Aug 5, 2019

October 17, 1970: Music Hall, Cleveland OH


Saturday, October 17, Clevelanders will be treated to the original underground rock show when the Grateful Dead appear live at the Music Hall. Though the Dead have five very good albums out to date, they are best known for their live performances. This should be no exception; it is scheduled to last for at least five hours and will include a set by The New Riders of the Purple Sage and Jerry (Captain Trips) Garcia's country band.
The Dead started out way back in the late fifties when Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were riding around the country in a bus, giving out acid and other assorted goodies to folks. The Dead were the California musicians for the troupe, and, together with Kesey's light show they formed the first psychedelic experience. Their initial album was released, and it was another first - the first underground rock group to record an LP. Then they began to tour the country, giving free concerts that lasted more than a day when the mood struck them. One of their favorite haunts in recent years has been Athens, Ohio, home of Ohio University. When they were there two years ago, witnesses at that free show said the Dead included seemingly innumerable people who just kept coming on stage and playing with the main musicians.
The music itself? It is hard to classify, for the Dead are always pushing ahead of the mainstream of rock musicians. Their first album was unique in that, though the songs were mostly old blues songs, they added instrumental breaks and rearranged the songs to make them their own. "Anthem to the Sun" is a collage of live and studio recordings that are blended together into one stream of sound, and the end result is very much like a symphony. "Aoxomoxoa" consists mainly of several ragtime-type numbers plus one extraordinary poem done against a feedback accompaniment. Then "Live/Dead," an exciting double collection of concert recordings was released. The latest addition was this summer's "Workingman's Dead," where the Dead suddenly waxed poetic. Their vocals had previously been mediocre at best, but now they put out an album filled with fine harmonies, acoustical guitaring, and darn good poetry, thank you. Nothing political or bitter or revolutionary about their songs; this is quite important, for they are interested primarily in making good music, not starting guerrilla wars. This is the essential Beat Generation theory that they grew up with - live your own life style without bothering others and thus live within the system happily.
So, if you can still get tickets, go hear and see the Grateful Dead. What they will play, how long the concert will last, how many will be there, it is impossible to say. But whatever happens, it will be an unforgettable experience.

(by Dan Cook, from the Observer (Case Western Reserve U), 9 October 1970)

* * * 


Last Saturday night at 8:06 the Grateful Dead played to 3,000 screaming fans. They played for 3 1/2 hours with only one five minute intermission. The only reason they stopped then was due to the fact that the management turned on all the lights and told them to get off the stage.
The group has been together for ten years now and it shows. In the concert they were never apart rhythmically although they executed numerous time and key changes. Along with this they have two drummers, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, who played intermingling solos and counterpoint to each other while staying constantly in beat. The four other members of the group are Jerry Garcia - lead guitar and vocals, Phil Lesh - bass and vocals, Bobby Weir - rhythm and vocals, Ron McKernan who played organ and sang when he wasn't drinking. Needless to say all six of the members of the group are masters of their instruments and it is easily seen why they have enjoyed popularity for so many years. Garcia has long been known as the best guitarist on the west coast and his reputation was proven to the fans as he led the band from NOT FADE AWAY into TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, back into NOT FADE AWAY again and then once more into LOVELIGHT.
Although the musicians are the same, their sound has changed much since 1965 when their first album was released. Their present version of COLD RAIN AND SNOW, from the first album, was virtually unrecognizable as it had country harmony and was done in the almost ballad-like style that is characteristic of their last album. This was typical of the concert; they did songs from all of their albums but all were revised to sound country-like while still maintaining that hard, driving rock sound that the DEAD have been so long known for.
The concert was extremely well planned. The opening song, CASEY JONES, was known by all of the audience and therefore the DEAD had the fans with them from the start. The repertoire got progressively funkier and more exciting as the night progressed. Soon the DEAD was performing purely improvisational material to the deafening applause of the audience. At times the group was drowned out by the screams that their music evoked.
The concert ended all too soon at 11:15 but the DEAD gave everyone something to hum all the way home by coming back out and singing UNCLE JOHN'S BAND as their encore.
So the DEAD finally came to Cleveland and privileged us with their unparalleled music for 3 1/2 hours straight. All who saw them were grateful.

(Picture caption: Although the management threatened to stop the concert due to smoking in the audience, the Dead played for 3 1/2 hours.)

(by Chris Cook, from the Observer (Case Western Reserve U), 20 October 1970)

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  1. The Observer was the student newspaper of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. This review is similar in many ways to the other review I found, from a Penn State paper - both reviews emphasize how tight and masterful the band is. They also mention the 'hits' in the setlist without directly naming the Other One or Dark Star ("purely improvisational material").

    This review exaggerates the Dead's age - they hadn't been "together for ten years," nor did their first album come out in 1965! The reviewer was familiar with their albums, though, and was surprised that the slowed-down Cold Rain and Snow was "virtually recognizable." He somewhat astutely points out that the older songs in their repertoire now "sound country-like" and more like their American Beauty material.
    When he writes that they've long been known for "that hard, driving rock sound," it's no exaggeration - a 1966 Newsweek piece had singled out "their hard, hoarse, screeching sound," as do other early pieces on the band; though soon enough the Dead would no longer be known as a 'hard rock' band.
    It's funny that he mentions Pigpen "sang when he wasn't drinking" - the other review also pointed out that Pigpen spent the show "sitting at the organ sipping beer."

    The article's title has kind of a double meaning; initially you might think the "excess lighting" refers to the management turning the lights on the Dead, but the caption makes clear that it's actually the "smoking in the audience." This was emphasized by the other review, which began with a loving description of the electric haze, clouds of smoke, and joints being passed around. (The fire marshal showed up and gave a warning about smoking, but was ignored by the audience.)
    The other review didn't mention the abrupt ending, which isn't evident on the tape (except that the Dead seem to rush through NFA and Lovelight). One reviewer writes, "The officials wanted the show to be over and the Dead wouldn’t stop playing. Up came the house lights, they still wouldn’t stop. Then a couple of cops, the fire marshal and a couple of suits stood on stage in a line, most with their arms crossed staring. The Dead kept playing for another ten, fifteen minutes. I believe if they hadn’t been forced to stop they would have gone on for hours."

  2. I added a lengthy announcement for the show in the previous week's Observer, a good example of the kind of proselytizing among students that built the Dead's reputation.
    This features some of the mythology around the Dead, as passed down on campus - the Dead had gone round the country with the Pranksters "in the late fifties," had been "the first underground rock group to record an LP" back in 1965, and gave free shows "that lasted more than a day" when they felt like it. Apparently their free show in Athens had already become semi-legendary, with tales of mysterious people coming on stage and playing with them. The Dead have their origins in the Beat Generation but are still "pushing ahead of the mainstream," and whatever happens at the show, "it will be an unforgettable experience."