som de spilte til musikken – det illusoriske i vaudeville- og minstrel show tradisjonen. Til og med Bon Bon Club i Marseille – ho ho… Og selvsagt 30 og 40 tallets blues og jazz. Vi husker da også den lille klubben han slang innom i 87, der han via jazzsangeren fikk en åpenbaring og knekte sin egen vokale kode, en gang til. Et 50 minutters høydepunkt med en sjukt sterk vokal og nye arrangementer. Forever Young har knapt vært vakere, Tombstone Blues var sylskarp, To be alone with you – my mortal bliss, is to be alone with you – herregud, han sto jo i lys lue. Kan ikke det hele tatt ikke huske å ha sett ham så intenst insisterende og understrekende annet enn i korte glimt tidligere. Den bla for vi ta opp når vi ses. Hilsen Arthur

    > 19. jul. 2021 kl. 00:51 skrev Johnny B. : > >


  3. That was a great show. Despite the overzealous photography. I could have sworn this show was promoted as a two hour event. Anyone else get that impression?


  4. What a wonderful, beautiful piece of performance art. Forever Young moved me in a way that I never thought it would again.
    It was a 5am showtime here in Singapore. A perfect time to watch it. Set me up for the whole day!
    We will never see his like again.


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