Earlier this week, Bob Dylan announced his first live performance since 2019, but it’s not a continuation of the Never Ending Tour like everyone expected. He’s instead doing a livestream concert on July 18th via the website Veeps, which was founded by Benji and Joel Madden of Good Charlotte. They’re calling the event Shadow Kingdom.
“Shadow Kingdom will showcase Bob Dylan in an intimate setting as he performs songs from his extensive body of work,” reads a press release, “created especially for this event.”
This news invites many questions: Where is this show taking place? Will there be any sort of live audience? Are they broadcasting it live or is it pre-taped? Is he doing an actual tour this year, or is this his only live appearance of 2021? Will it be as long as one of his regular shows, or is this a shortened set? Will it be archived in some way after the initial 48-hour viewing window closes, or will it just vanish into the ether? Why Veeps and not a more established concert streaming site like Nugs?
As we wait to learn at least some of these answers, it’s worth noting that this is an event with few precedents since the start of the Never Ending Tour in 1988. Dylan has played a little more than 3,000 concerts in that time, but the only one he released in full was the underwhelming 1994 MTV Unplugged special. And even that wasn’t a legit stop of the tour since it took place across two days at a television studio and several of the songs were attempted multiple times.
To experience any of the other shows, you need to turn to bootlegs. And while some of those circulate with pristine sound thanks to expert tapers, the videos are almost universally dreadful. Many of them look like they were shot by Abraham Zapruder and none of them really capture what it’s like to see a Dylan concert. And since phone use is banned at shows these days, you’re lucky to see a single song from a shaky phone 700 feet from the stage.
Fans have no idea exactly what’s in the Dylan vault and it’s quite possible that a few professionally shot Never Ending Tour shows exist, but they’re probably mainly festival appearances like his set at Woodstock ’94. More recent festivals, however, weren’t even allowed to shoot Dylan for the purpose of projecting video onto the screens so fans in the back could see what was happening on the stage.
A big exception to all of this is Dylan’s four-show stand at New York City’s Supper Club on November 16th and 17th, 1993. These shows came a month after the formal end of his 1993 Never Ending Tour and featured special acoustic sets in front of a tiny audience. A pro camera team shot the entire thing, but the footage has yet to be released. Thankfully, soundboard tapes from the show leaked out, and they’re absolutely stunning. Many fans see these shows as the single best moments of the entire Never Ending Tour, and they feature rarely heard songs like “Blood in My Eyes,” “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” and “Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love).”
A couple of songs from the show were released on Dylan’s 1995 Highway 61 Interactive CD-ROM, a hilariously dated artifact that is very difficult to find these days and even harder to play without a vintage computer. Thankfully, some fans managed to extract “One Too Many Mornings” and “Queen Jane Approximately” and post them on YouTube. As you can see here, the video quality is as good as you’d expect from a 1995 CD-ROM.
There have been rumblings about a Supper Club Bootleg Series CD/DVD for many years. As we wait for that, we get to experience Shadow Kingdom. We don’t know exactly what that’s going to be like, but it’ll definitely be interesting.