You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Johnny Depp, Jim James, Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford & More Bring Bob Dylan’s ‘Basement Tapes’ to Concert

At the Montalban in Hollywood on Thursday night, patrons were treated to the first, and by some accounts the only, live performance of songs from the T Bone Burnett-produced “Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes,” released Nov. 10 on Harvest Records. All the principals on that album were there on stage: Jim James, Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith and Marcus Mumford — all multi-instrumentalists, all solo artists in their own right.

Not unlike Burnett’s celebration of music from the Coen Brothers’ paean to the early folk scene in Greenwich Village, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” last November at the Buffalo Club in Santa Monica, this show felt like a private party to which only a lucky few were invited. It was also a hastily assembled affair, arranged just a few days in advance (“we didn’t know about this yesterday,” claimed Mumford at one point), and the whole show had the feeling of a loose jam in which ideas were being tossed back and forth freely, with all the raw energy that a barely rehearsed gig might offer when you’ve got seasoned musicians given a new bag of toys to play with.

That bag, of course, contained never-recorded tunes by Bob Dylan, written during the fecund period of the original Basement Tape sessions in 1967, when Dylan holed up with the Band in and around Woodstock, N.Y., writing and recording a whole mess of tunes only heard on bootlegs until many of them were officially released by Columbia in 1975.

For the new sessions, each artist used Dylan’s lyrics as a blank canvas for their own musical interpretation, and many of the results are something truly special to behold. At the Montalban (an intimate venue named after the actor who played Mr. Roarke on “Fantasy Island”), the music was given an added dose of vitality.

James — the frontman of My Morning Jacket whose version of Dylan’s “Goin’ to Acapulco” provided one of the highlights to Todd Haynes’ impressionistic Dylan biopic “I’m Not There” — looked every bit the fiery prophet on stage, with his long-flowing hair and Jesus beard. James’ atmospheric electric guitar provided the sonic wash over the mostly acoustic instrumentation, and his vocals most directly channeled the source, ranging from the nasal twang of Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” period to the evangelistic wail reminiscent of Dylan’s “Before the Flood” tour with The Band.

Some of the songs were even given multiple treatments, like “Hidee Hidee Ho” and “Kansas City,” with styles that spanned from folk to country to psychedelic rock. In keeping with Burnett’s dedication to all things analog, the instruments were distinctly rootsy, from Giddens’ dynamic fiddle and banjo playing to the saloon piano sound of Goldsmith’s keyboards.

During the finale, the Haim Sisters provided choral backup, and Johnny Depp joined the proceedings on guitar. But this was one joyous occasion that needed no celebrity window dressing.

Also Thursday, Showtime and CAA hosted a premiere of the net’s “Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued,” which chronicles the making of the record. Director Sam Jones was in attendance at CAA’s Ray Kurtzman Theater with Rande Gerber, Cindy Crawford, Bill Lawrence and Christa Miller.

(Pictured: Jim James perform songs from “Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes”)

More Music

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Will SmithNickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, Show,

    Will Smith Joins Jaden to Perform 'Icon' at Coachella

    Parents just do understand the importance of Coachella. Jaden Smith was joined in the Sahara tent Friday night by father Will for a performance of “Icon” — as Instagrammed by the proud papa. The footage of Will Smith rapping was shot by Jaden, who turns his smartphone camera around just long enough to photobomb his [...]

  • Anderson .Paak performs at the Coachella

    Brandy, Jay Rock Help Anderson .Paak Light Up Coachella Weekend Two

    Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals took the Coachella stage at the second weekend of the storied fest as the sun descended, but the musician’s fiery set was more than enough to light up the audience. The performance, which featured pyrotechnics including fireworks and flames alongside the rapper’s slinky stage moves, was relatively heavy on [...]

  • Woodstock 50 Festival Postpones Ticket On-Sale

    Woodstock 50 Festival Postpones Ticket On-Sale Date

    The troubled Woodstock 50 festival has run into more difficulties, as multiple sources told Variety late Friday that the April 22 on-sale date for the event has been postponed. Agents for artists scheduled to perform at the festival — which include Jay-Z, Dead & Company, Chance the Rapper, Miley Cyrus, Imagine Dragons and Halsey — [...]

  • Sirius Logo

    SiriusXM Unveils $8 Essential Plan for Consumers Without Cars

    SiriusXM wants to cater consumers without cars, or cars without compatible stereos, with a new $8 plan for mobile and in-home listening. Dubbed SiriusXM Essential, the plan offers access to 200+ channels featuring the network’s entire music programming, as well comedy, news and select sports channels. Consumers will be able to test the new plan [...]

  • Adam Lambert, of Queen, performs at

    Adam Lambert Back to 'Idol' to Mentor Finalists Through Queen's Catalog

    Adam Lambert famously launched his career on “American Idol” a decade ago performing a brilliant audition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wrapped that amazing eighth season performing with the band on the season finale, and years later earned his current spot as the front man touring as Queen + Adam Lambert. On April 28, Lambert comes full circle as he steps [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content