The sheer fearlessness of The Band in this 1974 live performance is so confident that it makes one wonder how they ever could have caught their famous case of 'Stage Fright.' "Before the Flood" is the live document of Bob Dylan's tour for his "Planet Waves" album, joined by his one-time backing outfit, The Band. At the time, the tour was one of the most successful ever. It couldn't have come at a better time for both parties; Dylan had staggered musically as he entered the 70s, releasing the ill-fated "Self Portrait" album, and fans of The Band were disappointed that they hadn't released any original material since 1971, their latest album having been a collection of covers, the "Moondog Matinee."
"Before the Flood" captures the electrical bond that had linked the two legends together in the first place, something missing from earlier classic Dylan/Band efforts like "The Basement Tapes." The Band (unintentionally) upstages and outshines their former mentor, being the more thrilling of the two, but Dylan finally demonstrates the sincreity and power of his cross from folk to rock. But here, the response from fans surely isn't the boos it met in 1965; Dylan compositions associated with his folk period are given a more exciting life, notably 'It Ain't Me Babe' and 'Blowing In the Wind,' as he soars on 'Rainy Day Women,' 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door,' and 'All Along the Watchtower.' The Band however steals the show, even though there are more Dylan compositions on the album; they captivate with such paintings of rural life as 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' and Richard Manuel's shiver inducing vocal on 'I Shall Be Released.' "Before the Flood" also contains the most thrilling and rambunctious live version of the raw 'The Shape I'm In.'
This album packages one of the best live performances in rock and roll. "Before the Flood" is an absolute necessity for Dylan/Band fans and concert experts in general, and it's a pleasantly affordable necessity at that.