Jun 4, 2020

December 22, 1970: Memorial Auditorium, Sacramento CA


"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.

1 comment:

  1. A short review of the last lost Dead show of 1970.
    Hurst was an older reporter who evidently knew little of the Dead except that they used to be a psychedelic band at the Fillmore. You can generally tell a reporter's distance from the Dead's music by the number of jokes they get from the band's name - several in this case, including the "Marin County morgue" and the zombie-like "real grateful dead" audience.
    At least he lasted through the entire five hours (8pm-1am), calling the music "excellent," and noting that the show ended with a bang of pyrotechnics on the stage. (A standard conclusion for a show that year.) He doesn't say much of the Dead's material except to express surprise that they're more mellow and country than he expected. They even do "flat-out funk!" It's unclear what, if anything, he'd heard of theirs before, since he doesn't name a single song.
    He devotes more space to the New Riders - now here was a band he could embrace! Mellow acoustic country rock with pretty steel guitar, without the "faster heavy-beat stuff" the Dead did. Now this was an "excellent" group for "connoisseurs," converting the crowd.
    He pays close attention to the young "teenish" audience and their behavior, and their responsiveness to the bands. It sounds like the Dead, as usual, had their way with the audience, which "became a seventh instrument" roused to a frenzy and final exhaustion.

    One "mind blown" attendee on dead.net recalls, "The Dead had an incredible electric energy about them, the crowd was wild with jumping and arms in the air. I was transported forever...no other music has captured me like that first time." Another witness, also a first-time attendee, was confused at first to see Garcia with the New Riders. "After the Dead's first set, I asked for a ride home until I was told this was just the beginning."
    The Dead weren't strangers to Sacramento, having played there a year before (and earlier), so some knew what to expect. Despite many first-timers in the audience, it's likely there were also others who'd seen them in other shows elsewhere that year and were familiar with the two-set "Evening With" format which was becoming the Dead standard. The reporter notes that most of the audience stayed until the end (the show was on a Tuesday, but probably the majority were on school break).

    The full setlist isn't known. Deadlists reports these Dead songs:
    SET 1
    Till The Morning Comes
    Dire Wolf
    Sugar Magnolia
    Casey Jones
    SET 2
    Dancing In The Street
    Turn On Your Love Light