Community War Memorial Auditorium - Rochester,
Set 1: Minglewood Blues,
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Looks Like Rain, Dire Wolf,
Mama Tried > Big River, Candyman, Jack Straw, Deal
Set 2: Eyes Of The World
> Samson & Delilah, It Must Have Been The Roses, Estimated
Prophet > He's Gone > Drums > The Other One > Black
Peter > Sugar Magnolia, E: One More Saturday Night
Released on Dick's
Picks 34. However, this review made prior to its release on
inferior sounding recordings.
I know we're supposed to be way impressed with this one, but
actually the first set didn't particularly stand out for me. Good,
yes; solidly played, sure. No real jams, however, and one can't help
noticing that the sound quality is not nearly as clear as we're used
to hearing from 1977 [something often overlooked in claims of this
or that 'great show']; in fact, it's rather muffled. I find I need a
pretty distinct performance to take my attention away from
compromised sound; these are good, but didn't make me forget any of
a dozen other performances I've heard.
**Prejudice admission: I'm
not too keen on starting shows with 'Minglewood', and I prefer J.
Straws as openers**
Whatever -- let's see if
set two doesn't make all that moot. And, in fact, it does; the sound
is still a little annoyingly muffled, but how can you not like a
solo Phil spot to start the second set? Bobby evidently gives up
hope on Phil stopping & simply counts out the start to 'Eyes';
at the end Phil continues playing. I guess he just couldn't stop!
It's nice though not exceptional, and Jerry steers out of the end
jam into 'Samson'. Here we find that some explosive energy seems to
be building in the band. It can't quite find a way out in this song,
but clearly there are portents of a potentially exceptional set
Typically, Jerry responds
to this with a slow ballad -- sweet, but not a standout. Bobby
continues flogging his then-newest song next -- 'Estimated' -- and
the outro jam gets more than a little moody. SOMETHING seems to be
lurking beneath the surface, looking for expression, seeking out
roots in the collective psyche. Jerry seems a little uncomfortable
with this, and tries to make nice with more sweetness: a smooth
Oh yes, this buys us some
time; ten minutes later, we're swaying to the pretty harmonies, all
that murky darkness safely behind us. But where's Phil? I don't hear
him anywhere. Phil? Are you busy? Because the song is fading out ...
into some Drums?! And Phil returns to join them.
Phil seems to have
something in mind. You see, the unconscious is a lot like bass:
under the readily apparent surface, often not even noticed what with
all the other things going on. People sing; guitars play; sometimes
there is a light show. But the bass is there: pushing here, pulling
back a bit there. Pressure. Volume. A union of physics and art,
sometimes adulterated with a pinch of inspiration.
Jerry comes in to play: the
familiar triplet emphasis that is recognizably pointing to 'The
Other One', though we are clearly not quite in that song. No, we
aren't clearly anywhere at this point, but it's taking a
considerable amount of activity to get there. Yes, folks, jamming is
in progress! Men at work. Hard hats required.
Jerry switches to
overdrive. Bobby feints & jabs. Keith echoes & supports. All
over a whirl of percussion and tentative throb, until Bobby strums
out an 'I AM' that signals arrival.
"Spanish lady comes to
me / she lays on me this rose ..."
We have ignition! Or do we?
They let the energy key down; the drums carry most of what we hear,
while the others are more delicate. Jerry finds some rhythmic
figures around which the band unites, but like a river eddy it holds
them only for a moment. Soon they find it more expedient to row with
the current, and we're soon into the second verse ... and the
drummers take us out the other side.
An acceptably absorbing
ride, though perhaps not 'epic'. Jerry steers us straight on into
'Black Peter' -- not the favorite of many, but one of mine. The
harmonies are sweet, and the outro jam hits the right mood and
stretches it well. Things can't always be perfect, but sometimes
little moments have their own perfection that can be enough in
We seem to have been
through something -- maybe not something big, certainly not anything
that could be clearly stated or rationally defined. But there comes
a time to head for the door, and Bobby signals us that it has
arrived: 'Sugar Magnolia'. Fair enough; we aren't feeling cheated.
Those who wish to dance may now do so :-) The band plays with
purpose now, sure & clear, rolling through chorus after chorus,
building up power. It's high gear time, and the drummers eventually
build things up to practically a gallop. Our deeper questions can
wait till next time. After all, it's just another Saturday Night, and
tomorrow they'll play in Binghampton ;-)
Ramble On Joe ©
the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 11/5/77, at the Community
War Memorial Auditorium - Rochester, NY.