DEAD, 'NEW' FISH GIVE SOLID SETS
NEW YORK - Two pillars of the underground scene, the Grateful Dead and Country Joe & the Fish, gave strong solid sets at Fillmore East at the first show on Sept. 27.
Country Joe McDonald, with only lead guitarist Barry Melton left from his original group, stuck to music for the most part instead of the shock value obscenities that so often marked his unit's work in the past. There was still some clowning around, especially well into the set, as Melton played and sang while writhing on the stage. Later, McDonald did the same.
There still was some off-color material too, but this was more effective because the audience wasn't constantly beaten over the head with it. Vanguard recorded the weekend proceedings and the label should have much good material to choose from.
The three new members of the Fish all were excellent with Mark Kapner a standout on keyboards. Kapner also sang a camp number with ukulele, which he eventually burned. Kapner also joined McDonald, who sang the title song of a forthcoming Danish film, which will never hit radio. On this, and another selection from the film, McDonald accompanied himself only on acoustic guitar. Both McDonald and Melton will be featured on Vanguard albums as solo performers.
Rock of a vintage variety was offered by Buddah's Sha Na Na, a 12-man group composed mainly of Columbia University students, including three in gold lame. The unit's gentle satires of such numbers as "Teen Angel," "Silhouettes," "At the Hop," etc. are fun to watch as every gesture and pose in the book are used. But, as with really good satire, the numbers are sung and played so well, Sha Na Na may prove a disk surprise.
The Grateful Dead, a pioneer of the San Francisco sound, have added country to their blues and psychedelic elements and the blend worked well. The Warner Bros.-Seven Arts septet has not developed a visual act, but, when things are working well, as they did during the set, the Dead has a euphoric effect that has drawn the unit a legion of devoted fans.
The set ranged from straight country as in "Mama Tried" to the blues encore "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," the former with bass guitarist Phil Lesch producing a good country vocal sound, and the latter with Ron (Pig Pen) McKernan at his vocal best. Lead guitarist Jerry Garcia also had [a] good set as did organist Tom Constanten and rhythm guitarist Robert Weir. The dependable work of drummers William Kreutzman and Mickey Hart was ideal in the country tunes.
(by Fred Kirby, from Billboard, 11 October 1969)
See also this review and the extensive comments:
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DYLAN IN N.Y.? WELL, WHY NOT
NEW YORK - Bob Dylan is alive and well and living in (would you believe?) Greenwich Village. Or so last week-end's best rumor has it - that he's bought two adjacent houses in the same neighborhood where he got his start back in the beatnik-folk-singer days.
Dylan as a New Yorker comes as quite a surprise, but he's been showing up everywhere around there lately, from the Fillmore to Washington Square (where they have the outdoor folk jams).
One keeps wondering what change Dylan will put his followers thru next. There aren't many folksingers turned protester turned rock poet turned recluse turned country balladeer turned pop-schlock jukebox fodder around, you know.
But he told reporters after his appearance at the Isle of Wight festival that he planned to get back into the personal appearance circuit. And New York's as good a place as any to get started again.
A couple of other performers who had dropped from the scene in recent months also showed themselves very much alive and well in appearances here last week.
Country Joe MacDonald reappeared at the Fillmore with a new set of Fish, retaining only guitarist Barry Melton from the old group. Joe is, thank heavens, making music again instead of his protest gibberish, which had gotten just too smug to be believed.
But there's no group around capable of laying down such driving, melodic lines as the Fish when they're really together. And they were Friday night.
But being "together" and being relaxed aren't always the same thing, as evidenced by former Lovin' Spoonful member John Sebastian's solo gig at the Bitter End. Sebastian put on a low-key, folksy show, dressed in bleached-out psychedelic-splattered denims, but it wasn't exactly the kind of performance (as a visiting friend from Chicago put it) that would make you want to go out and buy John Sebastian records.
He said things like "I feel about as local as a fish in a tree," and the audience laughed a lot. But musically the show just wasn't there.
Equally as jagged and sloppy was the new country sound of The Grateful Dead, also on the bill with the Fish at the Fillmore. After about an hour they finally got things together, returning to their old driving, hard rock bag. But that first hour.
There's no excuse for a group as talented as The Dead are to dish out such an amateurish start to a show - and this is the third time I've seen them do it. If it takes them an hour to warm up, they'd better find a loft someplace down the block in which to do so.
Unfortunately a lot of garbage is being sanctioned under the label of "country-rock." At least we have a few first rate groups like the Flying Burrito Bros. (also in town last week-end, for concert with the not-so-good Byrds in Carnegie Hall) and Crosby-Stills-Nash-Young (who had a brilliant New York debut the week-end before at the Fillmore) to prove that it doesn't have to be disconnected slop.
(by Robb Baker, from the Chicago Tribune, 30 September 1969)
Thanks to Dave Davis.