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F. West ' 69
6/5-8, 1969
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 6/30/73


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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 6/30/73

The Grateful Dead
Universal Amphitheatre - Universal City, CA

Set 1: Promised Land, They Love Each Other, Mexicali Blues, Tennessee Jed, Looks Like Rain, Bird Song, Cumberland Blues, Row Jimmy, Jack Straw, Deal, Beat It On Down The Line, Black Peter, Playing In The Band

Set 2: Greatest Story Ever Told, Ramble On Rose, El Paso, Dark Star > Eyes Of The World > Stella Blue, Sugar Magnolia, 

E: One More Saturday Night

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

Evidently someone was busy elsewhere until the moment the band began playing, since "Promised Land" fades in already in progress. This is actually a bit fun to hear, because our recordist had not yet balanced the mix; faders move up & down as Bobby's vocal takes prominence, guitars fade in, and (in one humorous moment) everything disappears for about one second as Phil's bass is faded in -- right in the middle of one of Bobby's verses. Sorry 'bout that, Bobby!

All seems largely settled by the time this short rendition ends, and Jerry tackles the fast version of "They Love Each Other" -- short & to the point. I suppose this is what the album version would have sounded like, had they made one at the time. Bobby answers with a fast "Mexicali Blues", making for a rather high-energy start to this show. Bobby's vocal seems even louder, and Phil's bass is not; perhaps our recordist anticipated greater loudness from Phil later in the show, so kept it cautious here? Noteworthy here is Billy's cracking snare drum, keeping things lively.

Time to slow things down, and "Tennessee Jed" sounds exactly right, though the vocal mix is a bit high. Fortunately, so is Keith's piano, and he plays into this song with real gusto, answering Garcia's vocal lines throughout with a delightful variety of trills, runs, chords, and enough percussive stabs to please Thelonious Monk. One suspects the recordist had been specifically requested to boost Keith -- it's too much in front, really, to be called a good mix, sometimes drowning out Garcia's lead -- but definitely a reward to hear.

Somehow, "Looks Like Rain" is a relief after all that, as Keith and Jerry both choose spare, tentative decorations behind Bobby's tender singing. Special mention must also be made for Phil's restrained harmony (only two lines, and perfectly balanced). Once again, Keith is greatly responsible for the success of the performance (as is everyone!).

Well: three uptempo tunes, and a couple ballads should have everyone plenty warmed up, so it's "Bird Song". Jerry's vocal is still way too loud, and his guitar is not at all loud enough on the verses -- Bobby's is louder -- but that's fixed for the jam, so all is well. The jam is way too short for most tastes -- only a few minutes, really -- but the mood is elegiac, the playing sweet and gently sad. There's a brief drum break, Jerry comes back with the pinched harmonics we typically hear on a "Loser" solo, and they take the final chorus. This is rather cruelly shortened by an unwelcome splice, but edited so cleanly you might not notice on casual listen.

Remember the up-tempo note this show started on? They call it back with "Cumberland", which finds the vocal mix improved again. I guess the boys were still figuring out how close to be to the mikes, because the harmonies blend just fine. Again, the piano takes rather too much center stage, but one can't say he isn't making it worth our while. In fact, this show is shaping up to sound just about how you'd expect if you were standing next to Keith's piano -- sometimes, it's so quiet you can barely hear it; other times it almost feels like you're the one playing it. Meanwhile, Jerry is knitting up such a fury on the instrumental breaks that you can't help but hear him.

Bill gets busy with the snare for "Row Jimmy"; you could almost have a rendition with just his drums behind the vocal, because he plays the song with such detail. Phil's counterpoint baselines come through well on the instrumental passages; he seems louder than before. Donna's harmonies are pretty good, although she does tend to hold notes a little longer than Jerry.

Phil provides a fine third harmony on "Jack Straw", blending well with Jerry & Bob. By this point, we can't isolate any particular contribution; all the performers are putting in ideas that help further the song. Special notice for Keith's suspensions behind the verses, but Phil's also making some interesting notes, and Bill isn't missing any opportunities. Jerry feels the corner turned, and takes a more celebratory mood with "Deal", which makes sense after the tone of the last two songs. Bobby continues with "Beat it Down the Line", and we enjoy a sense of upward direction. As Jerry propelled "Deal" with his solo, so Keith does on BIODTL, and the choruses feature them making rare use of their four vocalists.

Then comes "Black Peter": a strange placement to ears used to its later use late in the second set. Finely sung & played, it nonetheless provides its own tension & catharsis.

-- And we're off with "Playing in the Band", which is what we were waiting for anyhow. Rapidly deployed, the band whips through the opening verses & choruses, and Donna gives us a bandsaw wail. Enough with the formalities: it's time for the Real Deal. The band is more than ready. The mix is balanced. And off they go, into music that can't be explained: the visceral, primordial river of Group Mind improvisation. Sometimes exchanging jittery darts like a game of Hot Potato, sometimes stretching sounds across the palette like a background sky for others to dance in front of. Billy throws in staccato bursts like Jackson Pollock; Jerry swirls around like Van Gogh's " Starry Night" to Phil's later-era Goya pronouncements. Bobby & Keith seem closer to the school of pointilism, but really: what's left after all the above? They wrap it up with the usual theme restatement, Donna does her Tarzan impression, and the set is over. Bravi tutti!

We return to rock & roll with "Greatest Story Ever Told", complete with Donna's air-raid siren, and I doubt anyone stayed in their seats. Continuing the first-set recap, Jerry takes the thoughtful turn with "Ramble On", giving Billy further opportunity to crack the snare & Keith room for double handfuls of his delightful barrelhouse tinkling. "El Paso" follows, serving mainly as an uptempo song to downshift from to "Dark Star", although they do have a lovely moment of silence before the final line.

Here I should mention that their was a solar eclipse the day of the concert, which -- if it was at all observable -- would be a mystical experience impossible to duplicate. -- Except, possibly, in music as mysterious and wonderful as this. But (as we know), they were capable of sounding like this without any such inspiration; the Grateful Dead brought their own eclipse with them on nights like this. Still, it excites the imagination; one can understand the later enthusiasm for performing at the Pyramids. Transcendence doesn't care what the event sounds like later on tape; 'being there' is not a duplicateable experience.

Whatever may have happened to those in attendance during 6/30/73's "Dark Star", the music preserved here suggests such transcendence: the band plays unhurried, unworried; a meandering stream in the forests of possibility. Some might have questions about the performance: is there this or that, do they do such-and-such. But the band has questions of their own, and this reminds us that it is more important to have one good question than a lot of answers.

-- but enough of that; the band gently shifts into "Eyes of the World", then only four months old and already sounding like they'd played it for years. Which, in a way, they had -- all that group jamming had to go somewhere. Interestingly, Jerry doesn't actually take a lead until after the vocal; on the intro, he plays a more percussive, rhythmic role which works very well. And then when he DOES solo, well ....

C'mon, admit: you skipped right to this part anyway. Who cares about all those shorter songs when you could go straight to the jams and immerse yourself knee-deep into stuff like this? I did, and I'm glad I did, but I've known plenty of people who simply can't wait to get to the 'good stuff', and surely this qualifies. Even this early, they'd developed the riff-oriented jams that followed Eyes through the next couple years, although they don't seem so consistent about playing them -- at one point, Jerry seems to go to it when no one else does; we can almost hear him shrug and pass it off as just another phrase until Phil catches on and makes it official.

Whatever -- it truly is all good, and long at that. Not content to give us just two Jerry tunes running, it all winds down into a precious "Stella Blue" as only 1973 or '74 could do. Ah, there's the stuff -- clear and deep and strong. Vintage in the best sense.

But wait -- doesn't Bobby get to sing? ;-) Of course he does -- and it's "Sugar Magnolia" and "One More Saturday Night" to take us home. Is there really anything to say about old-fashioned rave-up rock and roll? I hope not, because no more words come to mind -- I gotta get on my feet. See y'all at the next show --- !!!
Ramble On Joe

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 6/30/73, at the Universal Amphitheatre - Universal City, CA.
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 6/30/73


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