Jul 23, 2012

January 24, 1971: Seattle Center Arena


SEATTLE - When San Francisco gave birth to the hippie movement back in the mid-1960s, a number of rock groups emerged from the depths of Haight-Ashbury.
One of those groups was the Grateful Dead, considered heroes because of their free concerts. While their music was more deeply rooted in blues than psychedelic, it was still considered good "head" music.
The Dead has matured and have not only expanded with the new dimensions the rock music world is taking on, but probably helped it move in that direction. The group headlined a consistently entertaining triple bill concert Sunday night in the Arena.
The opening set was more than 30 minutes late in getting started, but it was worth waiting for. The New Riders of the Purple Sage, whose performance was unannounced before the concert, featured The Dead's Jerry Garcia on steel pedal guitar and ex-Jefferson Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden.
The quintet worked well within a country-rock framework with skillful instrumentation and vocals. Lead singer Marmaduke (John Dawson) really captured the country feel on "I Promised You," "Portland Woman," "Dirty Business," "Henry," "Truck Drivin' Man" and especially on "Honkey Tonk Woman."
The other two members of the group are Dave Nelson on rhythm guitar and Dave Torbert on bass.
Canada's Ian and Sylvia rounded out the country atmosphere and provided a delightful second set. They also proved that music doesn't have to be deafening to be enjoyable. The only instrumental accompaniment was provided by Ian and David Wilcox on acoustic guitars.
The duo's influence is Nashville - Ian's Canadian television show is called "Nashville North." Their songs, "Southern Comfort," "Last Lonely Eagle," "Needle of Death," "Someday Soon," "Long, Long Time to Get Old," "Little Beggarman" and "24 Hours to Tulsa," were well received.
Sylvia's voice is crystal clear and Ian's is mellow and strong. Harmonizing together they are an unbeatable pair.
It was standing room mostly by the time The Dead finally appeared. The Arena was only about half-full, but if you had a seat on the main floor near the stage you either stood up with the rest of the crowd or you didn't see.
For nearly two hours, The Dead played. They were impressive with tight, subtle instrumentation and somewhat gentil vocals. [sic] They would start with a song, building with improvisations to intense peaks.
Garcia, about who Ian said, "...plays as good a steel (guitar) as a city boy has a right to play," was also brilliant on lead guitar. He and rhythm guitarist Bob Weir work well together, complementing each other. They also handled the majority of the vocal work.
The Dead did more than a dozen songs including "Truckin'," "I Know You Rider," "It Hurts Me Too," "Sugar Magnolia," "Not Fade Away," "Lovelight," and "Good Lovin'."
The audience, restless due to the lateness of the show and the fact that a lot of the crowd was high, let its impatience be known when the musicians lingered too long between numbers. Some fan, obviously thinking he was a Ted Mack Amateur Hour audition, did his imitation of a hurt dog several times during the evening. Others did bird calls.
The Dead's "last number," announced at nearly midnight, consisted of at least half a dozen songs.
When the Northwest Releasing concert was over at 1 a.m., there were a lot of tired and happy people, full of music from The Grateful Dead.

(by Cathy Thomas, from the Everett Herald, January 26 1971)



  1. By 1971 it was unusual for another act to play with the NRPS-GD pair, and even more so to play in-between them. Ian & Sylvia are listed on the poster as "special guest stars" - of course, the Dead would have been acquainted with them from the Festival Express the year before.
    It's curious that NRPS was "unannounced before the concert," but the reviewer perhaps wasn't paying attention, because they're prominent on the poster.

    The reviewer observed one of the troubles audiences had at seated shows - "if you had a seat on the main floor near the stage you either stood up with the rest of the crowd or you didn't see."
    We hear this dilemma on many 1970 tapes, as seated people in the audience call for others to sit down. The Dead always stayed neutral in this matter (except for Pigpen).

    The reviewer mentions the Dead building to peaks in their improvisations, but these were mostly kept pretty brief in this show aside from Pigpen's numbers - there are no giant jams til the end.

    The show was scheduled for 8:00, but as the reviewer notes, it was late in starting. So the Dead, despite playing for "nearly two hours" may have been facing a time limit. (If the reviewer was accurate, they came on at about 11.)

    The reviewer captures one of the classic 1971 moments: "The Dead's 'last number,' announced at nearly midnight, consisted of at least half a dozen songs."
    On the tape Weir says, "We're running short on time and so we're gonna wrap it up with this number."
    The band then goes into a Lovelight>Not Fade Away>Goin' Down the Road>Lovelight>drums>Good Lovin', where the tape cuts with the band still chuggin' away 35 minutes into their "last number."
    The review, interestingly, suggests that the final medley lasted an entire hour.
    The last reel is in the Vault, but David Lemieux reports that "the final reel, which contains the Good Lovin’ that emerged from the Drums, is largely unlistenable due to technical problems with the master reel."

    One Archive witness remembers the Dead were "late getting on stage." Another Archive audience memory adds some details:
    "a fairly small but very appreciative crowd. new riders opened with jerry and played a wonderful set! pigpen was in great form! the whole show was more like a dance although i do remember standing on chairs on the arena floor. excellent live sound quality. i remember thinking at the time how great the band sounded live. the cut in good lovin' is due to curfew and much of the crowd left as the lights were brought up too. some sort of deal was cut with the seattle cops and about 20 minutes later the band fired up again and didn't quit until almost 4:00 am."
    This is quite a story, but sadly contradicted by the newspaper review. (I wonder if the lights came up in the drum solo, though.)

  2. The last reel of 1/24/71 has been included on the Tapers Section:

    Good Lovin' is 20 minutes, and Phil segues into Uncle John's Band to conclude the show. I doubt the band came back.
    Actually they sound spent by that point, with not that much improv going on during the long Good Lovin'; Pigpen does a rambling rap, & Phil takes charge, but Garcia's getting sloppy, so it's a rather brutish version.