The Supper Club (Thinman-31/32/33/34)
The Supper Club, New York, NY – November 16th & 17th, 1993
Disc 1, November 16th, 1993 – early 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, Ring Them Bells (soundboard)
Disc 2, November 16th, 1996 – late show: Ragged & Dirty, Lay Lady Lay, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Queen Jane Approximately, Jack-A-Roe, One Too Many Mornings, I Want You, Ring Them Bells, My Back Pages, Forever Young
Disc 3, November 17th, 1993 – early show: Ragged & Dirty, One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below), Blood In My Eyes, Queen Jane Approximately, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Disease Of Conceit, I Want You, Ring Them Bells, My Back Pages, Forever Young
Disc 4, November 17th, 1993 – late show: Ragged & 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
The end of 1993 saw the release of Bob Dylan’s second “back to the basics” cover album World Gone Wrong, an appearance on David Letterman, and the four low-key dates at The Supper Club in midtown Manhattan. These four concerts were professionally filmed and recorded for what was envisioned to be an MTV “unplugged” style television special with his then current touring band. The venue is an intimate club located right in the theater district and is perfect for such a project. The shows are notable for being the only live renditions of songs from the current LP and being the most spirited, entertaining and interesting concerts in a year that many consider to be lackluster and uninspiring. A fair to good audience recording of the four shows was released several months afterwards and has seen several editions, but this new release on Thinman is sourced from the newer audience DAT tapes that surfaced in 2002 and were posted on dylantree as The Supper Club “Upgrade”. This is the first commercial release of these tapes and the sound quality of the four concerts is uniformly excellent and is probably the work of a single taper.
The November 16th early show was first released in 1994 on Complete Supper Club Vol. 1 on Rocks (92115) and disc one of First Supper on Wanted Man (WMM 047/048). This audience source also surfaced on the 2001 release Genuine Supper Club (TMOQ) disc one. Thinman made an error in the sequence of the songs on the disc. The artwork lists the correct set list but the actual running order is: “I Want You”, “Ring Them Bells”, “My Back Pages”, “Disease Of Conceit”, “Absolutely Sweet Marie”, “Lay Lady Lay”, “Blood In My Eyes”, “Queen Jane Approximately”, “Tight Connection To My Heart”, “Forever Young”, and “Ring Them Bells” (soundboard). For the first show Dylan plays it safe with “Absolutely Sweet Marie” and “Lay Lady Lay”, two well-known and popular songs, opening the set. (“Ragged & Dirty” from World Gone Wrong, which will open the three remaining shows is absent from this one.) “Blood In My Eyes” is next and this is its stage debut. The stripped down version of “Tight Connection To My Heart” reveals the stark beauty of the piece that the embellished Empire Burlesque version only hinted at and is one of the best-received songs of the set.
The second disc of the set covers the more adventurous evening concert. This show was first released on Complete Supper Club Vol. 2 on Rocks (92116) and disc two of First Supper on Wanted Man (WMM 047/048) in 1994 and was copied by TMOQ on disc two of Genuine Supper Club. A complete soundboard surfaced and was released on Is This What You Want? on the European label Filou (FLU-0012) 2002. Rattlesnake also released the soundboard on Supper Club (RS 121) that also included “Tight Connection To My Heart”, “Weeping Willow” and “Delia” from the November 17th evening show as a bonus. Finally, part of “One Too Many Mornings”, which makes its only appearance at the Supper Club, was released on now out-of-print cd-rom Highway 61 Interactive (Columbia/Graphix Zone CDAC 085700). The sound quality is as good as the other discs in this set although it does contain some very audible audience comments during “Lay Lady Lay” and one guy saying “‘Solid Rock’ brother!” before “I Want You”. He doesn’t speak too much so it isn’t intrusive. This is the first live performance of “Ragged & Dirty” (which will serve as the set opener the other two nights too) and “Jack-A-Roe” which sounds haunting with the banjo carrying the lead.
The early show on November 17th on disc three was released on Complete Supper Club Vol. 3 on Rocks (92117), and the first disc of Second Supper on Wanted Man (WMM 049/50) and disc three of Genuine Supper Club (TMOQ) and part of “Queen Jane Approximately” released on Highway 61 Interactive (Columbia/Graphix Zone CDAC 085700). The surprise of the night occurs with the second song “One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below)”, making its only appearance. The sad and romantic chords are clearly articulated on the opening acoustic guitar and the steel guitar plays the violin melody. Dylan sings it complete with its “Hebraic cantillations” and is one of the more remarkable performances of the piece. This is followed by the second performance of “Blood In My Eyes” and the set list for the rest of the show is identical to the early show from the previous evening.
Disc four covers the November 17th late show. It first surfaced on Complete Supper Club Vol. 4 on Rocks (92118), disc two of Second Supper on Wanted Man (WMM 049/50) and disc four of Genuine Supper Club (TMOQ). Three songs, “Tight Connection To My Heart”, “Delia”, and “Weeping Willow” appear on From The Vaults Vol. 1 on Dandelion (DL059/060) from the soundboard. This has the most unique set list of the four including the first performance of Blind Boy Fuller “Weeping Willow”, “Delia” and “Jim Jones” from As Good As I’ve Been To You. The Blind Boy Fuller track is performed with a lot of gusto with interesting interjections during the course of the song (“Where it ’tain’t no love / ain’t no gettin’ along / aw shucks” Dylan sings). “I Shall Be Released” ends the set and the four concerts, making its only appearance over the two nights. It is a shame these shows were never aired and that the footage and recordings have never surfaced in their entirety. Dylan scrapped the project for reasons unknown in January 1994 and the only official release of this material are the two songs mentioned above.
Some consider these shows to be the very best Bob Dylan concerts of the nineties. He spent some time before the show rehearsing so it is very polished despite the novelty of the material and t he November 17th evening show is certainly unique and among the very best. Dylan would record an Unplugged segment for MTV at Sony Studios a year after this in November, 1994 where he would play it safe and give conservative readings of the classics. That session has its highlights but none of the adventure as the Supper Club sets. Thinman are a quality label and produced a very good set with The Supper Club. They are also making the classy move and correcting the first disc and distributing it to those who received the defective one. The corrected discs are blue instead of red.