GRATEFUL DEAD MAKE ROCK FANS COME ALIVE
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.
CROWD MILLS AROUND
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.
BOY STARTS IT
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.
SCREAMS FOR MORE
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: https://deadsources.blogspot.com/2021/09/placeholder-ii.html
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-02-02.sbd.cotsman.17809.sbeok.shnf (partial show)