Feb 27, 2018

January 2-3, 1970: Fillmore East, NYC


FILLMORE EAST, N.Y. - This rock emporium hosted one of its less spectacular shows last weekend. On the bill were Grateful Dead, fresh from a non-playing engagement at the bad scene Rolling Stones concert in California; Cold Blood, a new group from San Francisco; and the Canadian-based Lighthouse, making its Fillmore debut.
Drummer Skip Prokop and his 13 man Lighthouse group got the proceedings under way. These RCA Victor artists are obviously talented musicians, yet somehow their set failed to catch fire. A curiously atypical Fillmore audience, with a sizeable proportion of tourists, didn't exactly help matters, nor did a medley of Beatle songs employing what was basically the original arrangements, which worked fine for the renowned foursome but were hardly designed for this baker's dozen.
The real excitement of the evening was the appearance of Lydia Pense, lead singer of Cold Blood. Much will be written in days to come of Lydia's resemblance, both physically and vocally, to Janis Joplin. It would be unfortunate if this similarity were to distract audiences from this girl's clear and dynamic talent. She is no imitator; she brings her individual approach to each song and the results are explosive. At the Fillmore, she transcended an instrumental back-up which was disjointed and lacking in real enthusiasm. She was especially memorable on the current charter "You Got Me Hummin'" and the eloquent "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free."
Grateful Dead showed up to offer an undistinguished set, plagued by faulty amps, a malady which is getting to be the rule rather than the exception at their appearances. Except for their "Alligator" which was loose and occasionally imaginative, they merely played their instruments and left at the appointed time.

(by e.k., from Cashbox, 17 January 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

https://archive.org/details/gd1970-01-03.137559.sbd.miller.flac1648 (early show)

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NEW YORK - The triple header program of Lighthouse, Cold Blood, and Grateful Dead, at Fillmore East Jan. 2-3, kicked the '70's off to a groovy start at this New York mecca of rock music. The three bands, rich in talent and coordination, individual in style, turned in a three-hour concert which can easily be rated among the best ever staged for discerning Fillmore audiences.
Setting the pace was Lighthouse, a 13-member group, which utilizes strings, brass, and percussion instruments, to produce a unique and thoroughly enjoyable rock sound with distinct baroque undertones not often found in underground music.
The group, on RCA records, is comprised of talented and very professional musicians who, one suspects, would be as much at home playing in a symphony orchestra as they were on the Fillmore stage. The only weak spot of their very successful Fillmore debut was the excessive length of some of their solo pieces, which detracted somewhat from their overall performance.
Lighthouse was followed by Cold Blood, on San Francisco Records. This nine-member outfit with a blues/rock beat, featured a big brass sound and a diminutive lead singer that is a combination of Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, and Ten Wheel Drive's Genya Raven.
She stole the spotlight with a very well-rehearsed act which included the old gospel standard, "I Wish I Knew How It Feels To Be Free," and the Rolling Stones hit, "I Want to Make Love to You."
The evening's piece de resistance came from Grateful Dead. No strangers to New York audiences, the Warner Bros. artists were their usual professional selves, serving up a dish of cool and groovy fare that was in sharp contrast to their forerunners. Basically a folk-rock outfit, the seven-member band, with Ron McKernan on vocals, is versatile and original without being theatrical. Its evening's repertoire included many tunes from its recently released album, "Live/Dead."

(from Billboard, 17 January 1970)

https://archive.org/details/gd70-01-02.early-late.sbd.cotsman.18120.sbeok.shnf (late show)

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THILM  (excerpt)

How many times will people say they are grateful for The Dead...?
As long as they'll play for us, probably. The Grateful Dead came to New York and The Fillmore seemed like the Peaceable Kingdom for a while (not Ruthann Friedman's, I don't care what her hype says or even if The Dead feel that way, should they happen to feel that way). This is a fan letter: Hi, Grateful Dead. I love you I love me, Thou art God and we can both grok that. See you later.
The rest of the Fillmore show was Cold Blood and Lighthouse. Unfortunately I missed them. Cold Blood's album, if that is any standard, does not make me sorry I missed them. The album is on Atlantic/Fillmore label, San Francisco (just for the record...ouch). Lighthouse I haven't heard since those great ads, "Hi! I'm Jeni Dean and I'm a super-groupie and I want to tell you about a new group..." etc. Cold Blood sounds like it might be Blood Sweat and Tears (echh) until the lead singer Lydia Pense begins to wail like Janis Joplin, and she is quite good, on LP. If she projects in person, there might be something. (Isn't this a nice conclusive commentary?) The brass is absurd, however, making the sound veer between Glenn Miller pachanga and 3rd-class, lower case soul revue nite.

(by Lita Elicu, from the East Village Other, 28 January 1970) 

See also: http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2015/08/january-2-1970-fillmore-east-nyc.html  


  1. A couple reviews of these Fillmore East shows from the national music-industry magazines; these are short but look at the whole evening's show rather than focusing on the Dead.
    They have very different reactions - Cash Box calls it "one of the less spectacular shows" at the Fillmore, but Billboard calls it "among the best ever." The discrepancy may come in part from the reporters being at different shows - the Cash Box reporter saw the Jan. 3 early show (with 'Alligator'), the Billboard reporter saw the Jan. 2 late show (with the Live/Dead sequence).

    Lydia Pense seems to have been the highlight for both reporters - this Cold Blood concert video gives an idea; it's from three years later but has a couple of the same songs mentioned here:

    The Dead must have stood out on the program, coming after a couple big horn bands (Billboard says they were "a sharp contrast"). Again, the reporters disagree - Billboard calls the Dead "their usual professional selves" with "cool and groovy fare...versatile and original," but Cash Box groused that they were "undistinguished" and, as usual, "plagued by faulty amps."
    Granted, the Dead's early shows at the Fillmore were confined to less than an hour - it must have been a disappointment for the audience when the Dead, as reported, "left at the appointed time" - whereas the late shows could be at least two-hour extravaganzas.
    Note that Pigpen is the only singer mentioned in the Dead - he was still considered the "lead" in the group.

  2. I added a short piece from an East Village Other columnist who went to a Fillmore show. Loved the Dead, missed the openers, didn't say much about the show. But I was tickled by the notion of the Dead as God descending on the Fillmore and turning it into the Peaceable Kingdom, where all love all.

    1. From another EVO article:
      "The Grateful Dead are seven of the most together musicians that play together... Stephen Stills now lives near the Marin county ranch where the Dead are, and is producing their next album. Any of you who heard the Dead's Fillmore concerts this weekend may have noticed the tight vocals, the three voices (Garcia, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir) in soaring harmony...that's Stills, and Garcia is very happily into it. The set I heard was brought to a close by a most remarkable song, "Uncle John's Band", lyrical with Band influences as well as Stills'. If it sounded awkward sometimes it's because some of the songs are only two weeks old...
      "With the Dead were Mr. Graham's proteges, Cold Blood. "Good music continues to come out of San Francisco," Bill said as he introduced them. They are very good musicians. Their lead singer, Lydia Pense, is overwhelmingly similar to someone whose first name is Janis, a lot sweeter. Also there was Lighthouse, a 12 man group with horns, winds, and of all things an electric string section, violin, viola and cello (2 of them). Can I report a whole new departure? Unfortunately, not at all. But they did a version of that soul-shaking masterpiece from the Band's first album, Robertson's 'Chest Fever'..."
      (James Lichtenberg, "Dark Star," East Village Other 1/21/70)