Opening night at the Palladium smoked. I was lucky to see the next night. The Scarlet>Goin Down the Road sequence would be the only Fire-less version (except one) for more than seven years.
The Help>Slip>Franklin's Tower opener was very strong, A beautiful Sugaree. This is a great listen. We even have a John Rockwell NY Times and a Dead Relix Jerry Moore review (along with his audience)
This show needs a SBD update. We know you have it, spill it guys. :) We have 6 SBD songs, three released with the 4-40-77 download, and three in the 30 Days releases. You can find them here.
Help on the Way
New Minglewood Blues
They Love Each Other
Music Never Stopped
Samson and Delilah
Brown Eyed Women
Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad
Around and Around
Uncle John's Band
Grateful Dead: My Night With The Dead
Mick Farren, New Musical Express, 28 May 1977
IT'S LIKE GOING back home.
"Acid, black beauties!"
"You got any pot to sell?"
"No, man, all I got is acid and black beauties."
What else could it be but a Grateful Dead concert?
THE GRATEFUL DEAD must be at an all time low in terms of fashionability. Nobody seems to have told this to the sea of lank hair and faded denim milling and jostling on the sidewalk outside New York's Palladium theatre. Fads may come and fads may go, but the fact has to be faced that the Dead go on for ever. On this particular night they go on for just short of five and a half hours.
It's starting to look as though hard-core hippies are turning into another time-warp subgroup, rather like the old rockers. It may be ten years since 1967, but looking at this mob in the foyer you wouldn't know it. There's denim and floral prints, earthshoes, acne and old cowboy boots. Some of the throng, aimlessly making their way into the auditorium could easily have just folded their tents and hitchhiked down from Woodstock. I begin to get the feeling that these freaks, in between concerts, must go back to a timeless limbo, similar to the one the teds inhabit when they're not parading in their drapes for Jerry Lee Lewis or Chuck Berry.
The Dead also seem to have a slightly unconventional relationship to time. When you've been overdosing on the kind of band who think that three minutes, twenty seconds adds up to a really long song, it's hard immediately to adjust to the Dead's pacing. And oh boy, do they pace.
A five-minute tune-up break between songs is nothing to The Grateful Dead. It's kind of irksome at first, but I suppose it's understandable when you're settling in for a five-hour show. They're on stage amazingly promptly, just fifteen minutes after the eight o'clock stated on the tickets. It hardly gives us time to queue up for a beer and find our seats in the decaying 3,000-seat auditorium, before the band are out on stage and rocking.
THE ROCKING is fairly relaxed. The Dead have never been a combo that sweated gallons and popped blood vessels, but even by their own standards, they're easing their way into the set. It also appears that they haven't played together for a while. There are too many nudges, winks and secret hand-signals for a band who are super-rehearsed and right into their mid-tour stride.
There have also been some changes since I last saw them. Mickey Hart has returned and they're back with the old double-drum lineup. Also Donna Godchaux has now been properly integrated into the band. When they played at Wembley her vocals were, to say the least, abrasive. Now she seems to have totally synched in, and her voice has mellowed down to blend perfectly with those of Weir and Garcia. About the only really unhappy note is the sad absence of Pigpen.
As far as the audience is concerned the Dead can do no wrong. They're loudly and continuously vocal in their stoned appreciation. In that respect the guy sitting next to us is typical. Every time he feels the band have produced some particularly fine musical segment, he emits a loud, woo-woo kind of animal wailing. The strength and duration seems to depend on how pleased he is with the show. Beyond that, we don't hear him give out with another sound.
The guy next to us may be typical in his capacity for noisy response, but apart from that he has to be one of the strangest Grateful Dead fans I've ever come across. He's black, kind of frayed around the edges, and really looks like he ought to be howling at Toots or Bob Marley instead of Garcia and Weir. He does, however, have a pipe that he keeps topped up with black hash.
HOWEVER, I have a problem that's been troubling me since the show started. Do I really love The Grateful Dead, or is it just nostalgia for a lot of warm stoned afternoons that the ill winds of the Seventies have blown away for ever? As I sink back into my seat, with a pleasant mellow buzz washing over me, I begin to see it all a lot more clearly (you remember what Bob Marley said). There really is something timeless and very fine about the Dead, something that has to be divorced from the often brain-damaged antics of audiences who use the band and their music to cling to a now-lost lifestyle.
Garcia's guitar was created in heaven. As it weaves in and out of the lax but always-present rhythm section, it really does create patterns that are far beyond the capabilities of most pickers. It also cuts through the hair and redundant hippy posturing to very essential, if laid-back, truth.
The selection of songs span almost the entire course of the Dead's career, including the various solo spinoffs. There's 'New, New Minglewood Blues' off the very first album, there's a track from Blues For Allah, 'Sugar Magnolia', 'Deal' from one of Garcia's solo albums, 'Cassidy' from one of Bob Weir's.
When the audience get altogether too rowdy they turn the hand-clapping round until the crowd are assisting in the introduction to the Dead version of 'Not Fade Away'. Before the song can get under way, however, it mutates into an elongated drum solo (in which, incidentally, Bill Kreutzman, in the nicest possible way, dumps all over Mickey Hart).
ITS QUITE a poignant Grateful Dead for the first half of the show. Garcia sticks close to his amps, Phil Lesh is positioned right by the drum risers, Keith Godchaux is almost invisible, while Donna Godchaux comes demurely on when her vocal assistance is needed, occasionally shakes her amazing, waist-length hair, and splits back to the wings when she's no longer required. About the only focus of visual attention is Bob Weir and the two drummers.
After the interval, the mournful songs like 'Brown-Eyed Women' and 'Cumberland Blues' start to get punctuated by Bob Weir cowboy inserts like 'El Paso' and Johnny Cash's 'Big River'. The atmosphere becomes increasingly more lively. Garcia executes little stomping dances as he pours out cascades of silver notes. The whole second half leads up to the final rocking set-piece.
The introduction is so tentative that it takes a couple of verses to recognise it. Suddenly realisation dawns. It's Chuck Berry's 'Around And Around'. For the next twenty-five minutes it builds relentlessly with everyone in the band, particularly Bob Weir, who handles the brunt of the vocals, running at full stretch.
There's a long wait for the encore, but it's worth it. The Dead return with an immaculate version of 'Uncle John's Band'. The audience leaves with the Dead's own wistful anthem ringing in their ears. I, for one, feel more emotionally fulfilled than I have done after a rock and roll show for a very long time.
I CAN'T even be brought down by the way the cabs on Union Square have reverted to the old 1967 policy of not picking up hippies.
Some hours later in another part of town (the elegant, art noveau St. Regis hotel, to be precise) they are a mite tolerant of hippies – hippies with money, that is. Indeed, affluent hippes are now very well looked upon, ten years after the fact. Jimmy Carter courts their company, and there are even TV ads aimed at them. There are limits, though.
When Chalkie Davies attempts to remove his garish, metallic, Ferrari pit-crew jacket, the maitre d' sternly requests he should put it back on. You don't sit in the St. Regis cocktail lounge in your shirt sleeves. My God what next?
As you probably guessed, we are sitting in the St. Regis cocktail lounge. Chalkie, myself and Betsy the redoubtable press officer, are all waiting for Bob Weir. We are drinking gin to pass the time. After some minutes and a couple more gins, Betsy goes to make a phone call. Bob Weir is up in Jerry Garcia's room. We head for the lift.
Garcia's room could easily be a college common-room. The conversation is low-key and informed. It is very un-rock and roll. The subject is how independent television is rapidly eroding the power of the networks. This is really fascinating, but the presence of Betsy reminds me I am not here to be entertained. I'm here to do an interview. It's suggested that Bob, Chalkie and I go down the hall to his room and get the thing together.
There was a time when Bob Weir was the teen appeal of the Dead. This has faded a little as the years have slipped by. He's recently grown a beard, and his eyes seem to have what I can only describe as a fixed dare-I-say Valium glaze. There's nothing Valiumed, however, about his mind. It's sharp and perceptive. The polite preliminaries are kept to a minimum. I turn on the tape recorder and get down to business.
Was it, as it looked, that the Dead were a little under-rehearsed?
"It looked that way?"
There seemed to be a lot of nods and winks going down. Weir smiles.
"That's pretty much the nature of our music. We have an enormous repertoire of material that's kind of sketchily rehearsed. We'll pull out a song that we haven't done in a long time. When you're doing something like that, then visual cues are very necessary."
You'll pick a song right in the heat of the moment, in the middle of the set?
"Oh yes. If it's appropriate. Maybe we are a little under-rehearsed. We could do with more time, but I can't say we're doing badly. There's always a lot more you can do."
BOB WEIR is pleasantly serene. Everything will be taken care of in the fullness of time, seems to sum up his attitude. The conversation still concentrates on time, but slightly changes perspective. The Dead have been on the road for ten years now...
The Dead have been on the road for twelve years now. How have attitudes changed?
"I think things have streamlined over the years. We know much better what to expect of the road and what to expect of ourselves. We're much better now at keeping our heads and bodies in shape. You have to remember that we play a very long show, and it takes a lot of energy. We eat well on the road...' He grins. "... and avoid extremes of wretched excess, I've always maintained the notion that the music is what it's all about."
I guess pacing is very important?
"Oh yes. We try and arrange tours so there's enough time to get proper rest and..."
No no, I meant the actual pacing throughout a show.
"Oh, really. I think if we tried we could work ourselves up to the point where we could play hard, fast and loud all the time, but that could get pretty weird."
The subject of being on the road for, twelve years leads very naturally to the question of bands evolving away from their audiences. Does Weir feel that the Dead have drifted away from their roots?
"I don't think so."
Damn few of last night's concert audience went home to a luxury hotel the way the band did.
"Damn few of the audience try to keep the pace we do. Like I said, our major focus is on the music. That's the way we can keep in touch with and cater to the fans, by keeping the music alive and vital."
There's something a little incongruous about hearing one of the Dead talking about "the fans", but I let it go. Weir is warming to the subject of the artist getting divorced from the street.
"At home I really don't have much of a problem about being on the streets, although the pace that I work at pretty much keeps me isolated once again. If that doesn't work I'll have to reassess the situation. As it is now, I'm so immersed in work, I don't really have much of a social life."
THIS PICTURE that Weir paints of his secluded, almost Spartan dedication fits with the unnaturally neat, very un-rock and roll hotel suite.
I ask what he's working on.
"I write, I record, I perform. I may do a film score if I have the time."
Do you want to talk about the film score?
"Not really. It's pretty much under wraps for the moment."
What happened to Kingfish?
"Kingfish fell by the wayside for me. I simply didn't have enough time to make it worth while for the other people in the band. It's possible it could happen again, but it's not happening at the moment. Not many side projects can spin out from this new stream-lined model of The Grateful Dead."
Weir permits himself a smile at the idea of The Grateful Dead considered as this year's new gas-guzzler from Detroit. I enquire as to what has changed.
"It's fun again. It's become more alive." He spreads his hands, temporarily at a loss for words. "It's happening."
There was a point when it stopped being fun?
"Yeah. Really. That was when we knocked off in 1974. It'd become too cumbersome and it was time to relax, reassess and maybe reconstruct – or not. Eventually we sat down and had a meeting and decided to re-construct it in a more organic pattern, and it worked. I guess it's worked so far. I suppose we might reach the same kind of plateau again, and The Grateful Dead will stop being fun. When that time comes we'll have to look at the situation all over again, We've got quite a way to run yet, though."
There's no temptation to live on a legend and just coast? Weir looks horrified.
"Oh no, that would become boring after one night. It couldn't be satisfying."
I SUPPOSE it's the idea of artistic satisfaction that leads us back to the subject of relationship with the audience. I wonder how much the Dead feed off the response of the audience.
"I think it's hard to differentiate between the way we're inter-acting among ourselves and the way we're interacting with the audience. I think, to be truthful, we just become caught up in the music and work of that."
So why are you working comparatively small theatres on this tour?
"It's mainly because of the sound. The sound is always better in a smaller place."
So it's not to get a better atmosphere going?
"I can't actually see anything past the first few rows. I think it's a safe rule that it gets logarithmically less intimate outside of the first twenty rows."
The phone rings. Weir patiently explains to the person on the other end that his guest list is full and that he doesn't have any tickets. Everyone wants to see the show?
"I didn't even know them."
Bob Weir enquires if there were any scalpers outside the theatre. I tell him I didn't see any, but there were people yelling that they'd give fifty bucks for a ticket. He sighs his distaste. What else, I wonder, bugs him these days?
"I guess that's my only soapbox at the moment. Like I said, our main thrust has always been the music."
The music's everything?
This is beginning to sound a bit on the bland side. I really don't feel I can totally stand still for it. Surely music isn't always just an end in itself?
Surely music is a motivating force? At a very minimum it shapes the audience's state of mind when they come out of the concert.
"Yeah. I suppose that is true. I think all we can do is to give them the kind of music that makes them feel good."
Can't music all too often can be picked up and used as a battle flag? We talk a bit about the punk/hippie hostilities back in the UK. Weir shakes his head slowly. "I don't understand that kind of thing at all. It's twisted."
FOR CLOSERS, we switch to a less complicated vein. I ask Weir about his apparent love for trashy cowboy songs like 'Big Iron', 'El Paso' and 'Big River'. Weir grins.
"I have a number of them I can pull out when they're needed. They're fun to deliver."
You don't have a secret desire to be Johnny Cash or Jim Reeves?
Weir cracks up at the prospect.
"Oh no. No way. It's just that those songs give a kind of variety. Without variety you can't have no horse race."
© Mick Farren, 1977
Citation (Harvard format)
Grateful Dead/1977/Mick Farren/New Musical Express/Grateful Dead: My Night With The Dead/01/03/2017 23:33:45/http://www.rocksbackpages.com/Library/Article/grateful-dead-my-night-with-the-dead
|Jerry Moore in Dead Relix review|
- "Sugaree" (Hunter, Garcia) - 14:18
- "Scarlet Begonias" > (Hunter, Garcia) - 9:45
- "Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad" (trad., arr. Grateful Dead) - 10:17
7 - 9 are bonus tracks from 4/29/77