Mar 1, 2012

February 2, 1970: Fox Theater, St Louis


The Grateful Dead were a long time getting started last night, but they made up for it with a powerful performance that had rock fans dancing in the aisles of the Fox Theater. 
Owsley Stanley, the well-known alchemist, prowled about the stage for an hour after the concert had been scheduled to begin, twisting knobs, cursing microphones, and scowling at the loudspeakers. Stanley built most of the Grateful Dead's massive array of sound equipment, but he was unhappy with the theater's public-address system. 
He must have adjusted everything properly because the sound was just fine, blasting clearly into the far reaches of the second balcony. 
The concert, which was part of the homecoming festivities of St Louis University, got underway with a middling performance by a Chicago group, Aorta. It was not until 10:15 that the Grateful Dead began to play. While waiting, many in the crowd of about 2000 milled around in the neo-Babylonian lobby of the theater. 
The crowd was about half clean-cut students and about half the sort of group one would expect for a concert by the original San Francisco acid rock band - explosions of hair, clothes from the Salvation Army and Goodwill stores. There were few of the boutique bohemians who haunt the more polite rock concerts. 
The Dead opened their set with several songs of a heavy country flavor, including a rollicking version of Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried." At times, Jerry Garcia was twanging away as if he were playing a pedal steel guitar rather than a simple electric one. 
The crowd was pleased but fairly subdued at first. Then, the six-man band began a long, slow blues that featured some electronic games with feedback and tape loops. In the middle of the blues, they broke into the heavy rock spiritual sound of "St. Stephen." A boy near the front leaped to his feet and yelped in approval, and soon most of the rest of the crowd followed suit. 
For the rest of the concert, perhaps another half-hour, the crowd was on its feet, shaking and twisting. Many hands were raised high with the victory sign. 
After a slower number, the Dead came on stronger than ever with a pounding rendition of "Turn On Your Lovelight." Ron (Pigpen) McKernan, a cowboy hat pulled low over his eyes, drove the crowd into a frenzy with his gutsy vocal. The two drummers kept the beat rolling, and Garcia threw in snappy blues asides. 
At the end, in a crescendo of cymbals and screeching guitars, a tall girl in an Afro hair style jumped up on the stage and hugged and kissed "Pigpen." The crowd cheered and screamed for more. 
For an encore the Dead did an a cappella version of "Goodnight." They seemed as happy as everyone else about the way the evening turned out. 
The Fox, which seldom has live performers, seems to be a fine setting for rock concerts. The acoustics are good and the elegantly gaudy decor is perfect. 
The delay was not the fault of the theater staff or the band. Several members of the Grateful Dead were among 19 persons arrested early Saturday at what reportedly was a marijuana party in a New Orleans motel. They and their equipment did not arrive in St Louis until nearly 7 p.m. 

(by Harper Barnes, from the St Louis Post-Dispatch, February 3 1970)  

See also Harper Barnes' 1973 article on Pigpen: (partial show)

February 1970: Fillmore West announcement


The Grateful Dead, Taj Mahal, and Bigfoot will appear at Fillmore West, 1545 Market, Thursday through Sunday, February 5 through 8. Lights will be by Brotherhood of Light.
The Fillmore West dance-concerts begin at 8:30 p.m., end at 2 a.m. Admission is $3 Thursday and Sunday; $3.50 Friday and Saturday.

The Grateful Dead, since 1966 one of San Francisco's best and best-loved bands, are on the charts with their fourth Warner Brothers LP, "Live Dead". The new album, according to Ralph J. Gleason, "far and away the best thing the Dead have offered," includes live tracks which display the spontaneity, improvisational and musical brilliance which characterize the group's in-person performances.
On national tour during much of 1969, the Dead have steadily grown in both popularity and musicianship. And, as Fusion Magazine recently noted, "this is their year. Whether it be from a growing musical acumen on the part of their audience, a starring role in Tom Wolfe's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test", or simply that they are one of the only living reminders of the Summer of Love," Fusion said, "suddenly great gobs of people have turned on the group, giving them a series of packed houses, screaming audiences, and fans whose devotion borders on the mystical."
Prior album releases by the Grateful Dead include: "Grateful Dead", "Anthem of the Sun", and "Aoxomoxoa".

Also on the charts with his third Columbia LP, "Giant Step", is blues specialist Taj Mahal. "Giant Step", a double record set, displays many facets of Taj's musical abilities: as a writer, arranger, singer and musician, a master of both urban and country blues styles. Previously released LPs include "Taj Mahal" and "Nach'l Blues".
Taj's engaging vocals, relaxed stage manner and warm personality have established him as one of rock music's most enjoyable and entertaining performers. A natural musician, he sings and plays guitar, piano, harmonica, bass and several other instruments.
Besides Taj, the group also includes Cherokee Indian Jesse Edwin Davis on lead guitar and keyboards; Gary Gilmore, bass; and Chuck Blackwell, drums.

(from the Fremont News-Register, January 29 1970)

1969: Live/Dead Reviews #2


This flight did not begin on earth, no: Dark Star is an opening poem to the colors from the void. Side one of a total of four begins to this most beautiful of melodic explorations. Even as the band shuffles into position they have departed planet limitations. Phil is propelling even as he prepares to soar, imparting visuals of silent space, probing here, thrusting there, threatening to connect and depart, but first for a moment of self-inspection, yes I is right, Jerry are you there???
The guitar murmurs in sleepy reply as the rhythm flows from in behind the theme and all is motion. Yes, I am here, the sun is always sleepy at dawn, but it is singing in eight minutes. Like a cat awakening, energy is half-scale but a moment before it becomes full-tone. On, then, and the plane is not just one: it is a boggling quantity on an ever-ascending series of plateaus.
Outer space has an infinity of wonders. Like the silken gold flow that must be the passing, in an inaudible distance, of molten fire - the stream of a comet, no a family of comets - the organ is this. And more. It is the color of space, the pure seeingness of purples and scarlets that we see but rarely only because there is so much else to drink.
And there is a terrible vocal, but that is all right, the instrumental voyage is so stunningly beautiful that nothing can obstruct it. The band leads you into constantly unfolding worlds of magic, dark and light, there is no distance, that has lapsed long since, all is within your reach, and all that remains is for you to touch...
The Grateful Dead are a family of diverse powers, but ecstasy is their chief calling. Their fourth album is entitled Live-Dead, a two-record set that collects in one package all the essence of their various beauties. The first side is a boiling radiance of almost excessive melodic joy that furrows the mind for 23 minutes. Jerry wrote Dark Star, and for me it is the ultimate expression of classical aesthetics and balance, fused miraculously into a climbing and darting structure of dynamics that somehow imparts the fervor of rock, while sacrificing none of its exquisite loveliness.
We greet the band's new organist, Tom Constanten, in clearer light than ever before. His involvement has grown and spiraled, at least to my ear, very subtly. Maybe a strange, maybe a wholly mistaken flash, but he appears a magnificently patient man and musician both. His first appearances in the group with public performance were times of patient learning and adjustment (to be sure, still true, but then more so than now). Until the present, when we hear him as an understated energy level, perhaps such because the ensemble emphasis of the Dead is and has always been the guitars. But in Dark Star, when Bob and Jerry retreat to quiet for periodic spells, there is Tom, in easy, airy flow, as tasteful on his instrument as anyone in the band.
Physical presence comes two steps more immediate as everyone wanders into Saint Stephen, gathering its breath within itself only to lose it in a great gasp of power, the magnificent drums marching the path to release from borderlines, tumbling like maverick children down an endless hillside, the guitars singing like sunlight down on them, but yes, quiet again as energies again gather, and the cycle repeats again, then launches itself into full-blown odyssey that is suddenly become The Eleven, which ends the side, but not before you can hear welling up, and then away, the drive of the band into Lovelight.
The flow of these first two sides is like a river that is running up its banks, but almost too slowly to perceive with the eyes, or the ears. You are borne aloft from all-in-harmony softness and color in Dark Star to poetic mischief and underpinned strengths and lulls in St. Stephen to the unceasing waves of The Eleven and its velver hammerheading from both instrumental and vocal perspectives, with the voices in ragged outpourings of earthy masculine ebullience so typical of these incredible human beings, to the first traces of the 15-minute Lovelight excursion.
Which occupies the entire third side, as monstrous as we all expected, with its tidal-strong punctuations and phenomenally eclectic yet individual soloing by Jerry, each musician turning, molding, shaping the directions to travel. Phil hinting at the theme in the middle of some weird digression, almost as though to scold in his freaky way that things are getting loose boys, let's bring it on up, the drummers doing the same when the rhythm tends to lax, tightening things together, everybody caring for everybody and the whole being as pure and as strong as imaginable.
The fourth side I won't speak of. The rest is enough. Death Don't Have No Mercy, Feedback, and Goodnight are the titles, but the other three sides to this gift have drained me dry. There is nothing left to say, it is all too sacred.

(by Raymond Lang, from the "Viola" column in the Daily Californian, January 20 1970)

* * *


This album is truly beautiful. It consists of a non stop, four side, live set by the Grateful Dead; excellently packaged and presented. In all ways it is the definitive Dead album, in which the Dead prove themselves to be one of those groups, who, in common with the Jefferson Airplane and The Band, are able to play together with almost supernatural rapport and empathy.
In terms of material, the album contains a fifteen minute version of 'Turn on your Love Light' (an amazing piece of rock and roll improvisation), a twenty-three minute version of 'Dark Star', a Rev. Gary Davis blues, 'Death don't have no Mercy', 'Saint Stephen', 'The Eleven', 'We bid you Goodnight', and 'Feedback', an eight minute track which is exactly what the title claims.

(by Mick Farren, from the International Times (London), 27 February 1970)

* * *


I wasn't expecting too much from this, having been bored silly by the Dead on their previous three albums. But all the fuss is clarified on this double-album, recorded in person, which allows them to stretch out and take their time layin' the licks down.
'Dark Star' is almost worth the price of the album, as Phil Lesh brings his bass guitar up to join the guitars of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir in the front line for some surprisingly delicate and inventive interplay.
Pigpen gets off some nice backup organ behind the stunning Garcia on 'Death Don't Have No Mercy', while the unusual choice of 'Turn On Your Lovelight' works well. Listening to this, you can glimpse what all the fuss has been about.

( by Richard Williams, from Melody Maker, 14 March 1970)