GRATEFUL DEAD CHEERED
"An Evening With the Grateful Dead" may be remembered long and lovingly by the 4,700-plus fans who turned up, then turned on last night in Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium.
They screamed, clapped, stood, stomped, and - during quieter passages - chattered through five hours of excellent rock music by the Dead and by a far-from-dead offshoot of this really viable Marin County morgue, the "New Riders of the Purple Sage."
Most of that teeming, teenish throng stayed to hear the concert end with a literal bang - someone popped a small powder charge onstage during the final chord - just minutes before 1 o'clock this morning.
And, watching the sleep-staring remnants of the crowd as its members contentedly filtered home, many with glazed eyes and near-zombie walks, it came in a flash just who the real grateful dead might be.
The onstage Grateful Dead - two sets of drums; lead, rhythm, and bass guitar, and organ - has a mellowness to its total sound that is surprising in view of its authentic Fillmore-psychedelic origins.
The psychedelia is still there in much of GD's material, but there is less treble, more bass to the sound. And there are heavy excursions into country, western, and flat-out funk.
The crowd dug it all but expended its writhing, jiving energy on the faster, heavy-beat stuff. Under the Dead's tutelage, the audience became a seventh instrument - now lured into a rhythmic frenzy, now calmed by a quieter passage, now stirred to a renewed outburst by some repeated, increasingly insistent musical phrase or other.
The New Riders of the Purple Sage, which opened the evening, is a Grateful Dead offshoot that features the parent group's own talented lead guitarist, Jerry Garcia, on steel guitar.
Augmented by lead, rhythm and bass guitar and a single set of drums, the NRPS group lays down what sounds like nothing short of the newer acoustic trend in rock - except that the guitars, though toned down somewhat, are decidedly electronic. The result is, again, the kind of mellowness that calls the Grateful Dead's own sound to mind.
NRPS's music trip concentrates on the country-western idiom in rock, with heavier emphasis on the country than on the western. Garcia's steel guitar - now soaring, now singing, now sounding like a down-home fiddle - catalyzes the total sound and helps put NRPS across as an excellent, solidly put together group.
It drew the connoisseur's kind of applause - slow-starting, swelling with recognition, finally giving way to the cheers of the converted.
There were no reserved seats for this concert - an unusual feature in the cavernous auditorium where "good" seats are at a premium. Although this led to some "shoehorning" in choice rows and now and then some crowded aisles, there were no observable hassles over seats. The crowd was there for excitement, but from the stage, not the arena.
(by John Hurst, from the Sacramento Bee, 23 December 1970)
Alas, no tape!
Thanks to JGMF.