On Sunday, July 18, Bob Dylan finally returned to the stage for his first performance in a year and a half since the pandemic began. The now 80-year-old artist has not performed live since December 2019, with COVID-19 finally concluding his so-called Never Ending Tour. Since 1988, he had kept performing regularly: 78 gigs in 2019 and 84 in 2018, for example.
Visible to ticketholders through the livestreaming platform, Veeps, the concert was stylized as a black-and-white film featuring Dylan in front of a four-piece band in a staged juke joint. His wardrobe changes and differences in the placement of the band and witnesses made clear that Sunday’s performance, titled “Shadow Kingdom,” did not run straight through.
His audience was actors—who smoked a lot and paid little attention to him—rather than fans. Dylan did not address the crowd during the show and in turn, they did not applaud after songs or between sets.
Dylan’s band included an accordion player and, for many songs, an upright bass player. There was no drummer, with the performances leaning more folk, blues and country instead of rock ‘n’ roll. Dylan sometimes accompanied himself on acoustic guitar, as on the opener, “When I Paint My Masterpiece.”
As he began, two women sat in tables in front of him, smoking and taking drinks from beer bottles. When he performed “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” the women flanked the white-coated Dylan onstage, staring emotionless at the camera.
Dylan concentrated on material from early in his career, including infrequently performed numbers like “Queen Jane Approximately” or “Wicked Messenger.” His luminous version of “Forever Young” was the best-known of the 13-song performance. A version of “What Was it You Wanted” from the 1989 album “Oh Mercy” was the only song originally released later than the early 1970s.
The special wrapped up in just under an hour. The open-ended finale left many questions unanswered, but neither Dylan nor Veep have announced plans for any future appearances.
Tickets to watch Bob Dylan’s ‘Shadow Kingdom’ Exclusive Event are available for purchase until Tuesday, July 20 at 11:59 PM PT, here.