ROCK SHOW REVIEW
Let me preface this article by saying that reviews of concerts, which this is, are a drag. Reviews always come afterward; after the energy has been spent, the last notes have vanished, the magic already performed. John Sebastian said it a long time ago, "It's like trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll." Still, we try.
Sunday, Houston's Coliseum/Barn. It's A Beautiful Day, John Mayall, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Grateful Dead. A house full of people waiting to get it on. It's not often that San Francisco's finest come to town to cast their spell.
Beautiful Day breezed onto stage like a gust of fresh air. Led by electric violinist Dave LaFlame, and creating music which he calls "light shows for the blind," their sound is open and flowing. In their own way, they are pushing rock to higher levels of expression. Beautiful Day just played some good music and spread the happy feelings.
Unfortunately, John Mayall didn't come across as well. Maybe feeling out of place because of being the only English group on the show or maybe just tired of trying to play his new, subtle music for large audiences, he seemed content to let his sidemen carry the weight. His sax, Johnny Almond, showed soulful brilliance in taking Mayall's recent change in musical direction closer yet to jazz. Joined by Duster Bennett for the closing numbers, John Mayall was all thanks in leaving the audience. Sorry John, but I felt like the old days with Clapton, Green and Taylor had more guts. Maybe you are just ahead of your time.
Quicksilver Messenger Service, a long time staple of San Francisco rock, know about feelings, and their music shows it. After sitting through Mayall's ramblings, the audience wanted to have a good time, and Quicksilver whipped into a stone rocker that had everyone moving. The show was all theirs from then on. A mass rush towards the stage sent the good vibes up to the band, and they immediately shot them back. One musical level after another was surpassed. Their extended "Who Do You Love" was too much. This is what rock is all about. It is why the music of the youth is one of the moving forces of the revolution, and this is why the police cannot stand to see kids get together and have their high times. Looking at shows like this, the line between the law enforcers and the youth is clearly evident. On one side is a person with a gun and a uniform who says no, you can't dance and sing and be happy - it breaks all the rules. On the other hand are those outrageous kids, saying yes, we can and will have a good time. For this particular time, the crowd was going too fast to stop, and even with all the police hurrying around attempting to enforce unenforceable rules, the kids won out. Score one victory.
All good things must end, and when Quicksilver finished and the lights were up, the police imposed their order on the thousands of people who sensed the lameness of that order. With a little pushing and shoving, everyone was put back "in their proper place". When it looked like all was calm and quiet, out came the Dead, those pioneers who just won't quit pushing for something new, something bigger than life. And to try and deliver their fantasy in a barn with twenty policemen in every aisle and any semblance of freedom completely lacking is impossible. Like all good outlaws, they tried to get it on but just couldn't find the spark. Compared to earlier days when they did unleash their awesome thunder, the Dead just went through the motions Sunday. Still, when you are the most powerful band in the world those motions can be exciting. At times a phrase or rhythm would jump out and grab you, but those were only very few moments Sunday. The Dead came and went in their little caravan, moving on to the next gig where maybe their magic would shine. They are merely mortals and as such cannot come across like gods every time.
Seen as a whole, the day's music was good, the ride back to Georgetown fun, and the spirit sustaining. And if that is not enough, I could tell you about Country Joe and the Fish the next night in Austin, but that is another time and place. Anyway, reviews are a drag. Go hear the real thing. Maybe you can dig it.
(by Bill Bentley & Andy Dean, from the Megaphone, 27 February 1970)
Thanks to Dave Davis.
Alas, no tape!