Hearing the music and eyeballing the stars—that’s what a rock concert is all about. And when the program includes Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Carlos Santana, Jerry (Grateful Dead) Garcia, Grace Slick, Neil Young and, as a nonmusical bonus, Marlon Brando, the concert becomes An Event. Add to it the tender, loving stewardship of impresario Bill Graham, the Sol Hurok of the Sixties Youth Culture, and the result was one of the most remarkable rock extravaganzas in years.
For nine rain-free, nonstop hours in San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium two Sundays ago, 60,000 well-behaved fans clapped and bounced to the ham-and-wry of Baez and Dylan, the infectious Latin rock of Santana, the upbeat rhythm of the Doobie Brothers and the soul sounds of Tower of Power. The entire day was reminiscent of the Best Vibes of Woodstock.
Graham asked the performers to work free to raise $200,000 for San Francisco’s endangered high school sports and culture program. They did, and Graham showed his gratitude by setting up backstage tents for the musicians and their guests, stuffing them with cream cheese and bagels, barbecued chicken and burgers and providing volleyball, Ping-Pong and playground facilities. For the young rock fans, Graham offered a bargain basement admission fee of $5 a head.
The climax to the day, which was pervaded by the sweet smell of grass on both sides of the microphone, was Dylan’s unadvertised appearance. Elusive and retiring, he was hardly even recognized backstage. For most of an hour before his set, he hung out in the dressing and tuning rooms, then wandered onstage with Neil Young (of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young) and members of The Band, Dylan’s touring accompanists. Once the crowd realized that the bearded, shuffling figure with the electric guitar was Dylan in one of his extremely rare public appearances, the stadium erupted.
It was Young who first mentioned the concert to Dylan. They met while Young was rehearsing with The Band in Malibu, where Dylan and his wife, Sarah, now live. No one could believe Dylan would really show up until the day before the concert when he materialized at a rehearsal. At the concert, Dylan played guitar and piano and sang I Want You, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door and Will the Circle Be Unbroken.
If Dylan was an uncompromisingly reserved presence, Brando, who was joined onstage by Willie Mays and other non-rock heavies, displayed unusual gregariousness. He spent part of the day bantering with the stars and his friend, Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, who brought his three kids and took Dylan and Brando home to dinner at his San Francisco mansion afterward.
At the microphone, Brando amiably rambled on about “Doing Five-Oh now”—that is, beginning the second half-century of his life. To dramatize his new maturity, he opened his coat onstage and revealed a ballooning paunch—to cheerful applause.
During a more somber moment, Brando announced he was giving $5,000 to the high school program. One customer thought the amount trifling and loudly demanded more. “Hell,” he shouted, referring to Brando’s famous line in A Streetcar Named Desire, “I’d give a hundred bucks myself just to hear him say ‘Stelllllaaa.’ ”