Mar 22, 2017

November 16, 1970: Fillmore East, NYC


The concert was announced at the late show Saturday night; tickets went on sale Sunday noon, and were sold out Sunday evening, showing the popularity of the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. The two bands, the best that came out of San Francisco, had never played together in New York before. But the Airplane had a concert cancelled, and the Dead were in town, so Bill Graham scheduled the two together for last Monday night. Unfortunately, only half the Airplane showed up, but even so there was more than enough music to last for eight hours.
At 8:30 Bill Graham announced the New Riders of the Purple Sage who travel with the Dead, and for whom Jerry Garcia plays pedal steel guitar. They played their country western music very smoothly and tightly, playing most of the songs they usually do in concert - "Truck Driving Man," "Last Lonely Eagle," "Dirty Business," and ending, as almost always, with "Honkey Tonk Women."
In "Dirty Business," Jerry Garcia produced sounds that have to rank among the weirdest in the world, making wailing feedback noises with a wah-wah on his pedal steel guitar. By the time they played "Honkey Tonk Women," everyone was on his feet, dancing and clapping.
The audience was enthusiastic for Hot Tuna - Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane on guitar and bass, and Will Scarlett playing harmonica. Normally, Joey Covington of the Airplane plays drums, but since he had burned his hands, they had another drummer for the night. While the New Riders play country music, Hot Tuna is deeply rooted in the blues tradition. They play songs by Mississippi John Hurt, Furry Lewis, and Reverend Gary Davis, songs like "Candyman," "Windin' Boy Blues," and "The Midnight Special."
With Kaukonen, as usual, playing acoustic guitar, they started with "Know Your Rider." However, he then switched to electric guitar, and introduced a new member of his band, Poppa John, playing electric violin. Poppa John was immediately the star of the show. He stood swaying back and forth, his mouth half open, his violin seeming to be a part of his body. When he played a solo, his phrases soared and swooped, and wailed above Kaukonen's powerful guitar lines.
At one moment he would sound like Jimmy Page, at the next like Sugarcane Harris, then like nobody but himself, ending his lead on a screeching note that faded into the progression again. They returned to the traditional as they finished with "Hesitation Blues," showing off Kaukonen's finger-picking blues guitar style.
The Dead are the tightest band in the world. From the very first note of "Casey Jones," everything was in place and under control. Bob Weir holds everything together above the double drumming of Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. Jerry Garcia swirls guitar phrases among Phil Lesh's syncopated bass lines, and Pigpen plays organ and sings.
They played dance music - "Casey Jones," "Not Fade Away," "Good Lovin'," and old rock and roll by Chuck Berry. During their set Steve Winwood came onstage and played organ, and Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi sang. All the while the Dead never got distracted. After three hours of playing, they finished with the most vocally tight version of Uncle John's Band I have ever heard.
Afterward, Hot Tuna jammed for another hour, finally ending what was for New York unfortunately a very unique concert, one where excellent musicians just get together and play.

(by Chris Ross, from the Daily Princetonian, 23 November 1970)

1 comment:

  1. I'm posting this a little out of order, since I was excited to find this. I was looking in the Princeton University papers for a review of the 4/17/71 show - unfortunately didn't find one, but was surprised to find this excellent review of the 11/16/70 surprise show at the Fillmore East.

    Deadlists writes: "According to Corry Arnold on 11/14/70 at the Fillmore East after Frank Zappa's performance, Grace Slick came on stage and announced on behalf of Bill Graham that the Dead and the Airplane would be playing a surprise concert at the Fillmore East on Monday, November 16th. On the 16th the very pregnant Slick was unable to make the gig but Hot Tuna substituted for the Airplane. This is why this show does not appear in ads and playbills etc."

    Ross was an ideal reviewer - giving the background to the show, describing it set by set, naming performers and songs, and even giving times. He was especially impressed by Papa John Creach, who was new to audiences.
    Ross had clearly been to Dead shows before - he knows the New Riders' usual setlist, and mentions that Uncle John was "the most vocally tight version I have ever heard." Definitely a fan.
    "The Dead are the tightest band in the world" is a statement that might raise eyebrows, but I've seen the same claim in a number of 1970 show reviews.
    He was a bit mistaken that the Airplane & the Dead hadn't played together in New York before (they had, in a May '68 free Central Park show).

    I don't know whether the NRPS or Hot Tuna sets were also taped by the Fillmore crew, but one person who's seen the original reels writes, "A 1:55 snippet of Hot Tuna playing Hesitation Blues precedes the Dead's show on the first generation 10" reel." (Note that Hesitation Blues is named as the last song in Hot Tuna's set in this review.)

    Traffic was in town to play at the Fillmore on Nov 18-19. (This wasn't their first time with the Dead, as Garcia had guested with them at a San Francisco free show in March '68.)
    Ross notes that Winwood, Capaldi & Wood all guested in the Dead's set, but doesn't name other guests, nor does he mention whether Garcia jammed with Hot Tuna in the final set, an odd omission; but we know at least Papa John & Will Scarlett played with the Dead. Unfortunately no tape of the final jam set is known.

    From the review, it's clear the Dead played longer than we have on tape, even if "three hours" might be an exaggeration. Ross lists Good Lovin' (which we have a partial AUD fragment of) and a Chuck Berry song, which was probably the newly-debuted Around & Around. He also says that Casey Jones opened the Dead's set, and Uncle John closed, as on our tape - so maybe a reel went missing from the middle of the set; or possibly he remembered the other songs from the final jam set. (Hot Tuna played Around & Around two other times with the Dead in Nov '70.)