Jul 16, 2012

March 21, 1970: Capitol Theater, Port Chester


Recently Howie Stein has attempted to make the Capitol Theater in suburban Portchester, N.Y., the Westchester version of the Fillmore. The Capitol is a converted movie theater too. But it is really a better place to hear music.
It is much smaller than the Fillmore, so it is hard to get a bad seat. The staff seems a little less uptight about dancing and milling around, so you can almost dance. The sound system is excellent, and rarely did technical difficulties impair the music. The stage crew, like the Fillmore's, seems to know what they're doing. And no ugly light show, either.
So if you live in Westchester, it is a good place to go. If you live in the city, you have to figure on about $2.00 for the round trip ticket on the Penn Central (formerly New Haven) added to the ticket prices of $5.50 and $4.50. The Capitol, by the way, is right across the street from the train station.
The only drawback I could see was in the audience, even more teenbopper and cretin than the Fillmore's, if possible. This was apparent in the thunderous reaction to the first group, Catfish, at the Saturday late show.
Catfish is one of the most atrocious groups I have ever heard in any musical idiom. The obnoxious lead singer started by going through every nigger cliche that was popular at 135th and Lenox about 15 years ago. Their act is mostly pseudo-blues. The musicianship is shoddy, solos consisting of single notes repeated over and over or simple scales. No inventiveness. Not even a good copy of the real thing. The audience loved it, especially one part which bordered on musical fascism. The obnoxious singer told the audience to "look at the guy next to you," if he wasn't digging them, then "you know where he's at." It would be laughable if not for visions of Altamont which kept flashing in my mind.
But the real reason I was there was to hear the Grateful Dead, and they were beautiful, washing away the bad feelings brought on by the first group. They played for over 2 hours, and did many of their old favorites. Jerry Garcia played some beautiful, lengthy, melodic guitar solos. Garcia and Bob Weir, a very under-rated player, along with bassist Phil Lesh form a cohesive unit which exudes the fact that they like playing. An enjoyment of music seems to be the motivating factor behind the Dead, a fine cloth, woven of the vocal and instrumental lines which neatly overlap and interact.
They did a long sub-set of acoustic songs, particularly Garcia and Weir, and it was an entirely different group, but on the same high musical level. Unfortunately, the audience couldn't appreciate any subtlety at all and bothered them, but the Dead would not compromise with teen appeal and went right on until they were ready to go back to the amps.
In the grand finale, everybody was up and moving, Pigpen did his medley of "Midnight Hour," "Love Light," and their a capella encore was the Pindar Family's "I Bid You Goodnight."
The audience is becoming the major problem with rock concerts, and it has been the mob of punks that has ruined many an evening for me. But last Saturday they couldn't bring me down out of the ecstasy to which the Dead had lifted me.

(by David Reitman, from Rock, April 15 1970)

http://archive.org/details/gd1970-03-21.late.aud.lee.pcrp.21779.shnf (the late show)

1 comment:

  1. Record World ran a brief review of one of these Capitol Theater shows in its 4/4/70 issue:

    "Magic still does exist in rock and roll. This was amply demonstrated by the Grateful Dead in their recent appearance at Howard Stein's Capitol Theater in Portchester. The Dead gave one of their greatest performances, warming up fast and reaching an emotional and cosmic crescendo which had to be witnessed to be believed. The Westchester audience responded ecstatically, standing on their seats, shedding their clothes and dancing till almost dawn. They were preceded by Catfish who also put on an excellent and well received show. The Capitol is comfortable and tasteful. It is a converted movie theater that resembles the Fillmore, happily minus a glaring light show. Stein, who over the summer sponsored the concerts at the Pavilion, seems to have a knack for encouraging good vibrations and good music which no other rock entrepreneur can match."

    This was most likely the 3/21/70 late show, which the rest of the press attended (Howard Stein invited members of the press on a bus trip to the late show, knowing he'd get good notices like this.)