Ping-Pong and Playboy Bunnies in Denver
1974-02-06, Coliseum, Denver, CO
In a tour postmortem in Rolling Stone, promoter Bill Graham said that Denver was one of the best stops. He goes into some detail about the second of the two shows:
“The second show, they were super-energetic, and I don’t mean they just yelled and screamed. They were very attentive. It was like the last audience at Fillmore East, people who really came to listen to the music. It didn’t feel like 12,000 people. It was like a hootenanny. They really let it out verbally at the end of the songs, and the Band, when they finished the first half, they finished with ‘Cripple Creek.’ It was just this tumultuous ovation. Very seldom was the reaction out of kilter in relation to the quality of the music that night. And that says something about the audience that Dylan and the Band drew. They drew, I think, a very knowledgeable audience. And I think a lot of people who came to revere didn’t revere; they listened
We’ll have to take Graham’s word for it, unfortunately; the second Denver show is one of the worst-sounding tapes of the tour (the first show sounds better). Nevertheless, Denver was clearly a special stop. It was their last before they hit the west coast. The end is in sight now, with just three cities to go: Seattle, Oakland, and finally the Los Angeles finale. In his private tour diary, according to Clinton Heylin’s The Double Life of Bob Dylan, Bob wrote that by Denver he’d finally found “the backbeat, the heartbeat” of things.
After a long run of setlist stasis, Dylan has started adding songs to the acoustic set again too. At the previous stop in St. Louis, “A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall” and “Desolation Row” both made their only Tour ’74 appearances, and now in Denver, the same is true for “Visions of Johanna. "She Belongs To Me” debuts too—alongside “Visions” a real 1966-acoustic-set throwback. That one he would keep for most subsequent shows. Thankfully, these debuts both came in the better-taped early show. (“Wedding Song” returned for the first time in weeks too.)
Denver was the location for more than just the two shows. First, there was an afterparty. In Bob Dylan Approximately, Stephen Pickering describes some moments (ellipses his):
A large party backstage after the concert… Eighty-proof, homemade Tennessee grape wine passed around… Richard Manuel leaning back in his chair, laughing, then unable to stop… For a while, Dylan plays a fast game of ping-pong, his aviator glasses reflecting all… Stops and kissed a young three-year old girl who is carried backstage by a guard for her mother.
Here’s a photo of Dylan playing ping-pong in Denver, though not with the aviators at this particular moment:
I don’t know if this next shot comes from Denver specifically, but in addition to the ubiquitous ping-pong table, there was also a darts and knife-throwing setup backstage: