If ever there was a fact which best defined the impact of COVID-19 on global music, it is this: 2020 was the first year that Bob Dylan did not make a live performance since 1977.
And this is why the music world is trumpeting Dylan’s first post-pandemic performance – a paid-streaming event titled Shadow Kingdom - which will take place on July 18.
The last time the Octogenarian performed live was on December 8, 2019, at the Anthem in Washington, D.C. The past 18 months have been the longest break Dylan has had from publicly performing since the start of his Never Ending Tour in 1988. He had played 3,066 concerts during this period.
Dylan was about to embark on a congested U.S. Summer Tour in the middle of last year when he suddenly announced its cancellation “in the interest of public health and safety.” He promised fans he would be back ASAP. The tour would have coincided with the release of his latest – and 39th - studio album, the acclaimed Rough and Rowdy Ways.
The announcement of the stream-concert made no reference to any other Dylan gigs during 2021.
The Shadow Kingdom event is being promoted by Veeps, a digital livestream website. Tickets for the Dylan concert cost $25 and the event is available to subscribers for 48 hours after the first airing.
It is being promoted as the singer-songwriter’s first broadcast performance in almost three decades. The Veeps press release stated the show will feature Dylan “in an intimate setting as he presents renditions of songs from his extensive and renowned body of work created especially for this event.”
“It’s an incredible honor and a high point for us all at Veeps to have the opportunity to be working with Bob Dylan, and to be a part of what is sure to be a truly special and historic performance, not only as professionals but as music fans, too,” Veeps co-founder Joel Madden said in a statement.
But, as is the case with many Dylan happenings, a host of questions remain unanswered: What and where is “an intimate setting? Is the event live or prerecorded? Will there be a live audience? Will it be a fully-fledged concert or a short set? And what about his apparent aversion to on-camera performing?
It is this last question which has raised eyebrows among the music hacks!
“It should also be noted that a streaming concert is a very unorthodox move for Dylan. With only a tiny handful of exceptions, he hasn’t allowed camera crews to film any of his concerts over the past few decades,” Andy Greene wrote in Rolling Stone.
As one might expect in this digital age, there are countless recordings by fans using video phones, most of which now produce high-quality video – both sound and vision. But because the concert patrons are often filming illegally, the composition of most is poor and often from seemingly row Z.
The last officially-released concert video Dylanologists can come up with is the 1994 MTV Unplugged Special. But this wasn’t recorded with Dylan live in a concert hall, but rather in a studio over a 48-hour period with multiple takes for individual songs.
It is also reported that in the previous year, Dylan allowed a professional crew to film an acoustic set before a live audience during a four-show appearance at the Supper Club in New York. This was never released, though tapes of some of the show’s songs have cropped up on YouTube.
But if the entire Shadow Kingdom set is archived and made available beyond the 48-hour digital subscription period, then this is one thing COVID-19 will have truly changed the world – for good!
Editor Crossroads – Americana Music Appreciation