"Dylan Didn't Sell In Seattle"
1974-02-09, Coliseum, Seattle, WA
We’re nearing the finish line. Dylan and The Band’s third-to-last stop brought Tour ’74 to Seattle. The setlist looks fairly typical, but the show differed from most of the tour in two significant ways.
First, this was one of only two General Admissions shows (along with Miami) without assigned seating. The earlier people arrived, the closer to the stage they could sit. All those earlier press reports remarking upon the polite and orderly crowds went out the window. Here’s how the Longview Daily News described the Seattle mayhem:
At 6:30 p.m. the doors for the 8 p.m. concert were opened to a stampede of Dylan fans and the key word became"survival." One didn't have to move under his own power. You just became one drop of water in a powerful, rushing flood of people scrambling for seats. It was phenomenal; as if Orson Welles' famous Martian broadcast was being aired again.
In a separate article, titled “Youth Movement Has Gone Awry: Concert Provides Negative Picture,” that same writer, Steve Pritchard, adds even more color to the scene:
When the doors were opened to the concert, the 15,000 people joined in one massive adrenalin flow, shoving and aggressively pushing in an attempt to find seats. No etiquette was used, no respect was shown.
There was more of the same inside the hall. Waiting for the show wasn't good enough for many. They wanted more; they wanted to play. They wanted to make as much noise as possible without completely destroying the hall and most of all, they wanted attention.
They volleyed for attention, much the same way monkeys do when zoo tourists toss them peanuts… Many tossed balloons, flung Frisbees, drank whisky and generally found it undesirable to sit and talk during the preconcert wait.
Kids these days!
Could Dylan feel the extra energy in the room? After the first song, he said “Good to be in Seattle, home of Jimi Hendrix,” which isn’t much but it’s more than he said at most other stops. You can hear it (barely) before the band kicks into “Lay Lady Lay.”
All this excited crowd energy, though, refers to the evening show. The afternoon show had a calmer vibe. Too calm, actually. That show sold so poorly it made national news. I’ve been poking around a lot of local newspapers for this series, and this story on the wire was picked up a ton of places.
All the tour hype from Bill Graham and others about the insane demand for tickets had come back to bite them. Yes, they had however many million ticket requests, but those requests were not evenly distributed. In some markets, tickets could be had easily, and at cheaper than face value. We already saw that at number of shows in the South, but this afternoon show in Seattle seems to be the worst case yet. 700 unsold tickets is honestly not many in an arena this enormous, but when you’ve spent the past two months crowing from the rooftops about how this is the most demand for any tour in the history of mankind, you’re setting yourself up for a fall.
The extremely expensive (for the time) prices, which had made national news when tickets first went on sale, no doubt added an additional layer of schadenfreude. Seattle is the first time I’ve seen reports of actual protesters at the show. From that same concert review:
Around one dozen people were carrying signs that expressed protest against the ticket prices. One sign read "Bob Dylan Sells Out." another read "Free Dylan from Himself,' and a third sign read, "Think Twice, $8.75 is not alright."
Man, wish I had a photo of that picket line. Alas. We also don’t have any of the tracks that were professionally recorded in Seattle for the live album. Despite the label setting up a mobile recording truck, Before the Flood did not include any songs from either show. Presumably the soundboard tapes are sitting in Dylan’s archives in Tulsa. Thankfully, both shows’ audience tapes are pretty good.
Next stop, the final two stands in California.