Boston Music Hall - Boston, MA
Set 1: Promised Land, They
Love Each Other, Mama Tried > Mexicali Blues, Peggy-O, Cassidy,
Tennessee Jed, Minglewood Blues, Stagger Lee, Jack Straw
Set 2: Mississippi
Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo > Franklin's Tower, Samson &
Delilah, Friend Of The Devil, Playing In The Band > Drums >
Black Peter > Playing In The Band > Around and Around, E: U.S.
There's always been a bit
of a battle between AUD and SBD recordings; soundboards have much
better bass levels and the precious intimacy that the band's most
nuanced performances require, but audience recordings give us more
of the Real Deal, as experienced out in the stalls -- sometimes for
better, sometimes for worse, depending on the ability of the
recordist and the interference from the people around him.
Consequently, while soundboards reveal more of the music than we
might hear in actual attendance, a well-done AUD delivers an
excitement that soundboards rarely even approach. The best answer,
of course, is a mix of the two (listen to DOZIN for an excellent
sample), but often we must choose one or the other -- when we aren't
just plain lucky to have any recording at all.
Boston's November 1978
shows are fine AUDs with great audience presence, if typically low
on Phil's bass (and low end in general). This isn't quite the crime
it might seem -- the audience never gets in the way of the band, and
a little bass boost helps out considerably.
On the first night
(11/13/78), the band tries to step out with a bang ("Promised
Land"), but doesn't seem able to hit that 'something extra'
until well into Jerry's solo on "Peggy-o". Jerry senses
this and takes advantage, going an extra chorus for a fine
rendition. Bobby rides this with "Cassidy", which jams
nicely enough only to conclude somewhat short; without any vocals on
the reprise, it seems Mr. Weir might have been caught by surprise.
Jerry's follow-up is
"Tennessee Jed", which seems to suffer from Mickey's
stomp-like rhythm; it shows little promise at the outset except for
Jerry's thoughtful vocal nuances, but (once again) things heat up
plenty on the solo. "Minglewood" goes well, a strong
performance unmarred by slide excesses; the same can't be said for
the outro on "Stagger Lee", which is nonetheless a good
reading. the audience doesn't seem to catch on that the next song is
"Jack Straw" until the vocals kick in, but definitely
register their appreciation once they do. Once again, the double
drums sometime seem a little strong during the quiet parts
(especially the bass drums), but there's no denying the excitement
during the rave-ups. Typical of late '78, Keith is largely content
to just fill out the sound, but we hear him try a little harder
while Jerry furiously knits up a solo. Thus ends the first set.
Set two starts with Jerry's
vocals a little low, but that improves by the end of the verse, so
no worries. As if to compensate, the band raises the roof a couple
inches on the outro jam -- both before and after the 'Rio Grande-o'
chorus. Mickey gives the final jam a bit of a march-like feel, which
the band evidently picks up on -- after a slight pause, they launch
into the (then-typical) partner song, "Franklin's Tower",
putting that energy to good use. Bob finally gets in a song with
"Samson and Delilah", and contributes some good slide.
"Friend of the Devil" sounds much as it would six weeks
later at the closing of Winterland; a very pretty rendition.
But which set is this
anyway? Should they be ... you know? Hmmm? Y' know what I mean????
DO YA? I think you do -- and so do they: "Playing in the
Band" fires up after only enough of a pause to let the audience
get a breath. Jam ensues, but only about the minimum we could
expect. Nice, but not noteworthy, as are the drums which follow.
Space comes after a nasty reel change, and may have been much
longer. As we have it, it quickly gives way to "Black
Peter". Will this salvage a sagging set? Maybe; Jerry gets a
good audience pop for an extra bit of lung before the bridge, which
shows decent harmonies & even a little push from Keith. To my
ears, the real measure of this song comes during (and after) the
repetition of the words "run and see"; for my money, this
performance does better than most I've heard. Interesting to hear on
the end is Jerry trying to weave the PITB reprise into the fabric of
BP's bluesy tapestry -- a little disorienting, but accepted by the
band and gradually morphed along, so therefore must be judged a
success. You'd really have to hear it to believe it.
PITB's reprise, naturally
enough, ends the jam, and therefore the show; we're out of the
woods, as it were, and "Around & Around" is really
already an encore. Does the audience eat it up? Yes they do, and so
should you -- even before the double-time kicks in. This really is
one of their best set-closers, and Jerry seems unwilling to let up
the guitar salvo until he's played every Chuck Berry lick he knows
(i.e., all of them). Sure, it's cliché to bring the volume way down
before kicking it up again, shaking loose old fillings like popcorn,
but it works so well. This one's a keeper.
Say what you want about
"U.S. Blues" as an overused encore -- it certainly was,
and for the very good reason that it works better there than
anywhere else in the show. Bobby whips out his slide licks (mostly
Elmore James' famous riff), the band is punchy behind the rhythm,
and Jerry gives the lyrics just the right balance of thoughtful
intensity & 'there you have it' delivery -- a perfect song for
sending 'em home dancing & happy. If the audience hadn't had
their fill by this point, it just wasn't going to happen anyway. Ramble On Joe ©
the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 11/13/78, at the Boston
Music Hall - Boston, MA.