(Article written on June 23-24, when there was very little specific information regarding this event. More specific and trustworthy updates might come along the way (not from me though, read the article to understand what I mean).
This article will hopefully help you tell a difference between reliable and unreliable sources, and hopefully the article gets some prediction right so it wouldn’t be a total waste. I wouldn’t mind being completely wrong if we get something really good and unexpected, of course. Also, please don’t consider me as a trustworthy source! I’m just a fan like many of you, and when I was writing this, I just tried to use logic, or in the sense of Dylan, illogic, knowing him and how unpredictable he can be. Although he is unpredictable, I have had a track record of getting some of my predictions right in the past. That’s the only reason I have confidence to do this now. Hopefully, you enjoy reading it.)
On July 18, 2021, the world will be introduced to Dylan’s first ever virtual concert or stream.
Even though one of the greatest tours of all time, The Never-Ending Tour, got cancelled (at least temporarily) because of the global pandemic, the time away might not have been so bad after all, either for Bob or his fans.
Veeps.com, which is broadcasting this event, has only revealed that Dylan will go over his wide repertoire of songs in a very intimate setting and in arrangements that were just created for this very event.
As always, there’s a lot of mystique surrounding this, which is not new for any new release that’s associated with Bob Dylan.
Now, the question is: what can we expect from this?
So many rumours have surfaced around, without any evidence backing it up, that Bob fans seem to swallow as facts immediately without even thinking it through, and also, a lot of guesses from fans, based on previous Bob history, and most of all – wishlists or bucket lists or whatever you want to call them…
Tons of stuff. Tons of dust in the wind, a wind that we don’t even know if it blows. Even if it does, it carries the dust to all kinds of places. If it’s not dust, then we have mist. And that’s all we have. Nothing more than that.
So let’s stop for a moment and just start from scratch. I, as a writer of this, will help you in that process, if you’re willing to help me by giving me a chance to go through everything that we can go through at this very moment.
What I will do is I will go through all kinds of rumours I have heard so far, and all kinds of different opinions I’ve heard so far and try to find a middle ground. I will also at some point give my take on what I think could happen.
I’ll try to be as objective as possible while writing this.
So, let’s begin.
First of all, we have to get back to the only information given so far regarding this. And we need to stick to it.
“Songs from his entire career or body of work in an intimate setting”. I’m obviously paraphrasing but this is basically what Veeps has told us so far.
That’s the only source we should trust so far.
The only other source(s) worth trusting other than Veeps with a lot of certainty is anything that’s “official Bob Dylan”. Official is the key word.
Anything that could come from THE REAL Bob Dylan camp.
I’m tired of people falling for stories from all kinds of people who are not part of the official Bob Dylan… something. Whether if it’s his YouTube channel, his Twitter or Facebook Page… As long as it’s official and as long as we know it’s coming from people that are close to the real Bob Dylan, that should be trustworthy.
So what do we know so far?
The name Shadow Kingdom and the intimate setting. That’s all, for now.
The first question that came to mind to many is: Is it pre-recorded or is it going to be live on July 18?
It’s hard to tell. Let me first ask this: does it matter if it’s live or pre-recorded? What difference would it make? Obviously, there could be differences, for sure, but.. both situations would have their advantages and disadvantages.
At the end of the day, it won’t matter.
What we do know is that, the show can be streamed for a few days. Which means you can watch it over and over, right? That might mean it’s pre-recorded.
What probably scares some people with pre-recorded is the fact that probably the whole thing is scripted. People probably want Bob to be live, in the moment, spontaneous…
Just because it’s pre-recorded, which probably means it’s scripted, doesn’t mean it can take any spontaneous spirit of it away.
It’s not “scripted” that I’m personally afraid of with Bob, ever… Never have been. The only thing I ever feared about Bob for the time I have listened to him is the possibility of something being over-rehearsed.
This has happened to him in his career and it’s one of the biggest flaws of his live shows in general.
That shouldn’t be a problem now.
We have heard some rumours that this was recorded in May, at a still unknown venue or even city.
If that is true, then it’s certainly scripted and worked out into perfection.
Will it fall into the trouble of being over-rehearsed? Highly unlikely in that case.
My assumption, based on all of this I’ve mentioned (if true) is:
Bob was seen in public in Los Angeles about a week before his birthday. It was reported that he was seen in public (and photographed) for the first time in 10 years in that very city.
I knew something was fishy about that since Bob doesn’t just go to LA for nothing.
Especially since you know Bob’s recorded his latest studio album “Rough And Rowdy Ways” right there in January and February of 2020.
Knowing Bob is usually at home for his birthday, which I assume was at Malibu this year, being also in California just like LA is (distance-wise), I can’t see Bob being in Los Angeles after May 23.
I knew Bob had to be recording something in LA that one week before his B-day.
I wasn’t expecting something like Shadow Kingdom, though. But, I sure take it!
So , with all that in mind, Bob for all we know was in Los Angeles for a week or less. That is the most logical explanation so far. Which means, there’s no chance the arrangements and the songs could be over-rehearsed. You can’t over-rehearse anything in a week or less even if you tried. Especially if you’re Bob Dylan
The only way this could be even possible is if Bob already practised these songs and arrangements before, ever since the pandemic started, which might be possible, but I highly doubt that.
We don’t know too much about what Bob was up to ever since the pandemic began. We knew he did the Theme Time Radio Hour for the first time after 11 years last year and that’s the last we’ve heard of him.
Having sold his entire catalogue at the end of last year as I recall, Bob has secured himself financially for a long time, which was a very smart move looking at how modern touring is affected by the pandemic. It gave him an opportunity not to rush through anything.
So I believe Bob was doing stuff in the last several months, but he was trying to enjoy it. And to enjoy something, you have to be patient with it and not rush it.
Bob probably was planning this event for several months.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he was reading over his old lyrics.
Who’s to say he wasn’t using Untold Dylan for assistance here as well? (This is more a joke, but if it really was the case, then that makes it “epic”…)
The bottom line is: I think it’s pre-recorded, but I’m not worried about it being “too scripted” or “overrehearsed”.
The only similar thing I can compare this to is MTV Unplugged, recorded in late 1994 and officially released in 1995. We know the collection of MTV Unplugged that Bob ended up recording was great.
That whole thing was done in four days. Two days of rehearsals and two days of live concert in front of an audience. Then, they selected what they felt were the highlights of the two days of live concert and that ended up being released.
I don’t know about Shadow Kingdom, but I expect a similar concept. Maybe even a few more days of recording. 5-6 maybe…
Anyway, even though this will be only streamed on Veeps, I don’t expect it to end there.
First of all, someone is certainly going to rip it and put it up for download on numerous download sites. I don’t doubt that. But that’s a separate story.
We might get an official release later of Shadow Kingdom as a live album.
We might also later get a bootleg with possible rehearsals and even outtakes.
Let me shortly get back to more stories I’ve heard: he’ll only do old songs in new arrangements and with new band members.
I do not trust this one bit. Doesn’t mean it won’t be the case.
Some people were also worried he might do covers. Even though Veeps said that Bob will do HIS songs. But okay…
Band members? Young band members? I read this as a possibility that, along with his usual band, which is the only band I see him playing with and the only band he’s comfortable with, unless he is solo on something, either guitar or piano, there could be additions of Blake Mills and Fiona Apple, who are certainly younger than his regular band members. Oh, but no… Someone’s now gonna tell me that if that’s the case, then they’re gonna do Rough And Rowdy Ways songs since these two musicians had their parts on that album. But that doesn’t fit with the “old songs, new arrangements” description… Oh no… (That was sarcasm, for people who have a hard time understanding it).
Ultimately, the question is:
What can we expect from Shadow Kingdom?
The answer is simply: nothing.
The less we overthink, the less we analyze or wish for, the better. Especially if it’s pre-recorded. Then there’s no hope to give a request to Bob.
But I will tell you this…
The Shadow Kingdom name is very interesting. No Dylan song features that lyric.
That might mean it could be a new song under that name?
That new song might also be one of many new songs that might be released if the reception of this concert skyrockets?
Let’s also consider that, this might just be the last Dylan concert we ever get to see.
Certainly in this kind of setting. Where it’s broadcasted and all that…
I don’t think we’ll get another luxury like that.
If Bob wants this to be his last concert, he wouldn’t tell us about it.
But it might be his last.
He can be in good health and spirit, that doesn’t guarantee that one day out of the blue he cannot get sick and not recover.
And he has earned enough money that he doesn’t have to tour anymore, especially after the catalogue sale. Especially when we consider how dangerous it is to tour now.
Of course, I’m not saying this to make things even more shadowy than the event itself might be, but just to give all the more reasons to watch it and be a part of it.
I think this is a prequel to something. Whether it’s an album or a Fall Tour, something is on the way.
Either that, or we get a concious last live performance of Bob Dylan in his illustrious career.
Make of it what you wish…
“The Setlist Dilemma”
I do not believe in the “old songs, new arrangements” description, given by some people considered to be close to the Dylan camp and usually very trustworthy although they weren’t a part of the project at all.
“Shadow Kingdom” might suggest a new song under that name or a new song that contains that lyric, that will be included in the setlist.
It might even be an old song with a lyric change that contains the lyric “Shadow Kingdom”.
Just like in 1975 the song “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” had the lyric “Rolling Thunder” (“you came down on me like rolling thunder”, or something like that, which was one of many lyric changes to that song specifically that year) that was also the name of the entire tour, in both 1975 and 1976, even though that song did not contain that lyric in its original form on Nashville Skyline.
Either that, or it might just be a random name that doesn’t get mentioned in any of the songs played that night, but just a name to suggest the general atmosphere of the performance.
Even if the rumour “old songs, new arrangements” is true, that means it’s gonna be an entire career coverage. Even the most recent album “Rough And Rowdy Ways” feels like it’s been recorded a lifetime ago. A year ago in Bob terms is a long time. He’s moved away from it far and beyond, from “Rough And Rowdy Ways” already.
He already did that in his Theme Time Radio Hour episode of last year where he didn’t even mention the album.
This is a new chapter, and as always, we don’t know what it’s gonna be until we hear it.
We won’t even probably know what it is after we hear it. We might discuss it 50 years from now, depending on the quality of it.
I do expect some Rough And Rowdy Ways songs included but not too many. Even if there aren’t any included I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed, despite having strong feelings for the album.
I do not expect anything.
If I must say something, I’m gonna give logical guesses. Logic doesn’t have to mean something will happen for sure.
My guess is a 90 minute performance, maybe longer. Maybe 100 minutes.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Bob was half-inspired by fellow songwriter Nick Cave, who did a stream performance last year in 2020 all by himself.
I can see Bob being solo on acoustic guitar for one or two songs, I can see Bob also being solo on the piano for a song or two.
I wouldn’t even be surprised if Bob did a recitation of one of his songs. I haven’t seen anybody mention this as a possibility yet, but I can definitely see it happening. It would be very relaxing I’m sure listening to Bob reading one of his songs.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if Bob explained the story behind some of the songs he plays that night.
Just because he’s never done that, doesn’t mean he won’t do it now for the very first time.
I think Bob has been more open in the last year or so since the pandemic: the announcement of Murder Most Foul and the message to his fans, the letter to Little Richard after his death, the “Rough And Rowdy Ways” interview, The Time Radio episode etc.
He seems like he’s opening up more than he usually does, probably aware that his life could end soon and taking every chance he gets to reveal some pieces that could be important for his legacy and never quite getting rid of the mystique that surrounds him.
I also can see Bob being all over the place. Somewhere on piano, somewhere on electric guitar, somewhere on acoustic.
I would love that because I think younger generations need to see that, what music is really about.
So I expect a very intimate but electrifying presence of Bob that will continue to influence new musicians or artists in general to keep contributing to the world.
- Intro or reading of one of his songs, some song from his catalogue that can be easily read, with no instruments, complete darkness on the stage with maybe lyrics on screen, or at least a tiny glow so that we could at least see something
- Bob solo on acoustic guitar in complete darkness
- Bob on acoustic guitar with a backing band
- Bob solo on piano with the spotlight on him
- Bob on piano with a backing band
- Bob on piano with a backing band
- Bob on electric guitar with a backing band
- Bob on electric guitar with a backing band
- Bob center stage with a backing band
- Bob center stage with a backing band
- Bob reading the lyrics to one of his songs with a backing band providing background music while he reads
- Bob introducing one of his songs and playing it on piano alone
- Bob introducing one of his songs and playing it on piano with a backing band
- Bob introducing one of his songs and plays it on his acoustic guitar solo
- Bob introducing one of his songs and plays it on acoustic guitar with the band
- Bob introduces one of his songs and plays it on electric guitar and then introduces his band
- Bob introduces one of his songs in final speech of the night, starts center stage, then plays harp, then plays acoustic, then plays electric guitar and then plays piano all in one performance and ends it right there.