Today in Grateful Dead History: June 9, 1973 – RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

stealieToday’s steller show is the “other” RFK Stadium show from 1973, the laid back cousin to tomorrow’s barn-burner of a show with Dickey Betts and Butch Trucks from the Allman Brothers Band.  The Brothers played on the bill with the Dead today too, but there was no cross pollination.  Despite the lack of Allmans, this is a great show in its own right and it’s a very good audience recording that I believe sounds much better than the soundboard.

The one thing you’re not going to get a lot of today is long, spacey jams.  (At least not by 1973 standards – if they played this way in 1984, heads would have exploded).  Instead, you get most of the standard ’73 Dead songs played really well through an exceptional sound system that allows you to hear everyone at the top of their games.  ’73 was a good year for Box of Rain, and Phil nails it here during the lengthy first set, which ends with a great China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider.

He’s Gone>Truckin’>Playin’ In The Band leads off the second set and provides the magic in spades, especially during Playin’ In The Band.  It’s hard to describe what the boys are doing here other than to say that they are dialed in and throwing ideas off each other left and right with endlessly good results.  The remainder of the show features a very nice (and relatively short) Eyes of the World that segues into a beautiful China Doll that quiets the previously rowdy crowd.  (One audience member is really happy to hear Eyes).

If your goal is to cram a bunch of well played shorter Dead tunes into one place, this show is going to be perfect for you.  Sure, there is no Dark Star or The Other One to really take things out there, but Playin’ in the Band is impressive and everything else is simply fun.  

A soundboard exists for this show, but I’m going with the audience recording.  Yes, there is a lot of “color” throughout the tape, but when the boys get going, you’re going to like hearing it this way.  Listen to the audience tape here:

The snobs can hear the soundboard here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: September 8, 1973 – Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY

stealieI’ve barely touched 1972 – 1977 on this site during 2016.  (I did re-post a bunch of reviews of shows from these years from my old site).  I’m pretty sure that this happened because it’s difficult to find the time to listen to full shows from the mid-70’s, since they stretch out for so long.  But it’s nice to be here in 1973, where there really isn’t anything but goodness pouring out of the speakers.

Today’s show from Nassau Coliseum features a couple of firsts and a bunch of very tight playing, but none of the extended jams that the band typically threw down in 1973.  There’s no Playin’ in the Band, Dark Star or The Other One in this show, and therefore no huge, twenty-plus minute excursions to Mars.  But the lack of jams gives us the opportunity to focus on some really interesting moments in a couple of often-overlooked songs.

Let’s talk about the firsts first.  Today was the first performance of Weather Report Suite Part I, the part of the Weather Report Suite after the musical Prelude and before the much more common Let It Grow.  The Dead had been experimenting live with the Prelude for some time, and Let It Grow debuted the previous night after Loser, so tonight is actually the first time that the entire Weather Report Suite was played in order.  I’ve always liked Part I, especially the end, and it is great to hear it fully formed here.

There’s a second premiere tonight, Keith Godchaux’s Let Me Sing Your Blues Away.  In keeping with the unusual night of firsts, this is the only live performance of this song (it was only played six times total, all in September 1973) that does not feature a horn section.  This song is not quite there yet vocally, with some serious issues on the harmonies.  Still, it’s good to hear Keith’s very nice solo singing voice – he would have fit right in with the Band.

As I said, the other highlights of the evening come in unusual moments.  The Dead’s version of Row Jimmy is one of the sharpest, most collaborative performances of that song that I’ve ever heard.  Likewise, the quieter moments of Ramble on Rose are amazing, as are the last four or five minutes of He’s Gone into Truckin’.  Finally, there’s Stella Blue, played as an encore for the first time out of a grand total of two encore performances.  (The other was 10/19/73 in Oklahoma City).  So even though there are no huge songs, there are plenty of things to chew on at this otherwise overlooked performance.

Listen to the soundboard here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: May 26, 1973 – Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, CA

stealie NOTE: This material was originally published in 2015 on my previous site. It has been updated and edited, sometimes heavily, and was posted in several batches in September, 2016.

This show is a great example of wonderful instrument separation on a recording. Bob is on the left, Jerry is on the right, and everyone else is spaced around the middle. The levels are well-balanced and you can hear each instrument very clearly.

Because of this, you get a good picture of what exactly Bob Weir meant to the band, which is not always easy to appreciate because 1. he’s usually buried in the mix; 2. a lot of his songs are just played to death and many of them are kinda cheesy; and 3. those shorts (although not in this era). Here, every crazy note that Bob plays is discernible and you’ll hear him do some totally bonkers and amazing things.

I think that this show is probably overrated because it was in circulation for a while and because the song quality is consistently good but not always other-worldly. The Playing in the Band is wonderful (and shows off the Bob moves I’m talking about, especially at the end) and the 3rd set is good but not as transcendent as others from this time period. Still, it’s definitely worth hearing, especially as a clear example of a band that’s obviously listening intently to what its members have to play.

You can hear the soundboard here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: May 20, 1973 – Campus Stadium, UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA

stealie NOTE: This material was originally published in 2015 on my previous site. It has been updated and edited, sometimes heavily, and was posted in several batches in August, 2016.

1973 is the year that keeps on giving, with massive, high-quality shows that tend to blend together since everything is just so jammed out and well-played. This daytime concert from the University of California Santa Barbara is no exception.

This whole show is very well done, but the versions of Tennessee Jed and Greatest Story Ever Told really highlight the interplay between the band members and stand out among the other short songs from this date. The jam in the middle of China Cat Sunflower and I Know You Rider is also tasty. Playing in the Band, closing out the first set, is the real winner here, with some exceptional moments. The second set is standard (other than the previously mentioned Greatest Story), but would be a good set to give to someone who really isn’t into the long jams.

The third set (yes, they played three sets for a lot of 1973) consists of Truckin’>Jam>The Other One>Eyes Of The World>Stella Blue>Sugar Magnolia and it’s a long haul, clocking in at over an hour. And what an hour it is. The Jam between Truckin’ and The Other One is a sparse back and forth, Jerry on one side and Phil and Bob completing each others’ thoughts on the other. Unfortunately, the solo out of Stella Blue is short – after this trip, you want one of those three minute beauties that Jerry ripped off in the 90’s but weren’t typical in 1973. Oh well.

Here is the link to the Charlie Miller transfer of the soundboard:

If you’re interested, the Grateful Dead Listening Guide has a post dissecting the third set in great detail.

Today In Grateful Dead History: November 17, 1973 – Pauley Pavilion, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA

stealie Today’s lights out show at UCLA in 1973 features one of the all time epic Playin’ in the Band sandwiches .  (Don’t know what a Playin’ in the Band sandwich is?  There’s more information here and the Grateful Dead Listening Guide has a useful description in its write up of this show here).  At today’s performance, the sandwich is played thusly:  Playin’ In The Band>Uncle John’s Band>Morning Dew>Uncle John’s Band>Playin’ In The Band and oh boy is it a good one!  (There are a ton of mistakes when it comes to the lyrics, but all is forgiven because of the quality of the music).  I’m not going to get into a detailed description of this sequence, 1, because none is needed and, 2, because the Listening Guide is, as always, spot on.  Just let the music play and get lost in the flow.  (If you’d like to compare 1973 to 1974, check out this same sequence of songs from the Cow Palace on 03/23/74 to get a sense of just how far out there the Dead got just five months later).

Since this is 1973, the rest of the show is also incredible.  I think that 1973 and 1974 were the apex years for the Dead in large part because they were playing together, but at the same time, they were all playing amazing solo passages that interacted with one another in a patchwork mystery that can’t be readily explained.  The “basic” songs at tonight’s show illustrate that principal – check out what is going on during Deal and Row Jimmy to hear this dynamic at work.

And if you want more jams, listen to Here Comes Sunshine, the second song played at this show, which is a blast of jammy energy that must have knocked everyone for a loop as they were in all likelihood still streaming into the venue.

Oh yeah, you also don’t want to miss China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider.  And Stella Blue.  And Eyes of the World.  Get the drift?  This is that kind of show.

Enjoy it here:

Today In Grateful Dead History: October 19, 1973 – Oklahoma City Fairgrounds Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

stealie This show was released as Dick’s Picks Vol. 19, and I’m going to assume that the great Dark Star>Morning Dew and the Eyes of the World>Stella Blue encore was the reason why it was selected , because the rest of the show, while awesome like most 1973 performances, isn’t really any more or less awesome than a bunch of other shows from this time period.

But the highlights are highlights indeed.  Dark Star, especially the closing Mind Left Body Jam, is very nice.  The opening portion is quite spacey, even for 1973, and the ending jam is really melodic.  The contrast works well.  This moves into a thoroughly intense Morning Dew that sucks you right in and spits you out 12 minutes later after some vintage Jerry shredding and interesting organ work (Keith sounds very Tom Constanten like) that you’ll have to strain to hear on this recording.

After a second set closing Sugar Magnolia, the band comes back for a three song encore made up of Eyes of the World>Stella Blue and Johnny B. Goode.  In my limited research, it appears that Eyes of the World was only played as an encore four times (today and three times in 1974) and Stella Blue was an encore only twice, so this pairing is incredibly unique.  The band makes the most of it, with a perfectly timed Eyes of the World that is neither too long nor too short and a pretty Stella.

As I said before, this show has been released in its entirety as Dick’s Picks Vol. 19 and based on the couple of tracks that I listened to from that source, the sound is much better on Dick’s Picks than it is on the Archive, even when condensed.  So maybe you should locate a copy of Dick’s Picks and buy it, because the sound quality on the only version of this show available on the Archive is nicht so gut.  And Johnny B. Goode is stuck in the middle.  And Big River is missing.

Sounds issues notwithstanding, check out the second set and encores immediately:

Today In Grateful Dead History: September 17, 1973 – Onondaga County War Memorial, Syracuse, NY

stealie The Grateful Dead have played with a bunch of horn players over the years (see September 10, 1991 for instance), but did you know that they actually brought a saxophonist and trumpeter out for eight days of a ten date east coast tour in September, 1973?

Lost Live Dead, a wonderful resource, has a great post describing how this happened, so I’m not going to get into the weeds about the circumstances surrounding the hiring of the horns.  Suffice it to say, saxophonist Martin Fierro and trumpeter Joe Ellis, both fairly accomplished players but not exactly mainstream names, played on a bunch of songs at these September shows, typically during the second set during the jammier numbers.

I’m not going to pretend that this arrangement works very well musically, as you can hear at tonight’s performance from Syracuse, but it certainly has its moments.  The first set is a standard 1973 Grateful Dead performance that never really goes “out there”.  However, since this is 1973, all of the songs are well played, the recording does a good job of highlighting all of the instruments, and you get to hear some pretty creepy theremin-esque sounds from Keith Godchaux during Looks Like Rain, something I’ve never heard before.

We’re really here to talk about the second set and the horns.  But before we do, we should also take note of the performance of Let Me Sing Your Blues Away, Keith’s only true lead vocal performance for the Grateful Dead and the sole Grateful Dead song that is credited to him (and Robert Hunter).  Let Me Sing Your Blues Away was only performed six times during this period of 1973, so tonight’s rendition is an even rarer occurrence than the horn section.  I actually really like this song, and it goes to show what Keith could do vocally.  The band, saxophone in tow, really gets into the groove too.

Speaking of saxophones, now it’s time for the horns.  At this show in particular, the horns do a pretty good job adding to the general atmosphere of the songs, contributing neat bumps and interesting lines in Truckin’ and Eyes of the World.  They also do something to the tone of Stella Blue, which I guarantee you have never heard sound like this before.

My problem with the horns is not the atmospheric music, it’s the solos, which don’t add much to what the band is trying to achieve and typically just get in the way of Jerry being Jerry.  You can make your own call, but take a listen to Let It Grow for an example.

So, this show is a weird one.  It’s also a weird one worth listening to, and one of the better shows with the horn section that I’ve heard.  (Caveat – I haven’t heard all eight).  Check it out here: