Nov 19, 2020

April 7, 1971: Music Hall, Boston MA

The Grateful Dead rose again before a packed and ecstatic audience last night at the Music Hall. Tonight they will perform part two of their Boston engagement. 
Diminutive Marmaduke, of the "Riders of the Purple Sage," kicked off the evening with an hour-long set of fine Country flavored music. As usual Jerry Garcia, the Dead's lead guitarist, joined Sage on an abbreviated, pedal-steel guitar. 
Some of the Dead fans claimed to be from as far away as Baltimore and San Francisco, proclaiming that they have never missed a Dead concert. Craig Robert said, "I only go back to Johns Hopkins for exams, and then only if they don't conflict with a Dead concert..." 
At nine, the Dead walked on, opening with "Truckin." Drummer Mickey Hart was noticeably absent, and the rhythm was maintained by second drummer, Bill Kreutzman. 
The lead vocals were equally shared by Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, throughout the incredible 2 1/2 hour set. Pigpen occasionally came from behind his organ to offer a blues or soul standard. Phil Lesh played bass and backed Garcia and Weir on vocals. 
Since emerging as one of the original San Francisco, acid-rock bands, the Dead have evolved to a refined country sound which stresses vocals and two part harmony. They have that country twang but combined with a surging rock strength. 
The sound was impeccable, and the Dead brought along their own tie-died bank of amplifiers. Even down front, there was not a shred of distortion, and the vocals were absolutely clear. 
The long evening of music presented dozens of Dead tunes stressing their latest country sound, although they did turn back the clock to answer a request for "Saint Stephen." 
Most interesting was their rendering of the Kristofferson hit "Me and Bobby McGhee." Garcia beautifully twisted the melody into a new form which had a distinctly different flavor than Janis Joplin's rendering. 
At the end of the set, the entire house was dancing to a medley of old rockers that brought it all back home with Chuck Berry's "Johnnie B Good." 
The group will be back tonight with more incredible rock and roll at the Music Hall.
(by Charles Giuliano, from the Boston Herald, 8 April 1971) 
Thanks to Dave Davis. 


  1. A positive professional review. Giuliano, the rock critic for the Boston Herald, reads like an old hand at show reviews, giving a detailed and balanced overview of the evening without revealing much of his own opinion of the Dead, except that they were "incredible." He seems to like the country material most, Bobby McGee in particular. The sound system is also praised: "the vocals were absolutely clear...not a shred of distortion." The audience, as usual, is "packed and ecstatic" and dancing.

    The Dead started late and had to play a relatively short one-set show - as Garcia explains at the end, "Because of the curfew stuff we have to knock off. I'm sorry, see you later."
    But our tape of the show is incomplete. Giuliano says the show started with Truckin' and there's no reason to doubt him. The tape starts with Weir saying, "Now we're going to change a broken string here," and after the pause they continue with Me & My Uncle, which obviously isn't the start of the show. The tape is about 100 minutes, and Giuliano writes that the Dead's set was 2-1/2 hours with "dozens of Dead tunes," so we could be missing a considerable amount at the start.
    (An unfortunate tapecut also cuts short the highpoint of the show, an out-of-nowhere surprise jam after St. Stephen.)

    Repeat Dead concertgoers had sometimes been noticed in earlier articles, but this is one of the first to highlight fans traveling across the country to see the Dead, "proclaiming that they have never missed a Dead concert." Many deadheads of later years will recognize the college student who came 400 miles to see the show and brags, "I only go back to [school] for exams, and then only if they don't conflict with a Dead concert."

  2. This particular reviewer regularly noted that Garcia played an "abbreviated pedal steel guitar" with the NRPS. And somewhere I have a quote from someone saying his had fewer strings that some did. Can anyone shed any light on this?

    1. Hmmm... As far as I know Garcia's pedal steels weren't customized in any way; and a reviewer probably wouldn't be able to count the strings in any case. So I can shed no light here. Maybe Giuliano just meant to say that Garcia's solos on pedal steel were shorter than expected.

  3. I don't think so. Somewhere someone commented on some aspect of Garcia's pedal steel work as involving less than a real pro, like at the level of instrumentation or technique or something, and it aligns with this. I will see if I can find what I am thinking of.

  4. Wasn't Jerry's pedal steel with NRPS originally a two neck job but he soon decided that he didn't use the second neck so it was removed? I can't remember where I read that.

    1. What he played on 8/1/69 was definitely double neck - he talks about it. So if his later rig is single neck, that would probably explain it. Is that what pix show? I don't really keep up well with pictures or gear.

    2. As far as I can tell from pictures, he kept playing standard double-neck pedal steel models through '71.

    3. I believe the answer to be that his ZB originally had the double neck (C6 and E9 tunings), but he dismantled the C6 neck. By ca. early '71 "I just use the E9 neck and the three pedals to raise the tone and two levers to lower it" (Stuckey 1971, 37). h/t JGBP

    4. RoG you were right! See my reply to LIA above.

    5. That's certainly what Garcia says in that interview, from winter '71:
      "Mine started out as the standard double neck with ten strings on each neck, C6 and E9 tunings, and eight pedals and two levers. I’ve dismantled the C6 neck, because I’m just not into the C6 tuning."
      The thing is, there's no photo evidence for that. Of course there are few photos of Garcia's pedal steel from above, but in photos from late '70 (in the studio), March '71 & April '71 the standard double neck is intact, with strings and all. Same with the second pedal steel he got in spring '71.
      So my guess is that either he only took one neck off for a brief period, or maybe it was just an aspirational statement (like, say, playing electric banjo in '67). It's telling that, even though he says he has no use for the C6 neck, it's still strung in all the photos.