12/4/79
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 12/4/79 Uptown Theater - Chicago, IL

 

Dick's Picks Volume 5 reviewGo To Nassaureview

12/4/79

Reckoning reviewDead Set review

 
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 12/4/79 Uptown Theater - Chicago, IL

The Grateful Dead
Uptown Theater - Chicago, IL
12/4/79

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

Review

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 a stop.

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 :-)

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 12/4/79, at the Uptown Theater - Chicago, IL
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 12/4/79 Uptown Theater - Chicago, IL