Cat Power sings Dylan, and only Dylan, at tour-opening Red Bank show

cat power review

Cat Power is performing Bob Dylan songs on her current tour.

In his liner notes to Bob Dylan’s 1998 double album The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The ‘Royal Albert Hall’ Concert, Tony Glover called that May 17, 1966 show “one of the great confrontational performances of the 20th century.” That had to do with the hubbub, at the time, over former folkie Dylan going electric. At this show, and others on the tour, he performed the first half solo acoustic, and in the second half rocked out with four future members of The Band (guitarist Robbie Robertson, bassist Rick Danko, pianist Richard Manuel and organist Garth Hudson) and drummer Mickey Jones.

Folk purists were not happy, and let him know it. Before the last number on May 17, someone in the famously crowd yelled out “Judas!”

What made for a confrontational night in ’66 is now a cause for reverence. Cat Power performed all 15 songs — you can see the setlist below — of that Dylan concert, and nothing else, at her Feb. 12 show at the Count Basie Center in Red Bank, to start a five-week United States tour (eight European shows will follow in April). And she seemed to be relishing the opportunity to revisit Dylan’s ingenious poetry. The audience couldn’t be more polite or appreciative, listening intently to every song, applauding enthusiastically, and giving her a standing ovation at the end. No one yelled out “Judas!” — not even ironically — as far as I could tell.

Cat Power first reproduced the concert in its entirety at London’s Royal Albert Hall in November 2022. (The 1966 concert was actually at Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England; a widely heard bootleg misidentified the location at Royal Albert Hall, and that’s why Dylan used the name of that venue in the title of the ’98 release, signaling that he knew it was wrong with quotation marks). She then released her recording of that concert as the album Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert, in November 2023.

She performed the acoustic set with a trio, singing with a guitarist Henry Munson and harmonica player Aaron Embry. This helped give the show a bit of a different feel than if she had just stood up there alone, accompanying herself. It made her seem almost like a cabaret artist — a song interpreter, not a troubadour — taking great care to make every word count, in her distinctively deep and rich tone.

While these weren’t radical reinterpretations of the songs, they weren’t exact copies either. She often phrased songs differently from the way Dylan did (or, at least, differently than he did that night; Dylan himself is known for changing his phrasing from night to night).

Munson played lead electric guitar and Embry moved to piano (and a little harmonica) for the electric set, which also featured four other musicians: Adeline Jasso on rhythm guitar, Erik Paparozzi on bass, Josh Adams on drums, and Jordan Summers on organ and Wurlitzer piano.

They started with the blues plea “Tell Me, Momma,” a Dylan song you don’t hear very often — he only has performed it 15 times live, all in 1966, and never has released a studio version. And the set ended with the rock landmark, “Like a Rolling Stone.” The revelation, for me, was “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” which always struck me as a goof when Dylan sang it (even at his “Royal Albert Hall” concert), but seemed to have more genuine fury in Cat Power’s hands.

It was a fairly short show — just 95 minutes, with no opening act — so I wonder if Cat Power will expand it, as the tour goes on. She could, for instance, do a couple of her own songs, or more Dylan covers, as an encore.

Not that she needs to. These songs contain multitudes: Epics like “Desolation Row,” “Visions of Joanna” and “Ballad of a Thin Man” have so many layers of meaning that I never tire of them, as a listener, and I imagine she never will, as a singer. I left the show fully satisfied — and wondering, as I have before, how any of Dylan’s fans, in ’66, could have been so freaked out about what he was doing.

Here is the show’s setlist:

“She Belongs to Me”
“4th Time Around”
“Visions of Johanna”
“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”
“Desolation Row”
“Just Like a Woman”
“Mr. Tambourine Man”

“Tell Me, Momma”
“I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)”
“Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”
“Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”
“Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”
“One Too Many Mornings”
“Ballad of a Thin Man”
“Like a Rolling Stone”


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