Cat Power has announced plans to visit London’s Royal Albert Hall on Nov. 6 to recreate Bob Dylan’s so-called “Royal Albert Hall concert” in its entirety… regardless of whether the historic 1966 concert that was bootlegged under that moniker actually took place there.
The artist, also known as Chan Marshall, is currently touring behind an album of cover songs, but this performance will mark the only appearance where she’ll devote herself strictly to Dylan. “When I finally got the opportunity to play the Royal Albert Hall, it was a no brainer,” she said in a statement. “I just wanted to sing Dylan songs. And as much as any, this collection of his songs, to me, belong there.”
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Other artists have paid homage to Dylan’s 1966 tour before — Robyn Hitchcock devoted the second half of a 2002 live album to covering the “electric” half of Dylan’s 1966 setlists — but Marshall will almost certainly be the first to recreate a ’66 Dylan show in its entirety at one of the original venues.
Any discussion of Dylan’s supposed Royal Albert Hall show comes with its own set of multiple asterisks and footnotes, because the recordings that have been bootlegged and ultimately officially released under that moniker were mislabeled, at first accidentally and eventually, in a nod to popular usage, on purpose.
Dylan did play the Royal Albert Hall for two nights at the close of his 1966 tour, with the same set list that he employed every night on that outing — solo acoustic in the first half, and with a full, electric, rocking band in the second. However, the recording that became the most widely circulated rock bootleg of all time actually took place May 17, 1966 at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England.
It was really at the Manchester show where an audience member, upset by a folk hero going electric, cried out “Judas!” near the end of the show, after the song “Ballad of a Thin Man.” As famously captured on tape, Dylan responded, “I don’t believe you . . . you’re a liar!,” before he called out to his band to “play it fuckin’ loud” on the climactic number, “Like a Rolling Stone.”
When Columbia Records finally gave an official two-CD release to the former bootleg in 1998, it was titled “Live 1966: The ‘Royal Albert Hall’ Concert,” with the venue noted in somewhat ironic quote marks.
Marshall plans to follow Dylan’s ’66 setlists to the letter, with the first half of the show devoted to an acoustic performance before she’s joined by her band for the second half.
So while this won’t be the first time that particular order of songs is played at the Royal Albert Hall, since Dylan got there six days after Manchester, it will almost certainly be the first time at the RAH that someone cries out “Judas!” — assuming the audience is into following the script — followed by a band leader exhorting her musicians to turn it up.
Tickets go on sale here Friday at 10 a.m. GMT, preceded by a presale two days prior to that.
Site-specific covers sets are still a rarity in pop music, although Rufus Wainwright did an influential one in 2006 when he recreated a Judy Garland setlist at Carnegie Hall, released the following year as “Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall.”
Cat Power will be on tour starting July 16 and running through late September supporting “Covers,” an album that includes her interpretations of songs by artists from Billie Holiday to the Rolling Stones to Frank Ocean. Her tour includes a stop at Los Angeles’ Orpheum Theatre this Friday.
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