GRATEFUL DEAD ARE ON NEW MUSICAL PATHS
Members of the Grateful Dead emerged in the early days of Haight Ashbury flower-power-dom, playing together first as a jug band and later as the band that supplied the ultimate acid-rock to a new audience with new tastes.
Since then, they have set out on the musical paths of country, rock, blues and jazz, creating a niche all their own in the music world.
Seven thousand Dead admirers filled the University of Montana Field House Tuesday night, expecting to witness an important part of the music of the 60’s and 70’s. They weren’t betrayed.
Unlike most rock bands that perform as concerts a 90-minute blast of amplified sound, the Dead began slowly and methodically, flowing through “Bertha,” “Mama Tried,” and “Deal.” Each song built on the energy of its predecessor.
The energy did not come out as wildly driving music, but was there in the smooth exactness of Jerry Garcia’s lead guitar and Bob Weir’s innovative rhythm guitar riffs. All the Dead, including Garcia, Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, pianist Keith Godchaux, singer Donna Godchaux and drummer Bill Kreutzman, came through the phenomenal 480-speaker system individually distinctive, but wedded into a sound that is the Grateful Dead.
The wall of speakers, which cost about $35,000 to put together, made the music loud, but not a blare. It is the most innovative and experimental system in the world. Each of the five band members has an individual sound system tied into the whole.
But the musicians were the important ingredient, and Garcia is one of the best musicians there is. He nonchalantly stood onstage, bracing himself on one leg as the other rose and fell with the tempo of the music. Garcia was at his peak in the half-hour “Playing in the Band” jam, when he took a foray into rock, jazz and finally an electronic neverness that left the crowd spellbound.
Weir was outstanding as a country crooner in Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” in “Mama Tried” and the encore, “One More Saturday Night.” Of course, Garcia’s familiar high-pitched vocals were there to complement Weir’s, and Donna Godchaux’s voice, while unsure at times, harmonized beautifully with Weir and Garcia.
But the night was not all roses. One incoherent jam in the four-hour concert rambled on for 40 minutes.
After the Dead left the stage from their second set, the crowd roared one of the loudest and longest ovations given to a band performing in Missoula. Several minutes later, as the Dead stepped back on stage, Weir was struck on the head by a plastic pitcher that flew from the crowd below him.
“Thanks a lot,” he said gruffly.
It was a distasteful conclusion to a fine performance.
(by Steve Shirley, 'Music Review' from the Missoulian, May 16 1974)
(Thanks to DaveMar)