FOUR HOURS WITH THE GRATEFUL DEAD
With the Dead, you can't say you didn't get your money's worth. Four hours worth to be exact last night at the Auditorium Theater, give or take a short break or two to catch collective breaths, with a light show of sorts and a lot of good music along the way.
Playing the first of two four-hour concerts (a repeat is scheduled for tonight at 7:30) completely by themselves, the one-time San Francisco pioneer group drew its material from a variety of sources: country and western flavored things such as "El Paso," old Chuck Berry rock 'n' rollers, country blues, and "American Beauty." Their sound - countryish, bluesish, thick with rhythm and usually infectious - isn't so new any more and after a couple hours of it, it all begins to sound pretty much alike, but... Take what you want, and let the rest go by. After all these years, there's still something fine about the Dead's music.
Maybe it's the simple fact that it's impossible to stay around a Grateful Dead concert for very long without getting the overwhelming impulse to dance, which is what some people backstage were doing long before the first intermission and what people out front were probably trying to do and getting frustrated when they couldn't.
"What do you want us to tell you, that you can get up and dance?" one of the Dead (his name escapes me, but it wasn't the neatened-up organist Pig Pen, who has slimmed down astoundingly, or guitarist Jerry Garcia, who seems to have picked up what Pig Pen has lost) asked at one point. Well, it would have been nice.
The whole thing moved along at a relaxed, almost spontaneous pace, with some songs sounding more like rehearsals and some numbers very much the finished production. One of the highlights came just before the end of the first half of the show, when a silver mirrored ball twirled down into view above the stage and broke the spotlight beams into myriads of rays that played around the hall in merry-go-round circles of flickering light.
Four hours is a long time, a long time to sit and a long time to play, and occasionally some of the music sounded a little tired or things just didn't work. But not too often, and then something came along that more than made up for it. Like I said, with the Dead you get your money's worth - or at least last night that's how it was.
(by Lynn van Matre, from the Chicago Tribune, 24 August 1971)
Thanks to Dave Davis.
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GRATEFUL DEAD LIMP TO FINISH
"Music is alive and well." That's what the big valentine leaning against Pig Pen's organ said. It may be alive, but it's limping.
The Grateful Dead, acid-testing pioneers of the colossal multi-hued San Francisco scene, played the first of two successive evening concerts Monday night to a sell-out gathering of the tribes at the Auditorium Theater.
At best, the Dead is an overwhelming experience. Rumor has it that one New Year's Eve at the original Fillmore the group provided enough highly concentrated energy for a successful levitation demonstration. During the first half of yesterday's show, sufficient foot-stomping power was generated to seemingly rattle the theater's foundations. The approving roar of the crowd alone was louder than the music volume of many lesser bands.
Unfortunately, just about the time everything got into high gear, the band took a 20-minute break. Afterwards, people who had been madly boogying at their seats settled back to wait for lightning's second strike. The band tried hard enough, but couldn't seem to rekindle anything. At the low point, thousands of fingers were seen plugging thousands of ears.
But that's how it's always been with the Dead. When they're hot, they're incendiary. When they're not, they're like cold spaghetti. That's the price we pay for the kind of openly emotional music they make. Unlike most bands, the Dead can't hide behind strictly structured material. Its songs are delicately thrown over huge open spaces which give the musicians vast freedom to intensify moods.
That's what makes the Dead such a great band to watch. Sounds simple, but it's not. Lots of rope also means an occasional hanging, yet when the Dead hit their musical jet stream, as they did on "Casey Jones," sitting still was absolutely impossible.
In short, the Dead come for to play. There's no glittery show biz: no winged shoes, no Alice Cooper weirdo theatrics, and no hyped, imitation excitement. They're real. They tune up on stage. They decide what to play between songs. And they're even sort of ugly.
A Dead audience is something special, too. Above all, it's there to make a good time., And when those in the audience manage to dance despite immovable chairs, it's fairly obvious the customers are glad they came. The Dead are heroes precisely because the band makes music to live in, which is entirely different from music one goes to listen to.
The band has been together a long time. Essentially, the same unit exists today that first played in 1965 as the Warlocks. There's Jerry, the endless riff, Garcia on lead guitar and vocals, Bob Weir on rhythm guitar and vocals, Bill Kreutzmann on drums, Phil Lesh on bass, and Pig Pen on blues vocals, organ, tambourine, and cigaret.
The Dead have eluded superstardom because they are primarily a live group. Excluding "Working Man's Dead," their albums have been disappointing. The group requires lots of time and a good audience to create its magic. Consequently, the Dead generally play extremely long concerts. Last evening was the exception. The group played 1-1/4 hours, took a break and returned for more. It's too bad things never picked up after intermission.
But then these days, I guess we should learn to be Grateful for even small favors.
(by Jack Hafferkamp, from the Chicago Daily News, 24 August 1971)
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BAD VIBES MUTE GRATEFUL DEAD
The [---] leaning against Pigpen's [organ] had a big heart on it, and in the middle of the heart was printed: "Music is Alive and Well." But the optimistic slogan didn't apply to Grateful Dead's Monday night's concert in the Auditorium.
Not that the Dead were at fault. Finally given a half-decent concert hall, they sounded better than at any of their previous Chicago concerts. But [during] their cheerful, tuneful set, the bad vibrations from the audience cast a shadow over the proceedings.
Maybe it was just that all the rotten eggs fall in the first basket; if so, the Dead's second concert Tuesday night will make up for everything. The [loonies] weren't even in the majority Monday, but there were enough of them to do the job.
The Dead did nothing but try to please. They played a good four hours, not including the intermission, and were still playing when I left. When they started their set with some mellow countryish numbers, the reaction of the idiots was to yell "Louder" and "Faster." Despite this, those who wanted to do so could hear some fine, easy-going harmonies and crisp, tight playing.
Best of the pre-intermission part was a new song aptly titled "The Loser," which also benefited - as did the whole concert - from some stunning lighting by Candace Brightman, who brought her many-mirrored revolving globe in from New York for the concerts.
Strangely enough, when the Dead got into the [fantasy] free-wheeling rock during the second half, the boisterous element was subdued for a while. When the Dead are even halfway on, this stuff can throw anyone for a loop.
It soars into long lyrical guitar passages picked out by Jerry Garcia while Bob Weir plays around him and supplies solid rhythm guitar. And Phil Lesh's bass and Bill Kreutzman's drums flew steadily with Garcia's build-ups and [ebbs].
But the Dead finally [---] the audience at the very end with some straight hard rock - the Stones' "Not Fade Away" and Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." They [---] those fine, too, although [---] music isn't the Dead.
But then many in the audience apparently weren't there to hear anyone but themselves. Music was alive Monday night in the Auditorium but definitely not well.
(by Al Rudis, from the Chicago Sun-Times, 24 August 1971)
Thanks to runonguinness.
8/23 partly released on Road Trips 1:3.
8/24 partly released on Dick's Picks 35.