GRATEFUL DEAD HAS TURNED MUSICAL
Swift obsolescence is the hangup that haunts most rock bands - burnt out in a year, old-fashioned overnight. But the Grateful Dead, the San Francisco group that played two concerts at the Rock Pile last night, have licked that problem in a simple, logical, straightforward way - they've turned musical.
Three years ago, the Dead were the pre-eminent acid rock band from the west, played frantic, freak-out music, loud, assaulting, scrambled stuff. Exciting? Yeah, right, great, but only the first time around, and after that initial hearing, after the thrill wore off, it was easy to pick out the holes, the dullness in the style.
But last night, as they've been indicating on their records, the Dead revealed a transition into more melodic, more interesting, more lasting music.
They solo with more attention to form, building neatly to climaxes; their rhythms are not so heavy-footed; and their group sound seems less a threatening confrontation, more an involving dialogue.
True enough, they launched the first show last night with a couple of sappy country tunes, poorly conceived and played with all the dripping sincerity of the Sons of the Pioneers. But they began to take care of business on the third number, playing tough, slightly acid, always musical things. The lead guitarist, Jerry Garcia, came on with especially grand solos; he picked incredibly clean lines and he radiated a kind of funky joy.
The rest of their program was nicely varied - a little blues, more country but taken this time with some finesse and wit, and a couple of numbers reminiscent of San Francisco's early rock days. There were a few things to object to - the vocals were almost all lame and badly projected, and their feeling for the blues seemed barely more than surface deep.
But, over the night, they established themselves as one of the heavy rock bands around these days, and they proved that, at least for them, there's an answer to rock obsolescence.
(by Jack Batten, from the Toronto Daily Star, 9 July 1969)
Thanks to Dave Davis.
Alas, no tape!