THE GRATEFUL DEAD
The Lyceum, with its warm Regency decor and intimate atmosphere, must have reminded the Grateful Dead of the Californian ballrooms where they first rose to fame six years ago. Returning to London on the last leg of their European tour they chose to work out on some of their new material.
Although the first set was somewhat repetitious, the high points were still very high. It was rock music devoid of theatrical effects but glittering with expertise. They confirmed their unique status. Most of the material is written by the group for the group, and they play it through a superb sound system designed to their own specification in San Francisco.
Their music transcends styles: just as the audience think they are cooling down into a bit of chamber jazz they effortlessly push the tempo back up into a jet-propelled boogie. Stetsoned organist Pigpen sang a couple of saucy R&B numbers, taking a honking Chicago-style harmonica solo after some fine bluesy licks from master guitarist Jerry Garcia. Pianist Keith Godchaux and vocalist-guitarist Bob Weir starred on several powerhouse country-rock numbers, with Keith's wife Donna joining in for some joyous gospel-inflected choruses on "Playing in the Band", always a highlight with its racy, thunderous guitar and piano figures.
After a half-hour interval they returned, bringing whoops of approval from the balcony as drummer Kreutzmann and bass ace Phil Lesh rumbled into "Dark Star", their intergalactic free-jazz classic. Pigpen rattled the maracas, Kreutzmann peppered his four cymbals, and Garcia sent out bell-like high notes, in clusters, then one by one like tracer bullets into space. Bob Weir crouched by his amp amidst a growling earthquake of feedback. Thunder and lightning. The stage is bathed in emerald and ultra-violet lights as Garcia steps forward to stretch his husky voice: "Dark star crashes, pouring its light into ashes." After 40 minutes it builds into a colossal squealing, snarling crescendo.
And then the Dead soar on into their fourth hour with a gorgeous "Sugar Magnolia", accelerating up through the gears, into another boogie, "Not Fade Away". And finally, after many requests, their magic ballad, "Uncle John's Band". Uncle Jerry punches out the sweet liberating lead guitar lines and they take it in three-part harmony. Their voices are almost worn out and a thousand hands join to clap them through it: "Like the morning sun you come, and like the wind you go, Ain't no time to hate, barely time to wait. Oh-ho what I want to know, Where does the time go?" Where indeed, I thought, looking at my watch. It was 1.50 a.m.
(by Myles Palmer, from the London Times, May 25, 1972)
Thanks to Dave Davis.
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