AT THE FILLMORE
ONE STONED EVENING WITH THE DEAD
'And as we stand on the edge of eternal darkness, let our chant fill the void that others may know: IN THE LAND OF THE NIGHT, THE SHIP OF THE SUN IS DRAWN BY THE GRATEFUL DEAD.'-- Jaxon in Slow Death No. 2
No doubt the above quotation, warning of the apocalyptic consequences of too much of the Grateful Dead, will have no effect whatsoever on the bona fide Dead freak. The Dead are such a powerful band, that when they start rocking, there's just no telling what might happen out in the audience. I've often seen overenthusiastic fans physically ejected from Dead concerts at the Fillmore. Dead crowds are invariably on something; if it's acid, they usually pass over into the dimension described in the opening quote; if they've taken ups, they just never stop shaking their ass.
There are rumors to the effect that the Dead have sold out to the merchandisers of rock, that they're no longer the rocking, freewheeling outfit they once were. Some folks, pointing to the way the uninformed masses have picked up on "Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty" (after having overlooked "Anthem of the Sun," "Aoxamoaxa" and all those other spaced ditties), have given the Dead up for dead and gone home to wear out the grooves on "Dark Star."
Well, come my friends. No true Dead fan should desert at a time like this.
True, the Dead have changed. Last Sunday night, Phil Lesh, hunching ghoulishly over the tiny body of his bass, bouncing riffs with Garcia, taunted the packed house with, "Where were all you 'Dark Star' fans two years ago when we did it all the time? Tough luck, kiddies."
And there is one other change in the Dead that most people know about. The change is called The New Riders of the Purple Sage. The Riders probably have a lot to do with the rumor that the Dead have gone completely country, but they are really just an extension of Jerry Garcia's multi-faceted talents, and should be considered as a corollary to, instead of an addition to the Dead.
Even though Jerry plays steel guitar with them, they aren't actually his band. The Riders had been lurking around San Francisco for several years, playing country music. When Garcia began moving in that musical direction himself, he started playing with them in his spare time. It worked out so well that the Riders have been added to the Dead show. And they're really a fine band in their own right, even though they probably wouldn't have made it without Garcia.
The new group's main function is to pave the way for the Dead. The Riders are so good a curtain raiser, that when the Dead come on and prove themselves to be even better, you really begin to appreciate their talents. The moment the Dead kick off their segment with "Truckin'", the audience is up and boogying.
My only complaint about Sunday's concert is that it didn't include enough songs from their latest album, which contains some of the best individual numbers the Dead have ever done. They didn't do "Attics of My Life" or "Ripple", and a lot of people seemed disappointed. But the Dead came across with so many other rockers, that even the "Ripple" lovers in the crowd could forgive them. Included were very fine versions of "Me and Bobby McGee", "Hard to Handle" (on which Pig Pen massacred the vocals), "I Second That Emotion" and "Sweet Magnolia." Pig Pen also handled the vocal chores on "Good Lovin'" served up as only the Dead know how.
But the number that really brought the house crashing down around all those stoned people was "Casey Jones." For five minutes, they wouldn't stop cheering.
When it was all officially over, the crowd refused to leave. That's usual practice at the Fillmore. What is unusual is for the Dead to give an encore. But on Sunday night they did, wrapping it all up with "Uncle John's Band." Still, no one was ready to leave, but Garcia was exhausted from picking and plucking for five hours. So finally the crowd groped its way out on to the street.
(by Vernon Gibbs, from the Columbia Daily Spectator, 29 April 1971)