Dec 2, 2020

December 1, 1971: Music Hall, Boston


Last night at the Music Hall Theater, the Grateful Dead and the New Riders of the Purple Sage fell flat on their collective country-western, rock and roll faces in one of the most evenly bland concerts since Crosby/Nash last warm-milked their way into Boston. 
The New Riders of the Purple Sage were the first course served up to the sellout (both tonight and last night) audience. They specialize in country rock, and heavy on the country-western, please. 
The first number was "Truckstop." Pedal steel wailing, nasal voices whining, this truck driver lament never should have been let in from the cold. A bar and grill dirge called "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Loud Music" followed, and I began to wonder about all the great things that had been said about this group. Finally, with a slight change of material, a rock-roll transfusion and a prayer, things started to pick up. There were still a few country duds, but Ricky Nelson's "Hello Mary Lou, Goodbye Heart," Chuck Berry's "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," and Johnny Otis's "Hand Jive" sounded surprisingly fresh with the group's country arrangement. 
That was that for the New Riders. Around half-past nine, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, et al, wandered on stage. 
Hoping for an event, expecting a great concert, I was all set for their first number, which turned out to be "Truckin'" from "Workingmen's Dead," one of their better albums. A fairly good opener, I awaited more. "Sugar Lee," sung and guitared by Jerry Garcia, aroused me to such adjectives as "boring" and "monotonous," as did the next three undistinguished unnamed numbers. 
Although it was nearing the time I would have to leave, I decided to stick it out for a few more songs, figuring it couldn't get much worse, and fortunately I was right. 
A song that appeared to be called "Ain't It Crazy" was a relief from the heavy country flavor of the night with a distinct bluesy roll to it. "Tennessee" proved to be fair and "El Paso" (Marty Robbins's best known cowboy song) succeeded where the Riders' rock-roll had earlier. 
There was undoubtedly more, as the Dead are infamous for the great length of their concerts, but luckily I had to leave. It had been disappointing listening to their reputation, and I hope they start playing up to it real soon.
(by Michael Nicholson, from the Boston Globe, 2 December 1971) 
* * * 
Anyone who attended the first concert of the Grateful Dead's two-night stand at the Music Hall last week and then heard the next evening's performance "live" over WBCN-FM has to wonder why he shelled out six bucks to see the real thing. The radio version - with good stereo separation - was superb, while hearing the Dead in person was, by comparison, like listening to music while inside a barrel. And - unlike most Dead concerts and WBCN "live" broadcasts - it started on time. 

On the bill with the Grateful Dead were the New Riders of the Purple Sage, who evolved from the Dead and at one time included three of its members (Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart). The band is now comprised of all non-Dead folks, but still uses the same San Francisco offices as its better-known counterpart and has toured exclusively with them. "All our exposure has been at the hands of the Grateful Dead, and I can't deny that we've used it to gain notoriety," New Riders' lead singer John Dawson told us here. He added that the band had plans to go it alone in the near future. Hmmm.
(by Nathan Cobb, from the Boston Globe, 12 December 1971)
Thanks to Dave Davis.

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1 comment:

  1. A couple short reviews from the Boston Globe. Nicholson was very disappointed. He only liked the New Riders' rock & roll numbers, and didn't like the Dead much at all, feeling most of their songs were boring & monotonous. He apparently left before they even finished the first set, thereby missing the jamming/rock & roll part of the show, which he might have liked. He seems not to have cared for country music much, and naturally wondered how this bland country-rock group got such a good reputation.
    He says Truckin' was on Workingman's Dead, a small error, but it shows he at least knew their albums somewhat. If anyone been hoping for more material from "one of their better albums," they'd have a long wait - the Dead were so full of new material they only played 2 songs off their last 2 albums in the show.
    This was Pigpen's first night back after a couple months' absence from the stage. He took it easy with three short tunes, but this reviewer at least appreciated the bluesy "relief from the heavy country flavor." (When Mr. Charlie starts, one guy on the AUD tape says "Yeah, all right!")

    No SBD of the first set circulates, only an AUD which (as the second article puts it) is "like listening to music from inside a barrel," with a rowdy Boston crowd. It's still a decent AUD for '71, the band's pretty clear, a high-energy tape for sure. El Paso (which even Nicholson liked) gets a big cheer.
    The first night in Boston got the big Other One. The second night was broadcast on WBCN, no big jam that evening but they stretched out on a couple Pigpen numbers. The second article points out that the music sounded much better on the radio (in wide stereo!) than it did in the Music Hall.