“Live 1966: The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert” is nearly required listening for any self-respecting folkie on the test for Dylanologists.
The concert marked a pivotal moment after the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where Dylan began playing an electric guitar and incorporating The Band in his live performances.
During the ’66 tour, Dylan would try to appease the audience and bridge the gap by performing a solo acoustic show to for the first set and then bringing out The Band for the second set, sometimes to receive mixed results.
We know that the concert actually occurred May 17, 1966, at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall, where someone famously called Dylan, ‘Judas.’
Dylan then says, “I don’t believe you. You’re a liar,” and then says to the band, “Play it fuckin’ loud” as they kick into “Like a Rolling Stone.”
Nearly a year before the release of “Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall” Concert Album,” Chan Marshall took to the stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England, to recreate the 15-song set.
Released Friday, Nov. 10, 2023 via Domino Records, the album dusts off this collection of songs and brings new meaning to their arrangement.
Dylan barely breathes as he sings the first verse of “She Belongs To Me,” while Marshall is deliberate in her first impression of the album:
“I think she really hits her stride on “Fourth Time Around,” especially when she recites the line
“And she buttoned her boot
And straightened her suit
Then she said, ‘Don’t get cute'”
The version of “Visions of Johanna” on “Cat Power Sings Bob Dylan” might be the best version I’ve ever heard. By this time in the set, I feel like she’s starting to put her voice into the songs.
Clocking in at just about nine and a half minutes, it’s not just a tribute to the song, but Cat Power honors not only Dylan but also the lyrics in her version of the track.
Some of my all-time favorite Dylan songs from this era like “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” “Just Like A Woman,” and “Mr. Tamborine Man,” are presented with greater degrees of delicacy thanks to Marhall’s interpretation of tracks.
She also makes songs performed nearly 60 years ago sound new and refreshing. “Tell Me, Momma,” which opens the second electrified set in the original set, was never one of my favorites and never even made much of an impact on me. Still, Cat Power’s version is full of life and energy.
There’s a lot on that second set that Cat Power cleans up like an old painting and restores these songs to their original glory.
Specifically, the opening to “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met),” which ranks as one of my all-time favorite Dylan songs, almost sounds different. Throughout her version, Cat Power brings back that original angst Dylan lost as he tried to bowl over the audience.
Of course, someone in the crowd tried to re-create the original moment by yelling “Judas” before “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” to which Marshall slyly replied, “Jesus,” as she broke into the opening lyrics.
Obviously, Dylan is going a little over the top in the original concert when closing out the show with “Like A Rolling Stone,” Cat Power goes back to the authentic sound of the song with her own interpretation, giving the concert and the album a proper ending.
No one wants to hear Cat Power howl “Didn’t you,” like Dylan did and she completely changed the phrasing to put even less emphasis on the lyrics, making the song even more her own.
With her recording of “Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall,” the ephemeral singer-songwriter shows not only the influence that the great folk god had on her musicianship but also shows how these songs are as relevant today as they were when Dylan was shaking up audiences in 1966.
See Cat Power perform the album on tour Monday, Feb. 12 at the Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, New Jersey, and Tuesday, Feb. 13 at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania.
Visions Of Johanna
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
Just Like A Woman
Tell Me Momma
I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
Like A Rolling Stone