Sep 19, 2019

October 21, 1971: Auditorium Theater, Chicago IL


The Grateful Dead, whose four-hour concerts here last August loomed large among the summer's more welcome musical experiences, returned to the Auditorium Theater last night for more of the same.
Alas, all of them did not make the trip. Ron McKernan, better known for obvious reasons as Pig Pen, is in the hospital with cirrhosis of the liver and was replaced by a keyboard man who could fill his place but not quite his boots. Other than that, things were about the same as they've been every time I've seen the Dead perform - relaxed, yet very much together, with the high points outweighing the times long instrumental segments slip into dullness.
With the Dead came the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a group that - like the Dead - combine country and western with good ol' rock 'n' roll. Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist and vocalist for the Dead, doubles as a New Rider on pedal steel, and to him goes a lot of the credit for the group's sound.
Like their name implies, the NRPS lean most toward country, their material dealing in such things as the "Last Lonely Eagle" or a "Louisiana Lady," with the rock 'n roll thrown in for a change of pace. Last night they got some sparks going with "Willie and the Hand Jive," and maybe they should have done more in that vein. While good enough, their set, particularly at first, wasn't that outstanding - and certainly not as much as their new album, "New Riders of the Purple Sage" had me expecting it might be. Still, they're worth hearing - if only for Garcia's pedal steel work (and there's more to them than that).
A second performance will be held tonight, but it's already sold out. If you don't have a ticket, tho, take heart - the whole thing's being broadcast live over WGLD, beginning at 7:30.

(by Lynn Van Matre, from the Chicago Tribune, 22 October 1971)

* * *


What do musicians learn in two months?
The Grateful Dead played the Auditorium Aug. 23 and 24, so why would they come back, as they did Thursday night, and repeat?
Well, it turned out there was no need to question. For four hours, it was a new concert. I left at an intermission in the Dead's set to meet a deadline, but the Dead crew said the group would do the old numbers in the second half of their set.
The first new thing about the concert was the New Riders of the Purple Sage, which wasn't along last time. Composed of Dead man Jerry Garcia and four friends, the New Riders play a weird kind of country rock, with most of the pleasant songs written and sung by John Dawson.
The vocals are an important element in the New Riders' music, but the PA speakers were aimed badly for those in the front rows, so Dawson's nice lyrics were lost, although the occasional harmony sounded fine. What came through beautifully were the lead guitar of Dave Nelson and Garcia's pedal steel guitar.
Garcia is the showman, starting off badly on a solo but working at it until it turns into something to clap about. But Nelson is taste personified; he acts so insignificant onstage that it's hard to hear all the wonderful little things he's doing unless you close your eyes.
Rounding out the band are ex-Jefferson Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden, unawed by Dawson's simple-complicated numbers, and similarly flexible bassist Dave Torbert. They can get the crowd going with "Willie and the Hand Jive" and "Honky Tonk Women," but the real measure of the group is on unusual numbers like "Louisiana Lady" and "Lost Lonely Eagle."

As for the Dead, the first difference was the absence of Pigpen. Replacing the organist, who's just out of the hospital after treatment for a perforated ulcer, was Keith Godchaux, who plays a hot piano in addition to organ.
The Dead had been rehearsing a whole new set with Godchaux the last month, and Thursday night they played most of them. They show the group is once again changing, this time from the mellow music of their last few albums to classical rock.
Most of the numbers were in between, retaining the country-rock touch, but with more drive and energy. But the final number before intermission, "One More Saturday Night," was straight out of the Elvis-Little Richard-Jerry Lee Lewis songbook. The audience went crazy, turning up the chair seats and dancing in their places and in the aisles.
The Dead started playing their mellow, listening music at a time when audiences wanted to sit down and concentrate. Now it seems that many rock concertgoers can't wait to stand up and jump, and the Dead are into body music again. Could it be a revival for dance halls? 

(by Al Rudis, from the Chicago Sun-Times, 23 October 1971) 

Thanks to Dave Davis.

10/22 & part of 10/21/71 were released on Dave's Picks 3.

See also reviews of the 8/23/71 Chicago show: 

1 comment:

  1. Two short reviews of 10/21/71. The Dead had been frequent visitors to Chicago since 1968. They almost played Chicago in March '71 (but had to cancel when the Syndrome closed), played two dates in August, then another two in October; but then didn't come to Chicago again until 1973.

    Both reviewers notice the new guy on keyboards, and strangely both emphasize the opening New Riders more than the Dead's show. Van Matre was somewhat disappointed in the New Riders, liking their album more, but Rudis found them pleasant enough. His review is unique in saying that Dave Nelson was a better player than Garcia!
    Rudis only watched the first Dead set, leaving early, but he notices all the new songs and senses that the Dead have "more drive and energy" now, and are back to playing rock & roll for dancers after their "mellow" period. He'd seen the Dead in the same theater back in August, so it's interesting he felt they'd changed so much in two months, saying it was "a new concert." The Dead crew tell him, as he leaves, that the second set will feature "the old numbers."

    Van Matre, on the other hand, emphasizes that the Dead are "about the same as they've been every time I've seen [them]," saying only that the show was "relaxed." She stuck around for the second set but clearly didn't appreciate the revival of Dark Star, calling it a low point, a "long instrumental segment [that] slipped into dullness." She'd never been a fan of the Dead's long jams, though.

    Rudis points out that the audience was able to dance a little at this show, unlike in August when they'd been confined to their seats. Blair Jackson, who was at the show, remembers that "the white-gloved, flashlight-wielding, fascistic Andy Frain ushers were harsh disciplinarians. Smoking was out of the question, of course. Even dancing in your seat was forbidden, though I seem to recall they eventually gave us trying to enforce that. Both nights, the house lights were left on partially."

    Van Matre says there will be a live radio broadcast on the 22nd, but it wasn't quite 'live.' Jackson points out that "the 10/21 show was not broadcast on 10/21 because of some sort of last-minute hassle with one of the local unions. Instead, a tape of it was aired the following night, 10/22. It took many years for a tape of 10/22 to surface at all," not until 1999.