The 50 Greatest Concerts of the Last 50 Years

From Led Zeppelin's U.S. debut to Jay Z and Kanye West's 'Watch the Throne' spectacle, and beyond

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Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue North American Tour
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Frank Lennon/The Toronto Star/Zuma22/50

Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue North American Tour

Bob Dylan could have played arenas when he toured to support 1976's Desire. Instead, true to form, he did the unexpected: He booked tiny theaters with just days' notice, charged less than $9 per ticket and took along a gaggle of friends – including Roger McGuinn, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Joan Baez. Dylan had started hanging around his old West Village haunts with buddies from his folkie days, and he wanted to take that nostalgic spirit on the road. "We all sing and sing and sing and laugh until we pass out," Baez told Rolling Stone. "For us, it makes no difference if we just play for 15 people or 15,000." Backed by one of his best bands ever (including guitarist Mick Ronson), Dylan stretched out shows for as long as five hours – with help from McGuinn, Elliott and others, who would do their own sets and join his. New tracks from Desire were mixed with 1960s classics ("It Ain't Me Babe," "Just Like a Woman") and covers ("Deportees"). The shows were full of raw, spontaneous intimacy: Dylan duetted with his ex-lover Baez, did scorched-earth versions of "Idiot Wind," and pleaded for the release of jailed boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. As Rolling Thunder participant Allen Ginsberg said, "Having gone through his changes ... Bob now has his powers together." A.G.

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