Saturday, October 14, 2006

Grateful Dead and Kent State -Dick's Picks Ten

This show in 1970 took place in between two events that shook America: the US invasion of Cambodia in a war that was supposedly winding down and the National Guard killings of four students during an antiwar protest at Kent State University in Ohio. The Grateful Dead took the stage on May 2, 1970 not only with the knowledge that the audience was restless almost to the point of riot but that their job as a band was to take that potentially negative energy and transform it into one hell of a good time. Like the best Dead performances from any time of their thirty-year traveling medicine show and carnival, they did! The acoustic version of the traditional (and Dead standard)"I Know You Rider" has as much energy as any electric version they ever did. With a crowd eager to burn off their energy via an all-night dance-a-thon, it was up to Jerry Garcia and the boys to provide the music.


The first set is an acoustic marvel. Beginning with a bouncy version of "Don't Ease Me In," the musical trip wanders into the aforementioned "I Know You Rider", where Jerry's licks blend beautifully with the rhythm guitar backing of Bob Weir and the always sound bassman Phil Lesh. Stepping back, the outlaw ballad "Friend of the Devil" is rendered with a conviction much like many of America's youth believed themselves to be in the US of 1970. A bouncy "Dire Wolf" follows as the boys beat it on down the musical line to the an evocative "Black Peter" that brings the pain of death to the concert floor. Five more songs--including two from the Dead's masterpiece Workingman's Dead and two traditionals: Deep Elem Blues and the bluegrass gospel piece "Cold Jordan" finish out the set. That's when the fun really kicks in.


The remainder of this three-cd set starts of with a ripping "St. Stephen" and ends an hour and a half later with "We Bid You Goodnight." The highlights in between include Pigpen sounding like a male version of Etta James in "It's A Man's World" and a take of the post-apocalypse song "Morning Dew" that acknowledges the pervasive feeling of that week that the end might have been near. The lead guitar work of Garcia on this tune and the version of "Viola Lee Blues" that follows it goes straight to one's spine as the notes do not send chills so much as they become part of the nervous system--it's as if the music and the listener are one: something that happens rarely in any musical performance but, when it does, nothing else compares.


Which is perhaps the best way to describe this recording: nothing else c

2 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

Great review, I'lll have to make this my next DP.

I'd like to add you to my blogroll. I have all the Dead bloggers I can find under "The Eagle Wing Palace". Found you via Irene at Weir Freakin.

7:25 PM  
Blogger ron jacobs said...

please do!

7:42 AM  

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