GRATEFUL DEAD DANCE
The 4,000 kids who paid $5 and $5.50 for Thursday night's Grateful Dead dance at the Palladium more than got their money's worth.
The New Riders of the Purple Sage, whose first album will be released by Columbia, is an interesting new and good group out of San Francisco. With all the overlapping of music, pinpointing their bag is difficult. Country seems the best tag, but it is country in the special way the young people have adapted that genre to their own hopes, humor and worries.
With Jerry Garcia, leader of The Grateful Dead, sitting in on pedal steel guitar, the group ran rhythm and harmony from blues, rock, slow country to near-hoedown.
"The Last Lonely Eagle," a plaintive commentary on man's waste of his planet, written by the group's leader, guitarist John (Marmaduke) Dawson, hushed the house, while "Down in the Boondocks" and the Stones' "Honky-Tonk Woman" had the kids whistling and stomping.
Dawson, who handled most of the singing, also wrote much of the evening's repertoire and while his voice is good he is even better as a composer. He expresses old thoughts in fresh ways, but most importantly for the kids, he talks their language, something which another act, The Rowen Brothers, did not do.
In spite of all the Rowens' hokum dating back to the early days of rock and their attempt to have an audience-participation show, the kids did not join in. They listened and some of the pieces evoked mild approval but there was no real communication. As musicians the brothers were okay, but as communicators they were slick.
All this was quickly forgotten when The Grateful Dead took the stand. The turn-on was instant and overwhelming, and there were no antic arts. It was all art, with Garcia leading the group through intricate harmonics, worthy of the L.A. Philharmonic. Their 20-min. improvisational piece, "The Other," reminiscent of Miles Davis and featuring Bill Krutsmann on drums, was brilliant and spine-tingling, a virtuoso display of performance and arrangement. It is no wonder their concert scheduled for Friday (6) was sold out within a week, necessitating the second gig hastily scheduled for Thursday.
(by Beth, from Variety, August 9 1971)