On Could 17, 1966, Bob Dylan gave a efficiency that might go down among the many most vital of his profession. Within the 4 years since his debut album, he’d reached a stage of reverence normally reserved for non secular icons, with listeners approaching his people songs as in the event that they have been commandments for navigating the turmoil of their period. However he was enamored with the probabilities of rock’n’roll, whose live-wire rhythms pulled his songs away from oratorical gravitas and towards a stranger sensibility—one stuffed with surreal asides, inside jokes, and social critiques from an artist who had begun to see himself and his cohort as members on this planet’s hypocrisy, reasonably than harmless observers. On this evening in Could, the stress between Dylan’s inspiration and his viewers’s expectations was notably uncooked, with band and crowd egging one another towards a frenzy that culminated with essentially the most well-known heckle in rock historical past: “Judas!” Followers got here to know the present by the title on a bootleg recording, which circulated extensively and shortly turned one other pillar of the Dylan legend: Royal Albert Corridor.
Besides it didn’t occur at London’s Royal Albert Corridor; it occurred at Manchester Free Commerce Corridor, all the way in which on the opposite aspect of England, 200 miles northwest. The historic mix-up prompted by the mislabeled bootleg was solely sorted out for good in 1995—the identical 12 months, by the way, that Chan Marshall launched her first album as Cat Energy. Her newest, Cat Energy Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Corridor Live performance, is a song-by-song recreation of his set listing that evening. Marshall has bit in frequent with Dylan: an elliptical method to material, a typically fraught relationship along with her viewers, a willingness to observe her muse far afield from the sounds that made her well-known, and tone and phrasing that may channel one thing deep about her sources after they’re divergent on the floor. Her determination to document her rendition not on the precise location of Dylan’s well-known live performance however at Royal Albert Corridor itself reveals one other kindred side between his trickster spirit and her personal: the understanding that fantasy could be simply as highly effective—in its manner, simply as truthful—as truth.
At first method, Cat Energy Sings Dylan is as simple as covers albums come. Marshall carried out the music dwell, following each contour of Dylan’s set, all the way down to his swap midway by means of from solo acoustic efficiency to rollicking full-band rock. She didn’t tinker a lot together with his preparations: If a given track, in Dylan’s rendition, begins with an instrumental vamp or ends with a harmonica solo, it in all probability does in Marshall’s model as properly. However after some time, the meticulous literalism of her interpretation comes to appear like its personal conceptual gambit. When the similarities are so pronounced, the variations, after they inevitably happen, seize your consideration. Within the many years since 1966, Dylan’s efficiency has been enshrined as a pivotal second not simply in his personal profession however in pop music’s historical past, proving that rock stars have been artists who may problem their audiences, not simply fulfill or entertain them—a single unruly night standing in for a generational shift. Marshall’s remedy of the idea, from the title and placement on down, comes throughout as each an earnest tribute to the “Royal Albert Corridor” present and a probing investigation of its legend.