Winterland Arena - San Francisco, CA
Set 1: Around and Around, Dire Wolf, Me And Bobby McGee, Sugaree, Mexicali Blues, Here Comes Sunshine, Beat It On Down
The Line, Ship of Fools, Jack Straw, Deal, Promised Land > Bertha > Greatest Story Ever Told
Set 2: Row Jimmy, Weather Report Suite Prelude > Weather Report Suite Part 1 > Let It Grow > Stella Blue, Big River,
Ramble On Rose, Me & My Uncle, He's Gone > Truckin' > Drums > The Other One* > Eyes Of The World, One More Saturday
Night, E1: Casey Jones, E2: Johnny B. Goode > We Bid You Goodnight
I didn't get this show in
full, but settled for two discs of highlights as recommended by a
friend. Therefore my comments can only pertain to 2/3 of the show,
not the whole; if I'm missing out, email me and say so. Otherwise,
let's kick out some jams:
Here it is, folks, the last
jammed-out HCS, sadly dropped until Vince's arrangement reignited
Jerry's interest in 1992 (thanks, Vince!). And it's a good one,
despite Donna's flat harmonies and the occasional clam note. Bobby
makes an especially strong showing. This is one of the tighter
performances, a nice ten minute jam.
"Bertha" -> "Greatest Story"
Some rock & roll to
close the first set, courtesy of Jerry's Wolf guitar. Vocal
harmonies are a bit ragged, though Jerry's solos are full of energy.
The band sounds a bit out-of-practice; HCS was better suited to
their collective mood. Donna howls over the so-called
"Stephen" jam like an auditory icepick to the forehead,
but the band soars on nonetheless.
Three years in the making,
Bobby finally had his suite together, and the band made the most of
it in late 1973. Not surprisingly, the quiet part has Donna's best
harmonies. Did I say the band sounded unpracticed? Not here; all
those late '73 performances made the band terrific practitioners of
musical weather-divination, culminating in a long feverish boil.
never really been a song that lends itself to description, being so
delicate in mood; I find myself tempted to quote any of its
memorable lines, several of which describe this performance better
than I can. Either the spell succeeds or it doesn't. And yet, that's
not to say that Jerry doesn't try to stretch his solos to include
risky directions. All in all, another marvelous performance.
"He's Gone" ->
Two months after the Dec
1973 show that launched the DICKS PICK series, 2-23 reminds us of
several of its features: namely, WRS, Stella, He's Gone, and a long
Truckin > Other. Like that show (and many others), "He's
Gone" is sweetly rendered. Donna reminds us that she's back
from childbirth, although some might be tempted to say she appears
to be reliving the process (not me, of course, but some *other*
people. Part-time midwives, perhaps).
On the other hand, Keith's
sparkling piano behind the chorus is a highlight. Donna duets
sweetly with Jerry on the chorus -- in fact, the ending is quite
gospelly, with Phil's bass singing underscoring the harmony.
Then it's time to jam --
starting with the usual "He's Gone" ending, which Bill
soon jazzes up with a swing feel. They seesaw between moods,
alternating the "He's Gone" vamp with a
"Truckin" feel and a bluesy shuffle; things could go
either forward or back the way they came. This, of course, is the
delightful playground of possibility that makes some into such
ardent fans of this era. They don't have to make up their minds --
no, not yet; once the avenues of possibility are known, there's time
to dawdle, see what else might come up, who might appear, what might
be known or unknown. Anything? No? All right then; they open the
door to "Truckin" and walk through.
"Truckin" -- how's it going? This one comes on strongly
assured, but not too strong; it's that 1974 confidence, born of
their solid familiarity with each other & the material. A nice
showing. The post-song buildup is still fresh, but the ensuing
groove soon drops out, leaving Billy the sole musical force.
-> drums ->
Like many great rock
drummers, Billy wasn't fond of doing drum solos, and we can hear
why; he never was a spotlight drummer. Still, he gets us from one
mood to the next -- which is:
-> Other One ->
more properly titled "Cryptical
Envelopment," as we learned in the 90s, but even the GDM gave
up on that, and "Other One" it is on the DICKS PICKS
volumes where it appears. This cryptical song lumps along with
appropriate fervor, until it arrives at another space indeed: no
time, no harmonic center, no rhythm. Murky noises circulate as Phil
and Jerry explore the darker side, and Keith's piano hugs the
sidelines. Bobby, as is often the case, is difficult to detect or
pigeonhole; Phil seems to be taking the feedback duties here. Oh no!
Jerry's brought the insect menace! Clearly, a perfect show to take
your friend while on his first trip ;-)
the band has clearly
descended into the nonverbal, nonrational depths of their
bag-o-tricks; emerging from the other side, Billy propels them into
something more danceable -- even familiar, as Jerry passes a trace
of "Slipknot" through the primordial swirl. But it's still
the "Other One" in mood and rhythm, even if there's no
definite "Other" detail we can point to (like a lyric or a
riff). Of course, they do emerge eventually; just another example of
1974's ability to generate a mood that passes through the various
songs -- as if visiting them rather than depending on them.
-> "Eyes of the
As long as they're in the
key of E, they might as well give "Eyes" a try ;-) I have
yet to hear a dull, uninteresting "Eyes" performance, and
this one is nicely capped by Phil and Jerry alternating solos on the
post-"Eyes" changes so much a part of this era. One of the
better examples, really; long and thoughtful. Then comes the jumpy
riff -- another Jerry/Phil extravaganza. By this point it seems to
be going on rather long, which the band seems to sense; they peter
off into a dreamy nonconclusion that somehow perfectly serves to end
this solid hour of musical investigation.
"One More Saturday
The reel flip cuts only the
first half a note or so, and we are reminded that this band began as
an R&B-driven party band. Everything goes well until the
harmonies, which evidently nearly derail the band on the chromatic
ascent, but it's really no matter; all's well that ends well.
Over and over again, we see
it; once the band completes the jams, that's it -- the rest is
songs, each a sort of conclusion unto itself. 2-23-74 ends no less
than four times, and this is only #2. Do they blast it out likes
it's the final number? You bet they do! Sadly, cut just before the
slow final line, but plenty remains for us to enjoy.
"Johnny B Goode"
As if to compensate for
being cheated out of the finale of the previous song, They whip out
"Johnny B Goode" with all the blistering finality we'd
later hear on the CLOSING OF WINTERLAND. Say, this show is at
Winterland too; think it's a coincidence?
-> "We Bid you
Necessarily a bit ragged,
but ... wow, so right. How appropriate, in hindsight, that 12-31-78
should end like this show does :-)
Ramble On Joe ©
the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 2/23/74, at Winterland Arena - San Francisco, CA