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

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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.”

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