Aug 26, 2013

August 18, 1970: Fillmore West


The musical family that plays together stays together, and though the Fillmore West is billing its current show "An Evening with the Grateful Dead," it should be "Jerry Garcia and his Musical Family."
From 8:30 p.m. until 2 a.m., three "Grateful Dead" groups stretch out on the Fillmore stage with good long sets. First, a folkish, mostly acoustic hootenanny-style contingent, then the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a country-western flavored Dead offspring, and finally for two hours, the good ol' original everlovin' Grateful Dead.
In each group the axis around which the sounds revolve is steady, devoted Jerry Garcia. First on acoustic, then on pedal steel, finally on electric amplified, Garcia's phenomenal guitar prowess is amply demonstrated.
I have never enjoyed any of our San Francisco rock groups more than the Grateful Dead set I heard last night. Its pace was relaxed but not irresponsibly so. Each number was tight, fully musical, and unbelievably more competent and professional than used to be the case with the Dead.
In many bands I find one drummer too much, but the Dead's double-drum team, Micky Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, are so beautifully integrated with one another (and the group) that strange and wonderous things are constantly happening. Hart's exuberance is matched by Kreutzmann's solid percussion foundations.
Bob Weir has developed into an attractive vocalist with a remarkably clear and controlled voice. He's no slouch, either, as a guitarist, but his vocal stance deserves the highest commendation.
Throbbing away behind all this is bassist Phil Lesh, with higher audio standards and fuller control of his instrument than most musicians would believe possible.
So it goes. Pigpen's organ playing now blends into the Dead ensemble with assurance (it used to be like a sore thumb) and he's singing well, adding quite often to some of the wild background effects the Dead have developed.
The Dead are just great live.
The New Riders country band are a mixed bag. Besides Garcia, bassist Dave Torbert and guitarist Dave Nelson (who also sings second parts) were outstanding on the set I heard. Front singer John "Marmaduke" Dawson was having a rough night...perhaps too much singing, too strained.

(by Philip Elwood, from the San Francisco Examiner, August 19 1970)

Thanks to


  1. Mr. Elwood makes some strange comments in his short piece.He seems to say he leans toward an economical approach to drumming and then praises the bombast which was the Dead tandem.He goes on to say that Weir's vocals are praise worthy.As for Lesh he makes puzzling comments about "higher audio standards" and "control of his instrument".A really odd review,although strangely enough he does seem to get it on some level.

  2. Here's Elwood's obituary:

    1. Thanks for taking the time to link the obituary Andrew,it was an interesting read.