11/24/79
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 11/5/79 Stanley Theater - Pittsburgh, PA

 

Dick's Picks Volume 5 reviewGo To Nassaureview

11/24/79

Reckoning reviewDead Set review

 
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 11/5/79 Stanley Theater - Pittsburgh, PA

The Grateful Dead
San Diego Community Concourse 
San Diego, CA 
11/24/79

Set 1: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Mama Tried > Mexicali Blues, Peggy-O, Cassidy, Easy To Love You > Althea, Passenger

Set 2: Alabama Getaway > Greatest Story Ever Told, Ship of Fools, Terrapin Station > Playing In The Band > Drums > Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance > Wharf Rat > Sugar Magnolia, E: One More Saturday Night

Review
First off, the Compendium writer had only an AUD to go from, where a fine SBD is now available. Phil is quite audible -- you just cannot miss him; bold, chunky slabs of bass tossed around like fish at the Pike Street Market (a local Seattle reference for those of you who live elsewhere). 'China > Rider' begins a little tentatively (in fact, I suspected it was a breakout at first), but there's no hesitation once the band gives it a go -- strong performances & peaks, surprisingly so for an opener. This momentum holds them through Bobby's cowboy medley but flags in the 'Peggy-o' that follows (normally a personal favorite). A few thoughts get tossed back & forth, but it sounds totally right when they launch into 'Cassidy' next, a respectable performance that gets the bar back up.

This being late 1979, we get a Brent song next, which sounds more or less straight off the album. Jerry counters with a rousing 'Althea', supporting those who contend the early versions were best, but the climax of this short set is the fist-pounding 'Passenger' that closes it. I kid you not when I say that Jerry sounds determined to rip a hole in your speakers with his solo. They may very well have decided to take the set break simply because nothing could really follow it!

Still on disc one, we move to set two: 'Alabama / GSET'. Again, it's Phil who thumps us through, although something must be said for Brent's raging keyboard solo. Jerry seems to have something in mind, though -- something that he needs to get out -- and the 'Ship of Fools' that follows is the result. Tense, sad, thoughtful ... once he takes to the solo, he just keeps going -- even through a verse & a chorus -- as if he just couldn't sing anymore, so let his guitar do the singing for him. It isn't volcanic, but it is very heartfelt, and there's a great moment (at about 6:20) where the band pauses a bit behind him, then Phil comes in with a descending line that perfectly bridges Jerry's guitar phrases. When he does sing again, Bob & Brent make a nice harmony behind the last verse. A great BAND performance. Some versions are angry, some declamations; this one pleads, knowing that it makes no difference anyway. I guess that makes it the 'Morning Dew' of 'Ship' performances ;-)

Enough with the easy stuff -- it's time for disc two ... are we missing a Bobby song? Could be, because d2 finds the riff for 'Terrapin' already under way. If so, we probably missed a 'Samson', a nice moralizer that would bridge 'Ship' to 'Terrapin' (as it did two weeks earlier). B U T -- going with what we have here --

It's not easy to bring new interpretation to the 'Lady' part of 'Terrapin', and Jerry seems in usual vein here .. though he takes the guitar break twice. Perhaps he spaced & thought it was time to bridge to the 'Inspiration' part; if so, he recovers so quickly we'll never know. Phil is really the guy to listen to in this part anyhow -- varying his parts, moving around like a horn section at times, switching to walking bass, stopping for a bit of near-funk, dropping down to minimalism to listen -- until Jerry signals the bridge, and off they go. Vocals have been good; harmonies unusually sharp. OK! A bit of grinding guitar for emphasis, and we're into the next part. Just as the lyric describes an experience of effort toward inspiration, so the band struggles toward it in the process. Phil the meat-grinder takes point, and the band rams in behind him -- and we're off on the jam. I hope it works! Phil may be the engine but the drummers have the throttle. Jerry steers. I have never been able to figure out what Bobby does, but that's never bothered him before, and it doesn't now. Brent dances around the main figure, guarding the rear as jerry takes the next curve, reminding me for all the world of the Tour-de-France cyclists zooming down the French Alps. But then the energy recedes, gentler, like a stream flowing into a lake, and settles into a resolving chord .... as Bobby counts into 'Playing in the Band'.

Here's where the break occurs in the SBD: verse two suddenly switches to the AUD source for about 20 seconds -- just in time for verse three, so no harm done. Bobby's singing strongly, the band is very together, Phil is vigorous. All omens are good :-) But where's Jerry? The solo section begins with an organ solo by Brent -- nice, if sadly undermixed -- but we can't help noticing a key absence. After a slightly awkward pause, he slowly comes in ... I wonder if he broke a string or something. This poses a challenge, musically, as Jerry tries NOT to sound like he's coming in late ... the band shifts down ... hmmm. They sorta work their way into a more usual PITB jam mood, but it can't really be the same -- like trying to imitate a dive without actually having jumped off the board. It sounds a bit like we fast-forwarded over the first minute or two of the jam. Not that there aren't any good ideas being offered up by Phil, Brent or Mickey, but this seems to be an example of a great wave having just gotten away from the master surfer. Hard to fault, and still great to watch, but not bound to be seen on the evening news. Still, they don't give up, and this eventually yields some exciting results -- unable to get a coherent jam moving, they opt fot the incoherent, and make at least one big noise in the process. This comes across as entirely worth the wait :-) After all, we don't love them for being easy to listen to!

There's more, but with a sense of roll-out; they got the interesting part done, now there's only the decorations & afterthoughts. Noise gradually recedes into near-silence, and the drums begin. These drums are busy, like a New York street band, and I'm finding it engaging; somehow I'm not surprised by the introduction of the tar at the 5-minute mark, as they seem to be getting at some spiritual center tonight. Mickey drones the monotonous heartbeat we associate with 'Ollin Arageed', deviating into other ideas as they occur.

Seemingly too soon, Phil & Jerry reappear -- was there a splice? Well, they're here now, and new enquiries begin. Mournful. Spacious. Pink Floydish ... and we find that 'Lost Sailor' is begun. Hmmm, appropriate placement -- the sense of mystery is preserved, even if they have no head for spacing tonight. No time-out for the drummers -- they kick in on the second verse, although (as usual for this show) it's Phil who dominates the sound. Showing a nice sense of dynamics, they hush up for the 'drifting & dreaming' part, Jerry burbling quietly behind Bobby's singing, taking it back up for the roll-out & eventual segue into 'Saint'.

'Hey, this is heaven' -- Bobby sings the opening, and we're reminded how much he toyed with these lyrics. The band still has dynamics for this song in 1979, making for more sense of drama than later versions. That crunchy bass helps, too -- I think I know who really liked this song ;-) Jerry never seemed to have as clear a part in it, although he rides the dramatic sections well. There's a definite enthusiasm here that offsets the rough lack of finesse, although I don't know that we've recovered the energy that was present in the pre-drums.

It doesn't so much end as just fall into 'Wharf Rat', a nice version but a bit plodding after the 'Sailor / Saint' energy, and there is temptation to skip the track. Fortunately, the 'true to you' jam proves to be worth the wait: passionate, soaring, and sweet (if short). The 'true to me' line comes around, and Jerry resumes right where he left off, fiercely carving melodies of ecstatic passion over the march-like drums -- which seem to be threatening a 'Truckin'?? Never mind -- after a bit of confusion, Bobby insists on 'Sugar Mags', and so it is. Pity; we could have had both!

This doesn't trouble the band -- they jump on without looking back, and the Great Northern Pacific is already stoked & rolling. Full steam is sure to be ready if the engineer calls for it, and you know he always does on this particular track ;-) So: off we go! and it's looking good. Take your time, boys .... another brief segment of AUD, and we're back to SBD just in time for the first Phil bomb. And it's surely not the last! Oh, they're rolling now -- that throttle got wide open without us even realizing. Another Phil bomb, and we blues-cruise into the stop. They're sure having fun now; Bobby could have held this one up as long as he liked & we would have eaten it up. Heck, he probably could have read off announcements for their remaining tour dates and it would only have added to the suspense. But Bob isn't as patient as we are -- he's itchin' to get back up to speed, and the wheels start turning again. Phil bombs to the left! Phil bombs to the right! Brent spatters bright notes around like stars on a black canvas, Jerry coaxes sweet soulful melodies, Bill & Mickey pound their coal into diamonds and Bobby brings it to an end. Now that's what I call a good 'Sugar Magnolia' :-)

'One More Saturday Night' shows a band in no hurry to leave the stage; the tempo is more swing than rock, with Brent contributing nice organ flourishes. Phil's strong performance reminds me of the days I used to go up front on his side, sometimes right in front of the PA for my megadose of bass. He's almost drowning out Jerry's guitar with power-chords. Not that we can't hear him -- Jerry takes the solo almost casually, as if he had all night to play it. But Phil gets more aggressive as the song goes on, until Jerry is second-fiddled by his bassist! Nobody cares; it's the encore of a good evening, and they're almost impossibly united -- right on the notes, right on the beat, all one mind for one aim. Brent wrenches all the last emotion out of the Hammond organ, Phil blasts the last out of his amp, the drummers give their last hits, and the show is finally over.

Yeah, I guess you could call this an average, enjoyable show ;-)
Ramble On Joe

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 11/24/79, at the San Diego Community Concourse ~ San Diego, CA 
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 11/5/79 Stanley Theater - Pittsburgh, PA