DEAD, CREATING A PERFECT BLEND
The Grateful Dead opened their first 1971 tour at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, to a packed house. Once again the Dead asserted that they are probably the best American band.
As a band playing together, they excel as the music created blends and mixes so perfectly that it sounds like a studio recording. As individual musicians, they appear tops in their trade. Jerry Garcia, considered the group's leader, simply because the musicians union requires one, is respected greatly not only because of fine guitar and pedal-steel work, but as the mainstay writer, composing most of the group's music. Teamed with Bob Weir, they form one of the best one-two guitarists around. Ron "Pig-Pen" McKernan is still around to belt out the vocals on cuts which flashed back to the early days. Phil Lesh is often overlooked as mainstay at bass guitar and part time song writer ("Saint Stephen" and "Cumberland Blues"). The Dead also feature two drummers, Micky Hart and Bill K who provide solid background.
The act the band did at the Capitol was advertised as being a showcase for new material. That it was, as the Dead appear to have picked up where they left off on "Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty," predominantly country with a few hard-rock cuts. The old favorites were also featured. "Casey Jones" brought the audience to its feet, as did "Truckin'" and "Sugar Magnolia." The group also did Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" as their customary rock 'n' roll piece. A 30 minute version of "Dark Star," with the help of some very appropriate lighting, had the mob spell-bound. The show ended with "Uncle John's Band" and left the stage with the crowd at its feet for 20 minutes.
The New Riders of the Purple Sage opened the concert and were received as though they were the featured act. The group, which included former Jefferson Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden, did not perform as well together as their reputation connotes. This was due in part to the lack of experience they have had playing with Dryden and Don Nelson at bass [sic], and to an electrical breakdown which caused Marmaduke's acoustic guitar to sound rather tinny. Jerry Garcia also broke a string on his pedal steel guitar. Still, their country sound trucked through and had the audience dancing.
The Grateful Dead's new album is due out about April or May. It should send the band to unprecedented heights.
(by Ray Trifari, from the Hoya (Georgetown U), 4 March 1971)