Bob Dylan - guitar, vocals; Neil Young - guitar, piano, vocals; Tim Drummond - guitar; Ben Keith - pedal steel guitar; Rick Danko - bass, vocals; Garth Hudson - keyboards; Levon Helm - drums, vocals
Following the outstanding performances that proceeded it, this closing All-Star set from the 1975 Bay Area S.N.A.C.K. benefit had a lot to live up to. With a lineup that featured Neil Young and Bob Dylan, backed by two members from Neil's group, the Stray Gators, and three from the Band, one would expect this to be an incredible set. In some respects it certainly is, but the lack of rehearsal opportunity and technical problems prevent it from being the extraordinary performance it had the potential to be. This is not to say that there's anything less than enjoyable about the set, but it's more of an example of great musicians getting together for the sheer fun of it than a demonstration of collaborative innovation. The performances are loose and ragged, but definitely not without their charm.
Following Bill Graham's introduction, Neil Young leads the group through "Are You Ready For The Country" to get things warmed up. Levon Helm and Rick Danko take over on the next tune, "Ain't That A Lot Of Love." The band seems eager and playful, and are obviously having a great time together. The next two songs alternate in a similar fashion with "Looking For A Love," a song from Young's Zuma LP, followed by Rick Danko covering "Lovin You Is Sweeter Than Ever."
Dylan then steps up to the mic for a first ever live rendition of the classic Blonde On Blonde track "I Want You." Unfortunately, his microphone feed failed to synch with the line feed, so we only faintly hear his vocal as leakage from other stage mics picking up vocal monitors on stage. Sadly, the malfunction severely mars what was, in all likelihood, an extremely interesting and enjoyable performance. Things pick up for "The Weight," which is also loose, but a song everyone in the ensemble knows relatively well. Although Robbie Robertson's guitar is noticeably absent, Ben Keith does a more than respectable job filling in on pedal steel.
The highlight of the set comes next, when the band plays together on Young's classic ballad "Helpless." On this number the loose circumstances actually work in the song's favor and it sounds quite good with these musicians. As "Helpless" is coming to a close, the group continues playing, and the song flows very naturally into Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" - an inspired pairing. It's a unique version lyrically as well, as Dylan improvises lyrics and changes the chorus to "Knockin On The Dragon's Door," a change that's significance is open to speculation.
The set and the show itself close with a rousing chorus of the traditional "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" - an appropriate and poignant selection for such an amazing assemblage of musicians.
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