Perhaps more than anything else the recent appearances of the Grateful Dead in this country at Wembley and Bickershaw and more currently the Lyceum, have served to illustrate just how significant and underrated is this powerful West Coast musical commune.
They are one of the few bands who are truly and brilliantly reflective of the times and experience through which they have passed since their emergence in San Francisco in 1966 at the height of flower-power-love and acid syndrome through to the more recent relaxed country style which has stemmed from Garcia's return to his jug band roots.
The Dead were the first really definitive acid-rock band in the days when the stuff was still legal and their first album "Anthem of The Sun" was considered to be [the] "Tripper's Bedside Companion"... [The] freak attraction they might have had was underlined by the solid blues roots of their musicians and their intuitive feel.
You could tell just by listening to Garcia's guitar work that he had never had a lesson in his life but he knew how to listen to and relate what he heard into his own style which spawned little classics like 'Viola Lee Blues.'
If this tour has done nothing else, it must have spurred a few people to go out and seek the Dead's albums both past, present and future. Some of their most recent and finest material has come from their live albums of course, and talking to guitarist Bob Weir shortly after the run across Europe on Monday he revealed why.
"I think we've all begun to feel that the group was becoming a little too clinical in the studio," he said. "There are certain obvious benefits to be derived from live recording once you can afford the cost of undertaking to tote the equipment around. (The Dead [ . . . ] equipment with them to cope with that problem).
"You get a little spark or inspiration on playing before the right audience at the right time which you might never achieve in a studio. This is the reason we have recorded all our concerts on this trip.
"I'd say the Wembley concert was probably the best we had done in this country - almost 80 per cent - up until the Lyceum. Bickershaw was something of a disappointment simply because of the frustration of playing in those conditions.
"The people were great - they were even determined to get off, wading around knee deep in mud and frozen in three days of rain, but it was all a bit forced.
"We had those huge calor gas heaters on stage and they were not doing us any good either - the smell was getting to us and the heat was actually altering the molecular structure of the strings causing us to go out of tune. I was pleased when they broke down and we were able to play in a naturally frozen condition.
"Perhaps one of the most satisfying things from our point of view on this trip had been the addition of our pianist Keith Godchaux - he has filled a gap in the band which always needed filling and we had almost given up hope of being able to.
"It might seem that he has a very natural and rhythmic feel which comes easy but in fact it is the result of a lot of work and intuitive play on his part.
"We auditioned scores of pianists before we found Keith and the fact that we finally managed to turn up someone who has fitted so well [into] the band is nothing short of miraculous to me. He was previously a session musician in San Francisco and before that he did a lot of session work in bars!"
With the Dead you can pick your style, Country-Blues or what they call "Spaced Music" of which "Dark Star" is a good example, and get off on your own particular style - they do them all well and their stage presentation is a good cross section of all those influences. My own choice is "Ripple" off American Beauty Rose and the Working Man's Dead album. You pays your money and you takes your choice with the People's band.
Coming shortly at this theatre for your future enjoyment is Bob Weir's solo album "Ace" (an old nickname) on which he has written all the material himself with the assistance of lyricist John Barlow and Dave Torbert of the New Riders. String and brass arrangements an added attraction.
(by Keith Altham, from the New Musical Express, May 27, 1972)
Thanks to Uli Teute.