2/23/74
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 2/23/74

 

Dick's Picks Volume 16 reviewDick's Picks Vol. 7 review

2/23/74

Dick's Picks Vol. 29 reviewDick's Picks Vol. 31 review

 
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 2/23/74

The Grateful Dead
Winterland Arena - San Francisco, CA
2/23/74

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

2-23-74 review:

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 Comes Sunshine"

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.

"Promised" -> "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.

"Weather Report Suite" ->

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.

-> "Stella Blue"

"Stella" has 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" ->

Hello there, "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 World"

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 Night"

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.

"Casey Jones"

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 Goodnight"

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

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 2/23/74, at  Winterland Arena - San Francisco, CA
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 2/23/74

 

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