Bob Dylan and The Band – Before The Flood (1974)

Public Broadcasting always delves into its musical archives, come pledge-drive time, and this week was no different.

The local station presented an edited version of “The Concert for Bangaladesh,” the early 1970s proto-benefit show organized by Beatle buddy and future Wilbury bandmate George Harrison – and it was a special moment for Bob Dylan fans.

Not just because this would become the basis for Dylan’s first live album ever, when the commemorative three-album release appeared. Or that he did muscular versions of “Just Like a Woman” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” both part of the PBS presentation.

This was Dylan’s first appearance on stage since 1969′s Isle of Wight Festival, and he didn’t go on tour again until a 1974 jaunt with The Band, apart from a couple of guest shots here and there.

Got me to thinking about Dylan tours.

I’ll continue my Dylan series – originally sparked by a leak of the upcoming new release – with a quick fast forward to those terrific ’74 shows …

“BEFORE THE FLOOD,” 1974

Recorded on the last night of the 1970s Band reunion — these where their first shows together since that groundbreaking 1966 jaunt — this record finds a ferocious group cleaning Dylan’s clock. He sounds, at turns, invigorated and taken aback (sometimes during the same tune) by the rising storm behind him.

“On stage,” the great critic Griel Marcus wrote at the time, “they sometimes risked going out of control to make music that can’t be made in other way.” They were, no question, completely rock ‘n’ roll in the live setting.

“That’s when people first started using their Bic lighters,” the late bassist Rick Danko told me about 10 years ago. “I thought the fire marshals were going to go nuts. Now, they do that everywhere.” The cover of this album fittingly depicts a crowd, all with out-stretched hands, all holding up flickering cigarette-lighter flames.

Nick’s Picks: The Band songs through this collection; they are just stomping. And, always, “All Along the Watchtower.”

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • Carol Caffin

    Hi Nick–Just saw your article after two years (better late than never!:-)

    You might not remember me, but I remember you–I set up an interview for you with Rick (Danko) for an article you were doing at The News Star to promote a show he was doing in Monroe, LA. I can’t believe that was 1992. Glad to know that you’re still writing about GREAT music! Take care…

  • Bill

    The live portions of “Self Portrait” are from the Isle of Wight Festival shows, and are dreadful, particularly the listless “Like A Rolling Stone”. It is interesting that Dylan got a pass on “Self Portrait”, which was the first bad side he’d released. People strained to come up with reason to like it, but ultimately it was recognized for what it was, even if the reasons for it being whatever it is remain obscure.

    I’d say that “Before the Flood” is a rare item, because there are so few live albums that are actually essential.