3/21/73
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 3/21/73

 

Dick's Picks Volume 28 reviewDick's Picks Vol. 14 review

3/21/73

Dick's Picks Vol. 1 reviewDick's Picks Vol. 24 review

 
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 3/21/73

The Grateful Dead
Utica Memorial Auditorium - Utica, NY

Set 1: Bertha, Me & My Uncle, Wave That Flag, Looks Like Rain, Tennessee Jed, Box Of Rain, Jack Straw, You Ain't Woman Enough, Row Jimmy, Beat It On Down The Line, Here Comes Sunshine, The Race is On, Loser, El Paso, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Playing In The Band

Set 2: Greatest Story Ever Told, They Love Each Other, Mexicali Blues, Brown Eyed Women, Big River, Brokedown Palace, Me And Bobby McGee, Weather Report Suite Prelude > Dark Star > Eyes Of The World > Wharf Rat > Sugar Magnolia

E. Casey Jones

6/30/73 Universal Amphitheater: the mixed-up show

OH gee, it's been a while since I heard a show as cheerful as this one! Fading in on the guitar solo in "Bertha", they zip through the usual numbers: "Me & My Uncle", "Wave That Flag", "Tennessee Jed" "Box of Rain" etc, all well-played and largely happy ("Uncle" being the exception). "Looks Like Rain" develops some real power. Donna takes a passionate stab at "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)", which comes off ebulliently enough, but we can only guess what audiences thought of it at the time; it certainly seems out of place now.

Finally, there's a typically momentum-killing "Row Jimmy", leading me to ask: why is "Jimmy" commonly a favorite, and "Looks Like Rain" a common unfavorite? I suspect the answer is something like this: "Because 'Jimmy' is a Jerry song". It certainly can't be due to Donna's harmonies, which would suggest the reverse preference.

After "Jimmy", Phil informs the two or three people still awake in the audience that they don't play "St. Stephen" anymore, to which Bobby adds "Because you liked it too much". This wakes up one wit enough to shout "We'll hate it this time, Bobby!" (and I think I hear another even shout "Free Bird"). It was worth turning up the volume to catch that one!

As if in repartee, the band soon plays only a single-beat intro to a spirited "Beat it on Down the Line". "Here Comes Sunshine" is brief but enjoyable. I don't expect many fans of the grateful Dead keep track of horse racing, so "The Race is On" must seem like an odd song that just appears for no reason. Keith isn't very loud in the mix, so his solo in "Race" is really his first really noticeable moment.

A few more songs, and "China Cat" starts up; Billy, who has been lively throughout, takes this as a cue to step up, with good results: strong snare work on the lively parts, but sensitive cymbal touches to introduce the "Groovy jam" interlude that precedes "I Know You Rider". The band is listening; they easily notch up or down accordingly for more dramatic effect. Of course it could just as easily be that Billy is following them, but that hardly matters. They wrap it up with enough force that it could be the end of a set, but it isn't; instead they start tuning up for another Bobby song in E. Let's see; "LLRain" ... "JStraw" ... what's left? Nah, forget it; it's too late for that song. They change key and begin "Playing in the Band." Three minutes and a Donna yowl later, we're off to the real races .....

It begins tentatively, but that's not to say mellow: soon enough they're playing with as much intensity as you could want. Like a storm-driven stream, they splash through one passage and another -- some wider & more languid, some tight & rapid. Anyone who has been white-water rafting knows it ain't all rapids, although those are the parts you remember most later. Phil seems most aware of the rocks you have to go around, and Bobby probes the passages between. Jerry is no more steersman than any of the others, but he does seem to be out front, while Keith & Billy suggest the roiling urgency of watery froth. Donna surfaces like the song of the humpback whale, Keith's pretty piano wraps around the guitars for the finale, and we're home safe.

Hmmm -- not a bad start to the evening!

Set two begins as did set one: "Greatest Story" gets us out of our seats, the first of several mid- to up- tempos (yes, that plural should be "tempi", but how many of us really speak Italian?); amazingly, they are still primarily a dance band. Phil tries an early exercise in 'take a step back' after "Brown-Eyed Women"; we can guess the extent of its success by his subsequent request that they shouldn't just crush forward again.

After a hopping "Big River", Jerry tries out "Brokedown Palace"; perhaps as a more subtle attempt at crowd-control. For some reason, the mix alters slightly throughout this song -- one instrument or another pressing forward at various times: drums, piano, Jerry's guitar on the solo (this last, of course, makes sense). Vocals increasingly oversaturate the mikes. And yet, it's still an effective performance. You've gotta hand it to the boys: dropping a ballad into the second set after a handful of dance tunes, with mike distortion and wild mixing, they still pull a rabbit out of the hat.

Increasingly, the vocals are oversaturating the tape, making for tough listening on an otherwise nice "Bobby McGee". Fortunately, this poses no problems for their instruments.

During the long tuning session after "Bobby McGee"; Phil and Bill pass the time with a strange little vamp not heard elsewhere, and Keith joins in. Evidently this helps Bob & Jerry make a decision, and the second-ever "Weather Report Prelude" rather awkwardly introduces the fifth "Dark Star" of 1973.

Once again, a watery voyage: Bill suggests the splash of waves against the gunwales, while Jerry wriggles like a rush of marine life passing by. Keith runs like water, and Bob is the wind. Phil is more ponderous; not all marine life is small, and some can be quite dangerous in their beauty. Big fish eat littler fish, but little fish turn faster.

Well, it's not all a jungle out there, and the boys turn to less dark waters. You know, it rains on the oceans too; water to water, with just more air in between. Sky sea and rain are all only marginally different from each other in terms of water density -- where does the edge of a cloud leave off to become merely damp air? It's like trying to say exactly where the land becomes sea on the shoreline; eventually those with a compulsion to measure must resort to determining a range & naming an average.

"Yeah, thanks for the physics talk, Joe, but what about the 'Dark Star'?" I can tell you this much: it's satisfactorily looooonnnnggg. And you should play it reeeaaalllyy looooouuud. Preferably while leafing through an illustrated book on dinosaurs, or any jungle-type setting. Better yet, play it on headphones and visit your local zoo, and hang out in whatever rainforest-type exhibit they might have there. So what if other people look at you strange? Might as well arrive "prepared" for the experience while you're at it.

"Aw, come on, Joe; just a hint?" Hmmm. You've heard of "Apocalypse Now"; this is more like "Apocalypse RIGHT NOW!" I'm surprised they ever played "Dark Star" again.

After all that, Jerry starts up "Eyes" out of the ashes -- a nice move, unfortunately marred on tape by the oversaturated vocals. Jerry's first solo goes beautifully, then we find ourselves cut right to the next chorus; an unfortunate flip that was at least edited together to keep the groove going. The distorted vocals are awful, and it's hard to forget them as we fly off on the wings of Jerry's next solo; it might have been better to edit out that bit of the chorus, just splice Jerry's solos together into one long uber-solo ... but that would have been dishonest ;-)

Someone seems to have noticed the levels, for things drop down a bit; the vocals are still a little too hot, but only by a little now. The post-Eyes jam proves already developed, and it's nice to have Bobby's guitar prominent -- even louder than Jerry's -- though Keith is rather too low.

This is rectified for "Wharf Rat" -- suddenly Keith's piano is right up where we can hear it, though Jerry's vocal mike is way too low. Once again, levels are adjusted while we listen, and Jerry's mike is back up by the end of the first verse. This works against him on the quiet part, as he spaces practically the whole "back on my feet" verse. Yikes! This must have bothered him, as he gives little effort to the "true to me" verse. Bobby then comes up with an interesting "Prudence"-like descending line to save the jam that follows -- a true jam, with no lead or solo, which builds nicely, finally descending into the gentlest possible denouement. Then there's a "Sugar Mags" and a "Casey Jones", with the piano stronger in the mix than the drums or Jerry's guitar, so I guess there's been more adjusting. At least the vocals were adjusted too; no more oversaturation.

So what are you waiting for? Dance your socks off before it's time to go home. Gotta love this band!

Technical notes on sound: the excellent sound at the outset is increasingly compromised by oversaturation when they sing louder (especially Jerry's); I guess we can't fault them for enthusiasm. Mix is fairly good, but Phil's bass is mostly rather under-represented. Bobby & Jerry's guitars are in separate channels, and close listening during "Eyes" reveals Phil's bass seeming to move around [?!], possibly by use of an oscillator. That just sounds like something Phil would try to do ....
Ramble On Joe

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 3/21/73, at the Utica Memorial Auditorium - Utica, NY.
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 3/21/73

 

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