Airplane Drops In
GRATEFUL DEAD EXHILARATE AMAZED ROCK FANATICS
San Francisco's Grateful Dead played to an enthusiastic, near capacity audience in the Palestra two weeks ago. In the longest concert since last year's Buddy Guy-Luther Allison affair, the Dead rocked the Palestra until 3:30 am. And after that people were still screaming for more.
The Dead first made their appearance on the rock scene in the late sixties, and along with the Jefferson Airplane and the Quicksilver Messenger Service, produced the well-known San Francisco sound. Since then, the group has adopted a more easy-going country style. It is the mixture of these two sounds that makes the Grateful Dead concert the exciting event it is.
The evening's first set featured the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a group that formed this past spring. The Riders have been touring with the Dead, and feature the latter's Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar and Pig Pen on harmonica. Their music is country rock and when they started to get it together, the result was a good, solid, folky sound. They started off innocently enough, though, doing a collection of old standards such as "I Walk the Line," "Why, Oh Why," and "Portland Woman " - good, but nothing any second rate Nashville band couldn't have done. This became apparent during "Lodi," a song made popular by Creedence. It reeked of mediocrity.
Then the band started to jell, and the feeling that seemed so distant in earlier numbers began to fill the Palestra. The set ended with a stirring rendition of "The Weight" which finally convinced me that someone knows what the words to the song actually mean.
But even this was just a preview of what was to come. When the Dead finally appeared as a group to do part two of the concert, it was easy to see why they are considered one of today's top rock bands. Together for about six years, they have always been recognized as a fine instrumental group. Recently, they have incorporated three-part vocal harmonies in their sound and have established themselves as a talented vocal group, as well.
Their selections reached as far back as their first album, from which they did "Cold Rain and Snow." But the bulk of their music came from later compositions, including a number of songs from their latest record, such as "Trucking," "Friend of the Devil," and "Candyman." One of the highlights of the evening was an inspired medley including "Saint Stephan," "Not Fade Away," and an interesting percussion solo featuring Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart. The solo thrived on a variety of rhythms and was able to come off as well as it did because both men seemed so very together.
The Dead's second set ended with "Casey Jones," and those not high on cocaine were certainly high on something else - the Grateful Dead. But just to add a little icing to the cake, it was announced during intermission that some "friends from 'cross town" were coming down, and people were hugging each other over the prospect of the Jefferson Airplane showing up.
The Dead returned to do a few more numbers, and by the time they were finishing up with "Uncle John's Band," it became apparent that a jam session really would take place, as Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassidy of the Airplane were seen backstage.
Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, on guitar, and Phil Lesh on bass, had been outstanding throughout the concert, but their talents were featured to an even greater extent during the ensuing jam. Jack Casady and Grace Slick, who were both present, never did get to perform.
But by then, nobody really cared. Garcia, Kaukonen, and company were still amazing the UR's rock fanatics and no end was in sight. The session reached its high with "Reelin' and Rockin'," an old favorite, and kept up until early Saturday morning.
(by Jeff Newcorn, from the Campus-Times, University of Rochester, 4 December 1970)