Jul 21, 2012

November 27, 1970: Syndrome, Chicago


It was a religious experience of the Third World Church with Pigpen presiding as high priest. The Grateful Dead offered a post-Thanksgiving mass here Nov. 27, with the help of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a country music offshoot of the Dead.
The Dead's show was more of a religious happening than a concert. The group's fans started dancing and shouting from the first chords of "Casey Jones," and didn't slow down until the final shouts from vocalist Pigpen on "Turn On Your Lovelight," which one person aptly described as the "closest possible thing to Nirvana." The Dead's "congregation," nearly 6,000 strong for the show, freaked and frolicked for four hours to music by the Warner Bros.' sextet, easily the most underrated rock band in the world.
The New Riders, featuring Jerry Garcia and Micky Hart from the Dead, opened the show with some nice country sounds. Much of the material is original, but the group still borrows from the established country artists like Merle Haggard. The highlight of the New Riders' set was a country version of "Honky Tonk Woman," which left the crowd screaming for more.

(by George Knemeyer, Cincinnati Billboard, December 12 1970)

* * * * *


After the passing of what seems like generations of rock 'n' roll lives, the Grateful Dead returned to Chicago this weekend. It was Friday night in the Syndrome, a time when students were home for the holiday and a place which has become a "scene."
But the Dead didn't draw a crowd on leave from school and looking for a place to go. They never have.
Ever since they came out of San Francisco in 1966, their fans have been small in number, intensely behind them and into their music. When the Dead come into town, it's like a statesman returning to his people, a big family reunion that exults and rejoices to the voice of the Dead.

Just as two Jefferson Airplane members have formed another group, Hot Tuna, while remaining with the Airplane, the Dead have also branched out into other groups in what is now known as the Dead family.
Friday night, the new Dead preceded the old. Jerry Garcia of the Dead played pedal steel with the New Riders of the Purple Sage. It was country music - "Six Days on the Road," "Honky Tonk Woman" - and the New Riders sang more than the Grateful Dead usually do.
The crowd stood when Garcia and the Riders entered, and they never sat down. From then on, it was 5 1/2 hours of tapping, clapping, and shaking.

In their own music, The Grateful Dead proved that they have updated the psychedelic revolution they once led with so much energy. Garcia switched to his guitar, and Phil Lesh on bass and guitarist Bob Weir joined him. Drummers Bill Kreutzman and Mickey Hart battled each other all night, putting down their intricate rhythms while Pigpen controlled the organ.
Their music exemplifies the highs of psychedelic rock. It builds to a peak, spreads out in all directions, comes back into focus and begins again, driving harder and reaching higher. It runs the gamut from acidhead lyrics to workingman's lyrics, from classically structured songs to country-folk-rock, but ultimately, the Dead merge song after song into one song, transcending each style and each influence and containing them all in the Dead's own kind of hypnotic, high energy rock 'n' roll.
From the classic "Anthem of the Sun" to "Uncle John's Band," the evening went on like a trance.
Garcia and Lesh, probably every member of the Dead, could hold their own with any other rock musician all night long.
But together, the Dead are incomparable. More than any other group, The Grateful Dead open a consciousness to the musical experience. 

(by Wayne Crawford, from the Chicago Daily News, 30 November 1970)


For another, more negative review, see:


  1. Two similar, ecstatic reviews of a lost show.
    Curiously, the first review says it was 4 hours, the second review says it was 5 1/2. Further proof of the elastic time-bending properties of a Dead show! (Or more prosaically, the longer time includes the NRPS set.)

    There are some vague memories of this show on setlists.net; but most interesting is an entry on dead.net by someone who apparently wrote down the setlist at the time (with some errors) -

    Casey Jones
    Hard to Handle
    China Cat
    Brokedown Palace [out of place]
    I Know You Rider
    Cryptical Envelopment [= Other One]
    Black Peter
    Goin Down the Line [BIODTL]
    Mona - Not Fade Away [played later on, w/o Mona]
    Sugar Magnolia
    Smokestack Lightning
    Me and Bobby McGee
    St Stephen
    Good Lovin
    Goin Down the Road
    Uncle John's Band

    1. Sorry to say, I was at that show, but have absolutely no recollection whatsoever - for some unknown reason

  2. Twas an amazing "concert" they played long and as the Cincinnati guy said that show was "more of a religious happening than a concert". Smokestack reverberating until Good Lovin then blown away by lovelight then kicked out onto the cold and drizzly early morning Holy Shit!!!!!

  3. Taking note of the date of the show being 11/27 in Chicago and the next documented show with a recording being 11/29 in Columbus and nothing else until 12/12 in Santa Rosa I was wondering what you might know about any other shows in 11/27 to 12/11 time span?It doesn't seem likely after a lengthy east coast tour that the band would stop in Chicago and Columbus for two shows on the way home,especially since Chicago was first and Columbus is 350 east of Chicago.

    1. I don't think there were any other shows in that time span. It is odd that the tour would end in a Columbus club, but in those days the Dead grabbed bookings as they could get them, leading to some zigzag tour arrangements.
      For instance in April '69, their tour started in the southwest, headed east to Boston, then back to Chicago & Minneapolis.
      Or consider May 1970: from Massachusetts/New York, to Atlanta, to Missouri, then back to NYC & Philadelphia. Or the middle of the tour in October 1970: from Philadelphia, over to Cleveland & Minneapolis, then back east to Washington DC, then out west to St Louis, then back east again to NY.
      They were still taking any small show they could, a practice which pretty much stopped in 1971, when they could finally afford to limit their touring.

    2. "The Official Book Of The Deadheads" gives UC Davis, CA on 1970 Dec (10) in it's Tour List. Given that they played UCD on 1971-01-21 (it's been on dead.net Taper's Section) I don't believe they also played there on 1970-12-10 but maybe that was a December 70 show that was rearranged for January 71.
      It would have been good if "Book Of The Deadheads" explained exactly what they meant by (10)! Presumably they weren't sure of the exact date and 10 was their best guess.
      I've not seen this show mentioned elsewhere.

    3. 12/10/70 has been removed from reputable show lists since then. Since I have a review of the 1/21/71 show on this site, I definitely don't think the Dead played at UC Davis in Dec 1970 too! But it's possible that (like the Port Chester shows that were scheduled for Dec 1970) they had one booked & rescheduled the date.

  4. The Syndrome (Chicago Coliseum) was a dreary place, even when great bands were playing, but when the Dead got on stage somebody asked for the houselights to be turned on because "We don't want the people to just see us; we want to see the people." And with that, the place transformed into one big happy group of humanity. John Harrold

    1. It was Jerry Garcia who requested the house lights on, saying "We don't just want the people to see the Dead, the Dead want to see the people!" And it was nuts for the next five hours. The show had begun at 7pm with lights down for the New Riders who played about an hour and a half. Then the equipment change and the Dead took the stage about 9pm. The show wrapped sometime about 1:30 or 2am. Lots of material from the new album, American Beauty. Too bad there's not a tape of Jerry performing Candyman. It was a crazy week of music in Chicago. The Dead show was the night after Thanksgiving and the night before Thanksgiving we also saw Derek and the Dominoes at the Auditorium Theater. That show opened with a performance by an unknown artist on his first US tour promoting his first album. None other than Elton John! What a week.

  5. This is a sad yet amusing story. I didn't really get back into the Dead until I was well into my 50's. I recalled seeing New Riders of the Purple Sage at the Syndrome, but had no recollection of having ever seen the Dead there. However if both bands appear to have only played there once during the facility's short life, I actually got to see the Dead. The sad part is I saw them and don't recall it, but without question I'm sure I had a most excellent time.

  6. Found a slightly longer review on November 30, 1970 when the Chicago Daily News upped their archive

    1. Thanks for noticing that. Wayne Crawford's review originally ran on Nov 30, then was reprinted in the Dec 1 edition with the last 3 sentences removed. I've restored them here.
      Crawford raved about the Dead as a consciousness-opening experience: "the Dead are incomparable...the evening went on like a trance."
      I've posted his enthusiastic review of Live/Dead elsewhere; he had been a big fan for some time.

  7. One thing about that Syndrome night was that it was really cold outside, and really hot inside, and with lights on, people were perched everywhere, and it was like snowing insude the building.

  8. Oops, I meant raining inside the building. There was a wild greenhouse type roof.