5/14/74
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 6/16/74

 

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

5/14/74

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

 
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 6/16/74

The Grateful Dead
Adams Field House, U of Montana - Missoula, MT
05/14/74

Set 1: Bertha, Me & My Uncle, Loser, Black Throated Wind, Scarlet Begonias, It Must Have Been The Roses, Jack Straw, Tennessee Jed, Mexicali Blues, Deal, Big River, Brown Eyed Women, Playing In The Band

Set 2: U.S. Blues, El Paso, Row Jimmy, Weather Report Suite Prelude > Weather Report Suite Part 1 > Let It Grow > Dark Star > China Doll, Promised Land, Not Fade Away > Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad > One More Saturday Night

5/14/74 Missoula

1974 is a strange year; with only 40 shows, whole months went by without performance. There was no Spring tour at all. Perhaps this explains why their Summer tour is so exceptional -- almost every date a standout -- despite there being little in the way of new material. In many ways, 1974 was the fruitful realization of 1973.

5/14/74 is as good an example as any: Look at the setlist, and you see many all-too-familiar titles. But, while mixing issues challenge the "Bertha" opener, "Me and My Uncle" find the band rolling strong, even if the most noteworthy thing is Bobby's "cracked him in the jaw" lyric variation. "Loser" begins, marred only slightly by Jerry's somewhat low vocal. Before you have time to get another beer, you find the band has adopted an achingly delicate tone; Keith rivals Jerry for our attention, as both weave a tapestry of regretful sorrow.

This will be this evening's hallmark: Keith's highly alert piano, interacting with Jerry's thoughtful lines and Billy's insistent snare. For a quick example, let "Tennessee Jed" fill your ears. Standing on its own, it doesn't seem much; it's a good candidate to bore away your metalhead friends ("Later, dude -- I can't hang!"). In the context of the show, however, it follows a sublimely energized "Jack Straw" where Keith sounds like he has three different muses whispering in his ear. This continues right through "Tennessee Jed" -- Keith and Billy busily fill the holes around Jerry's vocal, which itself is uniquely nuanced. Only a several-hundred-show collector might appreciate the way Jerry sings "Blacked my eye and he kicked my dog" but there it is ;-)

"Scarlet Begonias" is still rather young here, but flexes some promising muscle in its short showing; especially enjoyable are Keith's stabs at electric piano, sometimes put through a wah pedal, other times through vibrato to thrilling effect. The unusual segue to "Roses" is notably graceful, and "Roses" itself is quite enjoyable, though it could have benefited from some better vocal mixing. Billy's largely perfunctory playing is perfect, and Keith splashes color throughout.

Perhaps it's the Keith factor that makes "Deal" or "Jack Straw" stand out more strongly; "Brown-Eyed Women" and "Mexicali Blues" are also well-performed. I see no reason to say anything about "Playing in the Band" that isn't already implied by being one of their best jam vehicles in one of their best years; we know what to expect, and we won't be disappointed. Thus wraps the set.

"U.S. Blues" was played at almost every 1974 show, and this is no exception; it makes a good set opener. "El Paso" and "Row Jimmy" neither bore nor enlighten, though both are nice. I enjoy that clean, clear 1974 sound and the nice separation (Bobby and Keith each hard-panned to their respective sides). But it's the third disc we really want!

First, it's not entirely true that this show is "as good an example as any" -- 5/14/74 is one of only six 1974 shows with a "Dark Star" in it. But that's not entirely true, either; this is no longer the band that once explored the "Dark Star" mood for long stretches. Instead, it's just the most recognizable portion of several explorations -- some of them potentially quite frightening to the uninitiated. "Dark" indeed!

But first we have the "Weather Report Suite" to consider -- one of three times these two titles were linked (11/30/73 and 12/18/73 being the others, according to DEADBASE). By 1974, the band had mastered the intricacies of the Suite thoroughly; after a letter-perfect performance of the written portions, they take off into the jam with great energy and confidence. While this seems like it could go on forever, the band doesn't hesitate to take up Jerry's suggestion for "Dark Star" -- and rather quickly at that; critics of the band's shorter transitions in later years will find they could be just as quick here. The difference, of course, is how much time they'd spent improvising first.

As mentioned above, "Dark Star" doesn't really take up much time between the Suite and "China Doll" -- not to say there isn't a lot of jamming; there certainly is. But it isn't "Dark Star" in the sense of the song & improvisation we heard on LIVE DEAD; no wonder Jerry contended in the 80s that "Dark Star" was really only a couple minutes long.

This, of course, is mere quibbling over nomenclature; pull out this show, and you'll find a track named "Dark Star" that's nothing less than 26 minutes of orgasmic excellence -- the kind of musical magic that has the listener stoned into frozen stupefaction. These aren't the gentle explorations of 1973, nor the bluesy rave-ups of 1971; this is the tour where Phil and Ned challenged the audience between sets as to the very definition of music. In this way, perhaps, 5/14 actually is typical of 1974's summer shows: date after date of strong warmup sets, followed by gem-hard masterpieces of improvisational genius.

After this, "China Doll" is just a return to Earth, and that's fine; here we get the reel change that would have been tragic any time in the previous 40 minutes. "Promised" seems rather perfunctory, and "Not Fade Away" shows no initial signs of greatness. This soon changes, as the band takes off for another long, sublime jam: wave after wave crashing into the beaches of musical ecstasy. An eon later, Jerry suggests "Going Down the Road" to immediate band approval, and they detour in the next instant -- no wrong suggestions, right? Just a different way to peak :-)

"One More Saturday Night" is a fine encore, though you will cringe a bit at Donna's flat harmonies. Still, it's worth it to hear Phil drop his fattest note of the whole show on the final chord.

Phil hasn't been so noticeable throughout this show, due to not being mixed nearly as loud as Keith or Bill. Still, all things considered, this would have to be rated an A show: heavy on X factor, sublimely played, delightful to the ears. Why I've never heard anyone name this as a favorite all-timer is beyond me!
Ramble On Joe

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 5/14/74, at  Adams Field House, U of Montana - Missoula, MT
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 6/16/74

 

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