Note: This is based on my best recollections from 1970-1974. They may not be completely accurate. I’ll say this up front rather than saying “As I recall” or “I think” in front of many sentences.
The Band was my favorite group in the early 1970s. I saw them four times between 1970-1974.
The Band didn’t improvise.
The Band didn’t jam.
The Band didn’t indulge in the excesses of the era.
The Band did not interact with the audience and mostly just stood there and played. (This is similar to Bob Dylan which may be who they took after on it.)
The Band mostly played a limited set list focusing on some songs from their first three albums. They always played “The Weight”, “The Shape I’m In”, “I Shall Be Released”, “Up on Cripple Creek” and a few others. They rarely played such great songs as “Lookout Cleveland” and “Sleeping”.
The Band sounded more unique because of the isolation in Woodstock. Once they got out in the world, they sounded more like everyone else.
November 8, 1970 – The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA
This was the first and best of the four shows I saw. We sat in seats on the floor level. The sides were not in use. The main thing I remember was that the show was loud. This was Stage Fright-style electric rock, not the more delicate often acoustic music of the first two albums.
They opened (not sure of the order) with both sides of their current single – “The Shape I’m In” and “Time to Kill”. There was no horn section backing them at any show that I saw. There was no opening act.
August 1, 1973 – Roosevelt Stadium Jersey City, NJ
The Band opened for the Grateful Dead and played about an hour and a half. There were shows on 7/31 and 8/1. The way I know which one I saw was I remember the Dead playing “The Race Is On” which was only on 8/1. Here’s the Grateful Dead setlist. Both the Band and Grateful Dead parts of the concert are available as bootlegs. This page on the Band bootleg has the setlist. I saw three shows after the release of Cahoots and they only played “Life Is a Carnival”. I guess they understood it was a bad album. They played “Share Your Love” from Moondog Matinee which was released a few months later as well as “Back to Memphis” which is on the expanded version of the album. In general, the Band stuck to the same songs. There are many songs I never saw them play in person. If they played the great “Look Out Cleveland” live, it would only have been at the 1970 show. They were good but the performances were not as crisp as they were in 1970.
January 6,1974 (afternoon show) – The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA
This was one of the Bob Dylan and the Band shows from the tour that was captured on Before the Flood. The show interspersed sets by the Band with sets of them backing Dylan and one Dylan acoustic set. The Band played a total of 11 songs. The only unusual choice was “Long Black Veil” and I am sorry it’s not on the album. The Band was excellent that day but that didn’t satisfy the audience. They kept screaming out for Dylan when he wasn’t performing. This is the setlist of the Dylan/Band and Dylan solo songs. I hope that someday they officially release more shows from this tour but I doubt that it happens since I read Dylan isn’t fond of it. Before the Flood is very representative of what I saw, just shorter than the actual show. It’s about 2/3 of the length of the concert. This is my second favorite of the four Band shows I saw.
July 5, 1974 – Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
This was a bad scene. The show was Eric Clapton as the headliner with The Band and Todd Rundgren as opening acts. We were on the field of the stadium. The crowd was really messed up. There were two guys fighting each other who could barely stand up. Early in Clapton’s set, someone threw something at him and hit him. I have wondered if it was really as bad as I remember but this account sounds like what I experienced. I agree with the writer – Clapton didn’t play with the Band. There was a rumor that Clapton, the Band and Rundgren had planned to play together but Clapton getting hit squashed that. I don’t recall anything much about the Band set. I don’t recall much about their performance but don’t think it was anything special by their high standards. Once again, a focus on the first three albums.