Today in Grateful Dead History: September 29, 1977 – Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA

dancing-bearThis is a very laid back Pacific Northwest performance that shows off a lot of Bob Weir’s guitar range but never really gels as a full-band experience, even though a couple of really fun songs manage to take flight.

Part of the problem is the recording.  Keith is completely MIA, Bob is very high in the mix and Phil comes and goes.  So there is a lot of missing space that sucks some of the life out of the performance in places.  But beyond that, it appears that the band’s attention comes and goes, which makes this show sound even more uneven.

Uneven does not mean that there aren’t a bunch of highlights – there are.  First, Bob plays really well tonight, which is good because you’re going to hear him a lot more than the other band members given the mix.  No one plays like Bob Weir, and even after all of these years of listening, he still manages to surprise me whenever I can really hear him on a recording.

Second, Let It Grow comes roaring out of nowhere (actually out of a low-key Sugaree) and takes over the room.  It’s as if the band suddenly “clicked” on – everyone is focused and Jerry just wails on the guitar.  This is a pure power version of Let It Grow, which is all the more shocking given how tentative everything else has sounded before it.  Truckin’ sounds like it wants to get to this same place, but other than a two minute burst near the end, the song never really gets there.

Third, after Let It Grow the band gives us a 17 minute Franklin’s Tower.  I’d argue that we’d be better served with a 10 minute version, but that’s nit-picking.  17 minutes of Franklin’s Tower is always a good thing, even if there are sloppy moments like there are in this version.

Fourth, although He’s Gone is nothing special, it’s great to hear Bob, Jerry and Phil play together in balance, with the drummers and Keith well in the background. This is one of those slow rollers that just makes you really focus on what the guitars are trying to do with one another and shows off Bob’s exceptional ability to run in between Jerry and Phil.

This show is not going to rank high on my list of 1977 performances, but it’s worth hearing, especially in the sweet spots, for Bob Weir’s contributions.  You can listen to the soundboard (with several significant cuts) here: https://archive.org/details/gd1977-09-29.sbd.cantor.gmb.96027.flac16

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