Nov 13, 2020

November 11, 1971: Municipal Auditorium, Atlanta GA

Mania, the most ephemeral of emotions, was captured in the Municipal Auditorium Thursday night as Grateful Dead performed its wizardry for a flock of rock music fans. 
People absolutely throw themselves into the quintet's music. Your viscera addle in the frenzied aura of a live show. "Dead" music is a percolating, blowsy sound of titillating rhythms that establish carefree rapport with an audience. Dormant cerebrums are ignited by drifting melodies. For fans to react so visibly to a group is a rare sight. 
A New York promoter recently revived dance marathons and imported Grateful Dead to provide some funky tunes for the opening. 
Said one exhausted girl as she was carted away: "It's their music. Honestly, I mean I couldn't stop moving to that beat." 
They were moving in the aisles Thursday night. The engaging impulse was evident from the initial lyric of Bob Weir, whose lilting harmonies with Phil Lesh form vocal "Dead." 
The group is an irrepressible force easing a crowd into an elevated sense of "getting off" on the songs. 
Weir and Lesh sing easily about "Truckin," "Ripple Wine," "Big Boss Man" - get-away numbers eliciting warm feedback. And eardrum fanciers delight in their lenient vocals on "Bertha" and "Mama Tried." 
Weir conveys a song's feel and nuance well. 
Lead guitarist Jerry Garcia has mellowed his guitar style into a countrified honk of beguiling discipline that solidly buffers the Dead against opus jellification. 
"Feel good" is Garcia's simple description of "Dead" arrangements. It was a good feeling indeed to hear a concert of lifting ballads; a sort of musical massage after a hard day at the job. 
The Dead have given birth to "New Riders of the Purple Sage," a country-folk foursome that is the brainchild of Garcia and "Dead" drummer Mickey Hart. The group showcases vocalist John Dawson. They whet the air with what must be honestly termed "ditties," casual and forgettable. The Riders seem ill at ease in front of a crowd foaming at the mouth for Grateful Dead. 
The crowd was blustered a sellout by advance hawkers, but it seemed some 500 seats were empty when the Dead appeared. This is really not very significant, because very few fans occupy seats during Dead time, and a premature upheaval may have accounted for the deserted rows. 
(by Karl Schnittke, from the Atlanta Constitution, 12 November 1971) 

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1 comment:

  1. This pretentiously written review offers a total contrast to the other review of the Atlanta show from the local underground paper. While the Great Speckled Bird reviewer (accurately) noticed how listless and indifferent the Dead were, the Constitution reviewer finds them to be just great. Which goes to show, at even the worst shows there was still somebody getting turned on by the "irrepressible force" of the Dead.

    One attendee recalls, "Unhappy boys that night. Crappy show, and Bobby lucky that cops didn't beat the crap out of him as he badmouthed them from the stage." The overzealous police make their presence felt, Phil gets upset, and the show stops for a while as band and audience call for "pigs off the stage." Eventually everyone's told to clear the front and get back in their seats.
    Another attendee writes, "The law enforcement authorities tried to cause a riot at the beginning of the show, and got mad when that failed. They forced everyone in the front to remain seated - no dancing. Georgia you know... The Fire Marshal threatening to turn off the power was a threat repeated at almost every show in 70's Atlanta. Grand Funk had played a couple weeks before...and "a riot" ensued with "drug crazed hippies", according to the newspapers. The cops expected the Grateful Dead to be FAR, FAR worse... They posted a cop on the floor at each corner of the stage and when they saw a cigarette being passed, the stage cop would point and several cops would come up from the back, crawl over seated people, and grab and club the "dope smokers", dragging them away. After about three busts everyone in the place lit up... The police could not patrol so many glowing butts. After a while they just gave up."

    The Dead are in a hurry to get this show over with, zipping through it in record time. As Bobby McGee starts, Garcia replies to an audience demand for rock & roll with, "Grand Funk is the one you want for rock and roll." Weir closes the show saying, "That's all the time there is," but if the start time was 7:30 I doubt the curfew was so early! (The Dead may have been late though - Phil says, "We just flew in here about ten minutes ago," and they start the show off with equipment problems. The tape seems to be missing part of this. The show's very short for '71 and might all have been one set.)

    One trend I've noticed is that while underground reporters will often complain about cops at shows (the GSB grumbles about "the usual crowd control hassle"), mainstream reviewers often don't mention any cops at all, as if a wall of police and threats to stop the show were just a normal part of rock concerts not worth mentioning.
    This reviewer focuses instead on the manic audience, "foaming at the mouth," "moving in the aisles" and leaving their seats. He says it's rare for fans to throw themselves into the music that much.
    The New Riders don't make much of an impression on him - he calls them "ill at ease" and their songs "casual and forgettable."
    But he really likes the Dead, their "percolating, blowsy sound of titillating rhythms," rapport with the audience, and pleasant "feel-good" songs. He even praises the vocals (Weir's in particular) though he seems not to have noticed that Garcia sings too.
    Of the five songs he names, 'Ripple Wine' is a puzzle and two others weren't played at the show, so he seems to be including some songs he liked on the live album. (Pigpen wasn't at this show, so naturally there's no Big Boss Man.)
    He mentions the Manhattan Center dance shows from April '71, with this delicious quote: "Said one exhausted girl as she was carted away, 'It's their music...I couldn't stop moving to that beat.'" I'd like to find the article that was in!