3/18/67
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 3/18/67

 

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3/18/67

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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 3/18/67

The Grateful Dead
Winterland ~ San Francisco, CA
3/18/67 

Set 1: Me & My Uncle, Next Time You See Me, He Was A Friend Of Mine, Smokestack Lightning, Morning Dew, It Hurts Me Too, Beat It On Down The Line, Dancing In The Streets

Set 2: Golden Road To Unlimited Devotion, Cream Puff War, The Same Thing, Cold Rain & Snow, Viola Lee Blues, Death Don't Have No Mercy

Winterland: Ice, Ice Baby 
This show is basically awesome from the first note -- which turns out to begin that bane of so many later shows, 'Me & My Uncle'. I've liked this song well enough, but I've never heard it like this: they tear through it like tissue, Jerry jamming about a billion notes into his solo, and throwing in a little riff after each verse just to give it some shape. That's this show in a nutshell -- fast, furious, inventive, and surprisingly tight. They got so loose later it could be easy to believe they never put in the work it takes to be a tight band, but the evidence shows otherwise -- they did it, and deliberately chose not to be so tight later. I'm not used to thinking of the Dead as peppy ;-) but they were, in fact, young at one time; here it is, and they ARE good at it!

After some freak-out sounds, they end the set with 'Dancin' in the Streets', which has them running at about mid-Viola speed -- for 10 minutes. It would be hard NOT to notice Billy's fine sensitivity to Jerry's playing, and Pigpen has a way of laying out and leaping in that gives no sense of technical limitation. Bobby is more rhythmic than we're used to, but consequently keeps things rooted nicely. The jam stretches on magnificently, not so much culminating as just returning to the verse: saving some for later, as it were. That's not to say it wasn't fine while it lasted.

I must say, it makes fine early-morning wake-up music :-)

Well, set one was fine, so let's go on to set two:

Rarity 'Golden Road' opens, plagued by mix problems & missing the first minute or so. 'Cream Puff War' gets the unflagging stretch-out we missed on the album. My CD does not include the 'Same Thing' noted on Deadbase as following (of course, if you have SO MANY ROADS, you can find it there), and it would make sense for them to take a mid-set slowdown at this point. On the other hand, there's a nice sense of continuity jumping straight to 'Cold Rain'. One of the more perfunctory performances, it is followed by a brief pause before a jarring discord signals the onset of 'Viola Lee Blues'.

What can ever be said about this song? This one goes for 13 minutes, so that gives you some idea already. Instruments dance & bounce around your head; organ swirls come & go. Jerry alternately stabs, feints, carves a J on your forehead (no mean feat) and moves on. Phil & Billy sound like a blend of a demolition crew & a flash-flood (not so different, really). Bobby strums furiously to even be heard, again maintaining the heart of what might otherwise come unmoored (not that we'd mind). Jerry gets out the blowtorch, and Bill & Phil hold down the metal sheets for the lap-weld -- not so easy when it's jumping. Say, they ARE the metal sheets, and simultaneously the helpers! And here comes the Garcia buzz-saw -- say, I thought he was welding?? -- and the horrific noise slices perfectly in half, revealing the easy mid-tempo song contained within.

Could they really do that? Indeed. Almost 12 years later, they played their last Winterland gig, ending some sort of era. We can watch it on DVD now, and imagine their younger selves rippin' out a couple sets like this. I doubt anyone in attendance at either show thought much about the ice under their the floorboards; above, things were red-hot :-)

P.S. The show closes with a nice 'Death Don't Have No Mercy' that I sorta prefer to the LIVE DEAD version -- not just for being faster, but (once again) for Jerry's fiery soloing. The tape cuts in the last verse, but I suspect we've already heard the best part by then.
Ramble On Joe

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 3/17/67, at the Winterland Arena in San Francisco, CA
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 3/18/67

 

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