Stanley Theater - Pittsburgh, PA
Set 1: George Washington
Story, Cryptical Envelopment > The Other One > Cryptical
Envelopment > Death Don't Have No Mercy, Alligator > Drums
> Jam > China Cat Sunflower jam > Alligator Jam >
Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks) > Feedback > We Bid You Good
After the fine sound of the
Fillmore shows from the end of this month, we can't help noticing
that 2-07-69 is rather hissy. But that's a small complaint: the
sound is otherwise warm and well-balanced, and it's simply a fine
-- or rather two shows (an
early and a late). We begin the first set with the announcer's
lament that there aren't more people in attendance, and the band
promptly play most of what would later constitute the LIVE DEAD
album: Dark Star > St Stephen > The Eleven > Lovelight.
It's a relatively efficient performance, probably just fitting onto
one side of a 90-minute tape back in the analog days. Oh sure:
efficiency isn't what we prize this band for, but these are
surprisingly full performances all the same. I didn't feel at all
cheated by the 15-minute "Dark Star" -- clearly a close
cousin to the more famous performance from later in the month.
"The Eleven" gets most of the jam time, but
"Lovelight" isn't cheated. Arguably, this would be the
perfect 45-minute intro for a newbie unfamiliar with 1969.
Set two begins with some
humorous pandemonium: Our Favorite Weirdo [Bob] expounding on George
Washington's teeth, despite the vocal dismay of his bandmates. Then
the announcer wants to introduce the band, but they forbid it.
Evidently he gives up, and the band launches the "Other
One" suite. Once again, efficiency is the hallmark, but that
doesn't mean they miss any bases. The "Cryptical" reprise
slows and slides into "Death Don't Have No Mercy" -- an
especially long version, considering this is only a 61-minute set.
Afterward, the band tunes a bit, and we clearly hear Bobby strum up
the first few notes of what will later be the "Weather Report
Suite" (that song seemed to have a long genesis!), but it's
just preparation for the "Alligator" that follows.
"Alligator" plays its usual role as a point of departure
for some double-drumming, and we hear why Duane Allman decided to
form a similar band.
After seven minutes of
this, the full band comes back for a modal jam, including two
minutes of a "China Cat" jam. Instead of building up to
the expected "Caution" explosion, the band seems willing
to let the energy drop (was someone watching the clock?) -- except
for Garcia. Taking the reins, he singlehandedly marches the drummers
to the front and pitches them into battle. Mickey and Bill are quite
ready for this, and give ans good as they get; for several minutes,
it's a three-man parry-and-feint extravaganza.
Bob must have looked at
Phil, and Phil at Pigpen; Pigpen might have shrugged. You can't
fight Fate, right? Right. With a bang, they come back in, and
"Caution!" would be the right thing to say to anyone in
the audienceat that moment. Maybe somebody *was* watching the clock
-- perhaps with good reason -- but how could you stop this? The
good-time band that began with "Alligator" had morphed
into what Crosby called the Great Love-Beast (or words to that
effect); the ice-nine was in the water. Perhaps there are those who
would step before a moving freight train, but there was nobody to
stop this band at this point. As "Caution" collapsed into
"Feedback" and more, I found myself thinking of Disney's
Fantasia, where Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" is
illustrated by the dying dinosaurs falling under the sun's undying
rays. Bob & Phil echo the descending chords used in the
"Rite" during "Caution" -- but to new effect:
the Dead are joyously alive; Disney & Stravinsky used them in
"And We Bid You
Goodnight" closes the show, and the audience is too stunned to
even applaud for several moments. I think I know how they felt. :-)
Ramble On Joe ©
the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 2/7/1969 at the Stanley
theater in Pgh., PA.