THE GRATEFUL DEAD APPEAR AT SHRINE
At their best, the Grateful Dead are a wondrous group and they were at their best for a weekend dance concert sponsored by Pinnacle at the Shrine Exposition Hall.
The San Francisco sextet has a number of failings - their vocals are weak, they seem to require at least 20 minutes to warm into excitement, and their original songs are not notable either for lyrics or for melodies - but their weaknesses become insignificant when lead guitarist Jerry Garcia gets going.
Garcia is brilliant, an instrumentalist with flawless timing, great melodic invention, and a magic ability to raise the Dead into continually higher peaks of excitement.
He and they excel at improvising at a giddy pace and nearly every song accelerates into roller coasterish speed at some point to display their staccato abilities. His guitar flights are sometimes beautiful and sometimes frenzied but they are always perfect for the group and the crowd.
Bob Weir, rhythm guitar; Ron McKernon (Pigpen), organ; Phil Lesh, bass; and Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, drums, generate a massive amount of music through which Garcia's guitar romps.
The Dead also are notable for a non-musical quality: of all the San Francisco groups, they probably have played more free concerts than any other. Pinnacle has been having financial problems and the Grateful Dead, who appeared in the first Pinnacle concert, appeared to help them out.
Also on the bill was Taj Mahal, the husky voiced blues singer and harmonica player whose band includes another fine guitarist, Eddie Davis.
Meanwhile, the Kaleidoscope, which again is being run by the people who started it, presented the Moby Grape, Genesis, and the McCoys Friday and Saturday nights.
The Moby Grape, another San Francisco group, has become a quartet with the departure of Skip Spence, who sang, played rhythm guitar, and mugged and danced frenetically during their appearances. Spence left because of ill health.
His absence does not seem to have thinned the group's musical ability, but their Saturday night performance was rather dull except for Jerry Miller's work on lead guitar.
A member of Genesis was in jail Saturday night, so I did not get to see them, and the well-publicized new McCoys don't merit much excitement, but the light show (apparently incorporating the Thomas Edison Castle people from the defunct Cheetah, to judge from familiar slides and movies) was very good.
(by Pete Johnson, from the Los Angeles Times, 26 August 1968)
[A brief review of the Dead's first appearance at the Shrine, May 17-18, 1968.]
... Meanwhile, over at the Shrine Exposition Hall, the Grateful Dead pummelled several thousand persons with their long improvisational rock music in a show sponsored by the Pinnacle.
The sound of the San Francisco sextet is heavily dependent on lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, whose brilliant playing makes it hard to realize that he is surrounded by routine musicians.
They have two average drummers instead of one good one. Pigpen's organ is generally barely audible and his voice, the best in the group, is mediocre.
Garcia, however, led the group through some exciting blues-based music which roused the Shrine crowd into fervid demonstrations of appreciation.
(by Pete Johnson?, from the Los Angeles Times, 20 May 1968)
Thanks to Dave Davis.
Los Angeles Times staff writer Pete Johnson had also reviewed the Dead at the Hollywood Bowl 9/15/67 and the Shrine Exposition Hall 11/10/67: