Bob Dylan – (And It Ain’t) In The Seats Of A Supper Club (Liberator)

(And It Ain’t) In The Seats Of A Supper Club (Liberator) 

The Supper Club, New York, NY – November 16th & 17th, 1993
Disc 1 (November 16, 1993 first show): Absolutely Sweet Marie, Lay Lady Lay, Blood In My Eyes, Queen Jane Approximately, Tight Connection To My Heart, Disease Of Conceit, I Want You, Ring Them Bells, My Back Pages, Forever Young. (November 17, 1993 first show): Ragged And Dirty, One More Cup Of Coffee, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight

Disc 2 (November 17, 1993 second show): Ragged And Dirty, Lay Lady Lay, Tight Connection To My Heart, Weeping Willow, Delia, Jim Jones, Queen Jane Approximately, Ring them Bells, Jack-A-Roe, Forever Young, I Shall Be Released. (November 16, 1993 second show): One Too Many Mornings, My Back Pages

(And It Ain’t) In The Seats Of A Supper Club on the new label Liberator contains brand new, never circulated soundboard recordings from Bob Dylan’s four intimate performances at the Supper Club in late 1993. Excellent DAT audience recordings are inexistence for the four shows and have seen numerous releases including the definitive version on Thinman released several years ago. As good as those recordings are, collectors for several reasons have sought after professional recordings from this stint. First, these concerts were recorded and filmed for an aborted television project which was ultimately scrapped because the footage came out too dark and unusable. Dylan was filmed again the following year for MTV Unplugged. Until now neither the audio nor video has ever surfaced. Second, these concerts appear at an important time in Dylan’s career in the early nineties.

This was when he was crawling out of the eighties mid-life crisis and began to rediscover his artistic élan though an encounter with the old folk and blues numbers that inspired him in the first place and which produced two albums Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong. And finally the actual performances are legendary. After two decades of forming his arena rock persona, it was a long time since Dylan performed such intimate sets so close to the audience. These shows were played with the full band and are not reminiscent of the early days in coffee houses and folk clubs in the village, but on the other hand these were as low key as Dylan had been in a long time. The setting itself inspires the artist, but the final three shows, where the audience was allowed to cheer seem to encourage Dylan even more to experiment and deliver blistering performances.

This release contains both the opening and final sets in their entirety, plus all the different songs from the other two sets, so that at least one version of every song performed over the two nights is included. The source tapes for this release are not simply raw soundboard recordings, but sound like professionally mixed multi-track masters that would be used for an official live album. The stereo separation between the instruments is perfectly mixed with the vocals and present a richness of tone that isn’t found on unofficial releases.  However, this is ruined by small gaps between each of the songs.  This betrays sloppy work on the label’s part.  For such an important release, they should have used more care.  Some have called this the worst Dylan bootleg and there is merit to that argument.  These have been re-released from Japan on The Genuine Supper Club Soundboards and are superior.   

At this point all of the shows exists in full except for the November 17th early show, which have only the three songs on this release “Ragged And Dirty,” “One More Cup Of Coffee” (making its only appearance in the four shows), and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.” So Liberator offer the first and fourth concerts in their entirety, two songs from the first evening’s second show and three from the second evening’s early show. The liner notes state: “The shows were held in the very intimate setting of Manhattan’s Supper Club. Maybe for this reason, or because the director wanted the cameras to have perfect coverage including here a swinging boom affair, the lucky two hundred or so audience were told to ‘sit down, and not whoop or jump abut waving their arms.’ Listen to Bob here as he gives a fantastic performance. Afterwards it is said that he was fuming about the fact that nobody was enjoying the show. how could they, operating under instruction? For the rest of the shows the ‘audience participation’ restrictions were lifted.

These shows were Bob Dylan at his best, with his performances outstanding for this period. His love of the traditional numbers shines through and the recycling of older self-penned songs is quite dramatic, revealing real masterpieces in new clothes. If the cut-&-paste theory is correct then it seems he was determined to have certain songs on the final set as he delivered some three or four times. The standout song covered four times is ‘Queen Jane Approximately’ and every version was performed with great beauty and love as demonstrated here. ‘Forever Young’ was also favored this way, Bob performing it five times in three days as he also guested on the David Letterman Show the night after these shows. ‘Tight Connection To My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love) is a burning, heartfelt plea never shown on the album Empire Burlesque. Bob performs the first acoustic version of “Ring Them Bells” outside of South America and it is a very sweet and heartfelt version… At the end Bob had delivered four superb shows.

Maybe the shocking suits they wore did not come across well in the film or maybe the director could not film properly because we enjoyed ourselves too much: for whatever reason they have not seen the light of day, in audio or visual form. Bob had paid for this whole event out of his own pocket so it would have been easy just to release it and regain the monies, but he didn’t. Instead he went the rout of MTV Unplugged which was a fairly insipid affair showing none of the fare and passion of these Supper Club shows.” (And It Ain’t) In The Seats Of A Supper Club is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with one of the few still photos from the event on the front and back covers of the artwork.  If the manufacturers exercised a bit more care, this could have been a good release but since there are superior versions out there, this is basically worthless.  

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