Closing of Winterland
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Closing of Winterland

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Closing of Winterland - Review

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Closing of Winterland

Closing of Winterland - 12/31/78 Grateful Dead

12/31/78 ~ Winterland (2003)

San Francisco, CA


Order:  DVD | CD
Closing of Winterland - Review

Grateful Dead: The Closing of Winterland 

The Grateful Dead's DVD The Closing of Winterland marks the closing of a historic San Francisco music landmark. Perhaps this performance is the second most important concert held at that venue, the first would be The Band's 1976 Thanksgiving party entitled The Last Waltz

The concert was originally broadcast live on TV by the local NPR station KQED; otherwise, this legendary performance would likely only exist in audio format. The overall outcome is superb as the video is quite good, and the sound quality is outstanding.  As for the band, Jerry is blistering, but Phil is the MVP, it's not even close.  And when Phil is on, his energy is contagious. 

After father times New Years Eve countdown the music festivities begin, and  "Sugar Magnolia" kicks off the set with a burst energy. Things really get cooking when they segue into an excellent "Scarlet Begonias" > "Fire On the Mountain," where the latter has Jerry bopping all around. Another highlight is "Friend of the Devil." This song has been played in a variety of styles through the Grateful Dead's career, our favorite year for the song is 1978, and this version validates why. Most important, Jerry instrumental is sharp, but the whole band add their fills, not to mention Donna's contributions are excellent.  Speaking of Donna, she shines in her lead role in "From the Heart of Me."  The conclusion of the track is sweet with Jerry switching his phrasing to a few sweet concluding guitar runs just before Bobby segues to "Sunshine Daydream" to close the set. 

The second set has its share of highlights such "Samson and Delilah," as Jerry and Phil get synchronized during the instrumental leading to some electrifying moments. Just as powerful is the set closer of  "Not Fade Away" > "Around and Around" which are unhurried versions. Several guests join the band to trade riffs and delight the crowd of these the rock 'n roll standards, including John Cipollina, who played in numerous Bay Area bands, but is best known for his work with Quicksilver Messenger Service.

The third set brings us to the high point of the show, the "Dark Star."  The year is 1978 when the song was not part of the bands regular rotation so comparing it to the olden days is unwarranted. In fact, according to a banner made by a fan, it was "1535 Days Since Last S.F. 'Dark Star.'"

This version of "Dark Star" has a unique story, and its main theme is sandwiching "The Other One" within it. The initial transition from "Dark Star" is intense and spacey, where they tease back and fourth between "The Other One" and "Dark Star" ever so gently, so you can not really be sure what song they are playing. Eventually it is defined by the MVP, Phil, as they bust into a short and to the point rendition of "The Other One." The most amazing part of the song occurs when you would expect the band to begin a jam on "The Other One" Bobby hits the chords of "Dark Star" and within seconds the attentive Garcia begins singing "Dark Star's melody of with his guitar. The rest of the set is exceptional.

To conclude their performance the band treats us to a three song encore that is highlighted by a rocking version of "Johnny B. Goode" that features an animated Garcia.

The Closing of Winterland is essential viewing. We consider it one of the landmark music films released on DVD. by Barry Small
Grade A +

Closing of Winterland - Track List
Track List

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12/31/78 ~ Set 1

Sugar Magnolia  > 
Scarlet Begonias > 
Fire On The Mountain  
Me And My Uncle  > 
Big River 
Friend Of The Devil  
It's All Over Now  
Stagger Lee  
From The Heart Of Me  > 
Sunshine Daydream

12/31/78 ~ Set 2
Samson And Delilah 
Ramble On Rose 
I Need A Miracle   > 
Terrapin Station  > 
Playing In The Band  > 
Drums  > 
Not Fade Away  
Around And Around 

12/31/78 ~ Set 3
Dark Star  > 
The Other One  > 
Dark Star Jam  > 
Wharf Rat  > 
Saint Stephen  > 
Good Lovin' 

Casey Jones  > 
Johnny B. Goode
And We Bid You Good Night

Closing of Winterland  Guests
(1) with Matthew Kelly
(2) with Lee Oskar,
(3) with John Cipollina
(4) with Greg Errico

Closing of Winterland - Musicians

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Jerry Garcia - lead guitar, vocals
Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
Phil Lesh - bass, vocals
Keith Godchaux keyboard
Mickey Hart - drums
Bill Kreutzmann - drums
Donna Godchaux vocals

(1) with Matthew Kelly
(2) with Lee Oskar,
(3) with John Cipollina

Closing of Winterland - Notes - Credits

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Released - November 2003
Label - Monterey Home Video
Dolby Digital 5.1 DVD format feature show, bonus Dolby 2.0.
Audio mixed from the original 24 track analog master tapes
Video from the original 2" Quad video master
Photos by Ed Perlstein
Package Design by Robert Minkin
Liner Notes by Gary Lambert and Glenn Lambert /
28 Page Booklet
Total running time approximately 375 minutes
Visible lyrics option

Third party references:
An article about The Closing of Winterland DVD from the San Francisco Chronicle

Crutchfield Advisor has some interviews about The Closing of Winterland with David Lemieux and Jeffrey Norman.

A four disc audio disc is available.

Bonus Tracks on the limited edition CD 

This limited edition CD is available only when ordering it directly from the Grateful Dead's online store upon its release.

Easy Wind 

Jam > 
Black Peter 

Playing in the Band 

Lazy Lightning > 

Sugar Magnolia >
Scarlet Begonias >
Fire on the Mountain

Closing of Winterland - buy - order