Sep 9, 2012

September 21, 1972: Philadelphia Spectrum


"Yaaaa hoooo," a girl screams, still shaking from dancing at her chair for five hours. "Please don't wait so long to come back."
After three years, the Greatful Dead returned to 18,000 followers at the Spectrum Thursday night!
For Dead freaks, that sentence should be sufficient. Anyone who has followed the group for any length of time knows that even on a bad night, which has never happened to my knowledge, California "rock and roll thunder" is at its best.
It's hard to find a new angle for a review when a group like the Dead consistently performs superbly. To say the Dead is "fantastic," "out-of-sight" or "incredible" would be using mere words which do not properly convey the precision and excellence of their performance.
What makes Greatful Dead concerts so enjoyable?
The Dead is one group which can experiment with their music during a live concert and make it sound like a polished product. Most groups know what they are going to play and how they are going to play it before they go on stage. But The Dead, they flow spontaneously with the moods of the audience and reflect upon those moods with their music.
Anybody who heard their version of "Playing in the Band" Thursday night knows exactly what I'm talking about. It was brilliant.
People you haven't seen for years show up at Dead concerts, along with people you think you know but don't. Everyone at a Dead concert looks like someone you would like to meet. Smiles, shaking bodies and laughter is all you see through the filmy illegality of the "evil weed."
The concert was not well advertised and was not publicly announced until two weeks before it was scheduled. If the news had been released earlier, undoubtedly people from all over the East Coast would have made an attempt to be at the performance.
But, if you're a Dead freak, you knew about the concert via grapevine about a month ago. Dead Freaks Unite, and you made sure that every one of your friends got a ticket. That's how Dead freaks are.
I don't think the group will stay away from Philadelphia for three years after Thursday night's concert. The band obviously enjoyed themselves and that's what it's all about anyway. Philadephia will be more bearable for a little while.

(by Ralph Bobb, from the Times, city/date unknown)

* * * * *


If I get home before daylight
Just might get some sleep tonight...

What does a Grateful Dead freak do after hanging for 4 1/2 hours in the company of his revered ones, oh so alive and wailing well at the Spectrum?
Why, scream for an encore, of course.
That, like they say, is gratitude.
And I say, no rock band in this world flies so high and so brilliantly as the Grateful Dead, San Francisco's gift to intelligent mind-blowing music. They'll leave you physically drained by the power of collective force, but emotionally-spiritually rejuvenated by their snake-charming invitation to fantasy frolics.

No wonder Dead fanatics will travel hundreds of miles on a moment's notice to catch a concert that sterile records will never truly capture.
The group's sure got it down, folks, a potent medicine six years in the development, a sound born of country swing and jug bands, rural blues and good ole rock and roll, laced with the good-time philosophy of a Be-In that never went away.
The creative juices have been in the main, flowing more mellow of late, evident in the soft country-and-cowboy-themed funk which dominated the first two hours of the Dead's marathon ballroom session last night. We heard a raft of first time round(ers), tunes from singer-guitarist Bob Weir's solo album, oldies like "I Know You Rider" and (yup) Marty Robbin's "El Paso."

Harmonizing better than ever are Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, newly welcomed Sunshine lady Donna Godchaux, Jerry "Capt. Trips" Garcia.
Actually, Garcia holds back his famed guitar wizardry in a manner that seems at first almost miserly, until you realize that it's all a part of the Dead's consummate sense of dramatic dynamics.
Both in planning the sets (the second is the cosmic rock explosion) and in the inner workings of each number, the concept is ebb and flow, always maintaining an edge of surprise and revelation. Low down blues move into a frenetic charger, into a perky shuffle.
You can't help but get sucked in, cued to shift the mental spotlight from singers to pianist Keith Godchaux (Pig Pen's New Orleans-styled replacement), to the ever-alive rhythms of bassist Phil Lesh and (now solo) drummer Bill Kreutzman. Then suddenly, Garcia smacks a hard electric solo against your cranium, with rhythm guitarist Weir fattening the distinctive welt. But instead of zapping right into a big cliche - a vocal finale - this band has the nerve (and class) to drop down the momentum to a wispish trot and then grind it up again.
Fifteen, 25, 40-minute jams pass without a time sense because there is no waste, no sense of repetition, or easy compromise. It's an ideology usually reserved for jazz experimenters. Not coincidentally, an eye-opening, free-form jazz improvisation plays a prominent role in the Dead's second, 150-minute set.
We all done our homework.

(by Jonathan Takiff; newspaper/date unknown.)

* * * * *


The Grateful Dead performed a miracle at the Spectrum last night.
On a smoggy, soggy evening, in a large, darkened concert hall, the Dead managed to take every member of the capacity audience (17,500 people) to the top of a mountain on a bright sunny day. From a troubled city to the most wide open country.
The Dead haven't played the Spectrum in four years. Last time they did they played on a round stage in the middle of the hall, and somebody in the band didn't like it. They finally gave it another try last night and they loved it - and the audience loved it.
The Spectrum-Electric Factory Concerts people have finally gotten the Spectrum in shape to be almost a cozy hall. After an incident at the Humble Pie concert last week in which some lighting equipment was damaged, the promoters added a moat to their already raised stage. Finally, concertgoers can now sit through a performance without having to put up with selfish children down front who want to steal someone's guitar pick.

The Grateful Dead, who started their musical life playing free concerts from the back of platform trucks in San Francisco, and who refused to sign a recording contract for so long that their first album was called "The Grateful Dead Sell Out," are truly a unique band.
The concert last evening lasted five hours. That's right, five hours. Rare is the band that can keep everything moving for the usual 45-minute-to-one-hour set. But five hours... Every minute of the time was excellent music. Not a moment was wasted.
The key word in discussing the Dead's music seems to be lift. Lift and carry. That's what's needed to sustain the intense interest of 17,500 perpetually fickle rock fans.
The five hour concert seemed actually to be symphonic movements rather than strings of songs. Long, long, jazz-like solos interspersed between refrains of well-known Dead tunes filled the time like an accordion.

Describing the band as "together" is a severe understatement. With the one-instrument solos, double solos and small-ensemble parts of each song, the players displayed an empathy that comes not just with years playing together but years thinking together.
The Dead engage the sensibilities at the most noble level. There is little gut-reaction loudness or histrionics.
The group's sound system was just fine - every word sung and spoken cut through the smokey din like a flaming knife. The music was loud but sharp, an example of what loudness in rock and roll is meant to be: not something to hide lack of talent, but a bold crowing, an amplification of something real so it can reach thousands of people at original intensity.
Any discussion of the Dead would be useless without mentioning Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir. Garcia, the benign daddy, picks a clear, simple guitar line that grows and grows - five hours of his solos just whet the appetite for more.
Weir, the quiet one, sings well and works in tandem so cleanly with Garcia that the two seem Siamese twins joined at the consciousness.

(by William Mandel, from the Philadelphia Bulletin, date unknown)

These reviews were included in the Dick's Picks 36 booklet.


  1. It's nice to see three such positive reviews from this famous concert. Like many newspaper reviews, they're sometimes written too hastily with some silly remarks, but still full of interesting comments on the band.
    (In contrast, the 9/17/72 Dick's Picks included a review from the Baltimore Afro-American by someone who clearly didn't care for the band.)

    I have to wonder, though, how the first reviewer could sound like such a fan, even claiming they've never had a bad night, and still call them the "Greatful Dead"!

    All of the reviewers emphasize the length of the show - interestingly, none of them mention the set break, which could not have been brief. (Our tape of the show is less than 4 hours.)
    They do mention that the Dead were enjoying themselves; and this is the longest show of the tour.

    The Dead had last played Philadelphia in 1970 - at Temple University on 5/16/70 (as one of the openers for Hendrix), and at the University of Pennsylvania on 10/16/70.
    These reviewers claim the Dead hadn't played there in three or four years - so they may be thinking of the Electric Factory shows on Feb 14-15, 1969, or the last Spectrum show on 12/6/68 (part of the Quaker City Rock Festival).
    That must be the show referred to in the last review - the Spectrum had a revolving stage for bands at that time (up til mid-'69), which the bands hated, and also screwed up the sound. Johnny Winter played there in '69 and said: "It was horrible. The Spectrum had a revolving stage, and we were all trippin'. The stage turned around real fast - that terrified me. It was like being on a sonic merry-go-round. I'd walk away from the mike, not remember where it was, and couldn't find it. I wouldn't play any revolving stages after that." (from Raisin' Cain p.114)

    The Dead did return to Philadelphia just about every year after '72.

  2. Gleason's article on the August Berkeley shows mentions that the intermission between sets was a half hour. My guess is that was the standard Dead break at the time.

  3. Nobody was standing on chairs. It was a dance concert. No chairs. All else is accurate

  4. I was there the show was undersold big time maybe 7000 folks there for a dance show no reserved-- upstairs EMPTY --the attendance figure given is totally bogus.....the following Spring tour 1973 they packed the place

  5. Anonymous who was there suggests 7000. I tend to believe first-person Deadheads even though there are like 3 articles that say the joint was packed.