PIONEERS BECOME THE COMMON 'DEAD'
It seems like only yesterday that a San Francisco rock group with the then-unusual name of the Grateful Dead began making music that was so hypnotic and innovative that it eventually recharged the batteries of the lifeless and tinsel-coated world of rock and roll music.
Only yesterday - remember? The Avalon Ballroom, the original Fillmore Auditorium, Janis Joplin, Gracie Slick, Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe, and the earliest acid rock pioneers, Jerry Garcia and the Dead.
If you went to the Syndrome Friday night and expected the same kind of excitement the Grateful Dead used to produce in a live concert four or five years ago, you were disappointed. What was creative and tradition-breaking then is commonplace now, and the Dead really haven't changed their style much in that four or five years' time.
Let's face it: four or five years in the rock music world is a whole generation grown from high school kids to college graduates with jobs and even families.
Still, the Dead managed to pull in enough fans to fill up the rickety old Coliseum at 15th Street and Wabash Avenue, and everybody seemed to be having a great time. The Dead's clear, heavy beat is great for a live audience because it always inspires people to shake, vibrate, stamp their feet, or jump up and down, particularly during Garcia's electrifying flights of fancy during lead guitar sequences. He has few equals when it comes to flashy, polished guitar playing.
But his vocals and those of Bob Weir never did amount to much (it would be nice if you could comprehend at least an occasional word of the lyrics), and the bass, organ and drum accompaniment all sounds the same after a few sets.
Of course, they're caught with a built-in critical disadvantage. They were the pioneers of much of today's rock, and everybody that has followed has improved on it a little bit, each taking away a little bit of the Dead's original excitement. It was a good show, but it didn't chart any new musical territories, not like the Avalon Ballroom in 1966. Maybe that's why it seems so long ago.
The warmup act was a group called the New Riders of the Purple Sage; as the name implies, they rode the range between rock music and country and western. The closer they got to pure country music, the better it was, to the point of sounding a little like Buck Owens and the Buckaroos.
The best set, surprisingly, was an impromptu instrumental ballad struck up while the lead singer restrung his guitar. It gave the Hawaiian guitar player a chance to show off his really excellent country style. They could use that style to their advantage - it would also help if they would please turn the volume down a bit.
(by Roy Petty, from the Chicago Tribune, 30 November 1970)
Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com
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