Tuesday, November 14, 2023

"Revolution becomes fond celebration"

Based on several very favorable reviews I just ordered "Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert." From a review in The Spectator: "This recreation of Dylan’s Free Trade Hall concert is supremely good":
In May 1966, Bob Dylan toured the UK with The Band, minus drummer Levon Helm, and abrasively pulled the plug on any lingering notions of his being a mere folk singer. Playing two sets every night – the first acoustic, the second electric – even the solo numbers were wild, lysergic, unraveled. The electric ones whipped through the tweed and tradition like the howl of a strange new language. The crowds booed and one chap famously cried ‘Judas!’ (though presumably many of those present also enjoyed it). Dylan muttered and swore and was unbowed. ....

Last November, American singer Chan Marshall, who performs as Cat Power, recreated the entire Free Trade Hall concert – at the Royal Albert Hall. In other words, her aim was to engage with the mythology of the show as much as the music. A year later, that performance of a performance is being released as an album. ....

This album is on the one hand simply a souvenir of a historic recreation. The same songs played in the same order; even the same cry of ‘Judas!’ ringing out from the audience, this time to guffaws rather than uproar. ‘Jesus,’ Marshall responds.

But it is also an act of creative reimagination. Marshall possesses the same still, stoned, mesmeric quality in her presence as Dylan (sometimes) did at the time, but she also brings a deep devotional energy to the songs that wholly changes them. Her phrasing is as idiosyncratic as Dylan’s, only more nuanced. She has great musicians backing her – on acoustic guitar and harmonica in the first half, and a full electric band on the second half.

The acoustic set is slow and beautiful, a reminder of how deeply strange and yet brilliantly crafted songs such as ‘Desolation Row’ and ‘Visions of Johanna’ are. If this part feels as though Marshall is trying to tiptoe back inside venerated history, the second set is more raucous and good-hearted. It lacks any whiff of the rancour of the 1966 show, which means the original play is shorn of much of its contemporary drama. That piledriving rock’n’roll swirl – new and shocking at the time – long ago became the cultural default. Revolution becomes fond celebration. ....

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. I will gladly approve any comment that responds directly and politely to what has been posted.