Today In Grateful Dead History: November 6, 1970 – Capital Theater, Port Chester, NY

skeleton&rosesIn yesterday’s post I promised that some of the Grateful Dead’s other Port Chester shows were even better than the November 5th concert, and today’s offering is Exhibit A.  This Capital Theater show, presented in its full form with the Dead’s acoustic first set and the New Riders of the Purple Sage’s entire performance in addition to the Dead’s electric third set, is a classic from start to finish.

We begin, as we so often do at this point of 1970, with an acoustic set from the Grateful Dead, who show no signs of being tired after yesterday’s extravagant engagement.  Unfortunately, the quality of the recording is not top notch (although for a 1970 audience tape it’s just fine), and it’s hard to pick up the nuances of the Dead’s music, especially on El Paso and Brokedown Palace, which come from a second source that was actually taped on a Dictaphone.  No matter – Deep Elem Blues and Dark Hollow will warm the soul no matter the quality of the recording.

As always, I’ll skip over the New Riders’ performance, but you should check it out if you have the time.  It’s pretty good.

The Dead’s electric set follows, and that’s where we arrive at transcendence.  Per usual, the Grateful Dead Listening Guide’s post on this show is much better than anything I’m going to write about it, so I’ll wait until you’ve digested that piece before continuing.  Are we good?  Ok.

This set is simply a beast.  If you compare it to yesterday, it’s a longer, rockier affair with less of the truly out there music that made the November 5th Dark Star so interesting, but more of the thrilling rock / bluegrass / blues mashup that makes 1970 Grateful Dead so cool. Seriously, check out this setlist:  Casey Jones, Me and My Uncle, King Bee, China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider, Truckin’, Candyman, Sugar Magnolia, Drums>Good Lovin’>Drums>The Main Ten>Drums>Good Lovin’>Alligator>Drums> Jam>Not Fade Away>Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad>Mountain Jam>Not Fade Away>Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)>Turn On Your Love Light.

The first incredible moment comes during China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider.  The band is raring to take a swing at these tunes and it delivers with a ferocious yet delicate version, especially in the transition.  The entire sequence from Good Lovin’ through the end is special.  The Main Ten (which turned into Playin’ in the Band shortly thereafter) is just a martial dose of Dead and Alligator is furious.  All of this gets punctuated with various drum solos and bursts of Not Fade Away, as well as a huge Mountain Jam after Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad.  This all eventually melts into Caution, but it doesn’t stay there for long (well, actually it stays there for almost 14 minutes) because  the Dead want another crack at Turn on Your Lovelight, even though they played that tune for half an hour the night before.  Tonight’s version isn’t as cool as last night’s, but Pigpen is still ripping off his stories, which tonight feature a bear.  What a way to end a show.

I’m not doing this show justice with the post – you have to check out the interplay between the drums and the rest of the band and the interweaving songs throughout the electric set to truly appreciate what they’re doing here.  Go get it:


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