Live for TOOM25: Emma Swift (with Robyn Hitchcock)
Our first live-in-person event took place last night, a wonderful ‘house concert’ in New York City with the fantastic Emma Swift and her incredible backing band Mr. Robyn Hitchcock.
Nestled into their East Coast Tour, a few days after a great show at New York’s Rockwood Music Hall, Emma and Robyn visited us in Chelsea to perform for a small group of members, speakers and contributors, and friends. This was always going to be a small event, but last minute COVID and other unfortunate issues kept more than a few guests away, leaving just under two-dozen of us to an intimate concert and evening we shall not soon forget.
Most Dylan fans by now know how wonderful Emma’s ‘Blonde On The Tracks’ album is, and have probably also joined in on some of fine live streaming events that Emma and Robyn have been hosting nearly every week over the last few years. So the general quality and versatility and ability they both have to connect with and communicate through Dylan songs isn’t new.
But there is a reason why Live Music still draws us out, and draws us in, despite endless recordings and unlimited audio and video streaming opportunities: there is a massive extra something that hits you hearing artists perform live. And both Emma and Robyn are particularly compelling performers. Emma’s voice and delivery and phrasing and whatever-the-hell-she’s-doing to completely take over these massive Bob Dylan songs is just breathtaking. Almost half a dozen of our guests independently mentioned being on the verge of tears at some time during the evening.
I won’t strain my limited writing skills trying to explain it, but this performance brought to mind some of the very best and most moving shows I’ve ever seen, particularly by similar female vocalists – Rhiannon Giddens in her first Town Hall performance, K.D. Lang is a small auditorium in Boulder in ’83 or so, and EmmyLou Harris on her Wrecking Ball tour around the same time. This was just as good as a live singer gets.
Emma’s sly move to marry the man who could provide her with the most accomplished and incredible guitar playing paid off massively. As we all know Robyn has been delivering his own phenomenal Dylan covers for quite some time – I was tempted to go dig my copies of Dots and Stripes out of the storage locker to set on the shelves behind them.
His intricate playing throughout is so strong it creates a balance in the show. Not only does he support Emma’s vocals, in many songs he plays standout introductions or short acoustic solos that are so good they pull your attention entirely to them for a little while – so the whole show doesn’t feel like just one voice.
At our request since this show was put on for our Time Out Of Mind celebration, Emma and Robyn added two songs that have not been on the setlist this tour.
First, Emma and Robyn together sang Not Dark Yet. Beautifully. Then, Robyn treated us to a tender solo version of Tryin’ To Get To Heaven. We will be sharing video recordings of these two songs with our Premium members in the coming days. (Join Now)
Deep thanks to @emmaswiftsings and @robynhitchock (follow them on twitter) for gracing us with this beautiful performance, and their gracious company for a few hours after the show.
EMMA SWIFT and ROBYN HITCHCOCK
July 15, 2022 / New York City
- Simple Twist of Fate
- Queen Jane Approximately
- I Contain Multitudes
- Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright
- Going Going Gone
- The Man in Me
- Soon or Later One Of Us Must Know
- Simple Twist of Fate
- Not Dark Yet (w/Robyn Hitchcock on vocals)
- Tryin’ To Get To Heaven (Robyn Hitchcock Solo)
- Visions of Johanna