Uptown Theater - Chicago, IL
Set 1: Jack Straw, Peggy-O, Mama Tried > Mexicali Blues, They
Love Each Other, Minglewood Blues, Stagger Lee, Passenger > Deal
Set 2: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Looks Like
Rain, Estimated Prophet > Franklin's Tower > Drums > Not
Fade Away > Stella Blue > Sugar Magnolia, E: U.S. Blues
A little dabbling soon
turns into 'China > Rider', one of the reasons to listen to 1979.
Not one for the ages, but Brent gets in a few licks to prove his
mettle. Only in the closing bars of 'LLRain' does the band really
seem to be getting up some energy, and this plays out in a nice
post-'Estimated' jam. Jerry soon enough strikes up 'Franklin's
Tower', and here's where things get interesting.
Remember the vocal
silliness on 5-11-78's 'Fire' & 'Dancin', preserved on DP-25?
Bobby & Brent seem to have some of that same antsy, playful vibe
going on here -- not nearly to the same degree, to be sure, but i
wonder if we don't have a clue here as to why the band has seemed a
little unfocused through much of the show. At any rate, they
continue playing through the end of 'Franklin's Tower' -- hard to
say where it ends really, but ten minutes after it starts they are
clearly no longer playing it, having quietly drifted into Something
Else. It isn't grand, or explosive, but it is certainly ON:
interactive, mobile, seemingly self-aware. Jerry burbles notes that
suggest directions, and Brent & Phil flesh out larger scenarios.
One or both of the drummers seems locked on Phil's every note for
long stretches -- amazing intuition. Quiet conversations, not coming
to conclusions so much as touching on possibilities, never losing
the body groove. Waves wash up, drain back down; Brent picks up a
boogie groove (I believe someone referred to this as his
'bug-mashing' sound), but that too disappears -- all reminding me of
some sonic rendering of tidepool life. Splash, swell, motion;
reverse, rush, calm; repeat as necessary. After almost ten minutes,
it all runs out, and Mickey finds soul in the droning monotone tar
rhythm we often call 'Ollin Arageed'.
Wow, what was all that? It
wasn't a Big Jam, but it sure was nice. As dry as this SBD is, we
sometimes hear some comments thrown around during the performance
[not that I can make out what they are]. Three minutes of tar, and
Mickey feels the need for bigger drums ... oh look, here they are!
:-) Billy helps out. Too bad these SBDs never really give the impact
these drums had in actual performance; it was HUGE. This comes as
close as I've heard, and ends in a big buildup that Mickey counts to
Eight minutes into drums,
and Mickey opts for some more tribal sounds. Woodbox, maybe? Drums
was rarely just one thing; I remember there being typically three
movements, the third usually enticing Jerry back on stage. This is
the case here, and so begins the Space. A little noodly, but it soon
gives way to the slow, incessant rhythm we all know & love as
'Not Fade Away'.
OK. So far, the worthy
moments have been from 'Estimated' up to the drums; will we find
anything to complement it here? I think we do. After dispensing with
the lyrics, they grind this 10-minute NFA for almost all it's worth
-- a long, slow, inexorable build, especially by the drummers, who
show real enthusiasm under Jerry's increasingly frenetic playing.
It's almost a shame,
really, when they downshift into 'Stella Blue', but you soon forget
about that: Jerry's going for his often-sought pin-drop silence
here, and finds it; his solo aches with a repressed sadness that
compensates for his sometimes scratchy singing. Not that this quiet
approach is dull -- at the end he rides the drummers' enthusiasm
with another fine solo, more energetic though no less soulful. An
all-around fine version that even has them coming to an end
together, as if rehearsed. Good show, boys!
Naturally, they aren't
going out on THAT note, and Bobby quickly inserts the familiar
'Sugar Mag' intro. It's a respectable finish, with some heaviness
Philled in at the end. A 'U.S. Blues' encore finishes the show. I
say this one's worth checking out :-)
the Grateful Dead's concert performance on
12/4/79, at the
Uptown Theater - Chicago, IL