For a number of years I've been keeping a Grateful Dead notebook. Eventually, I began writing impressions and capsule reviews of shows I have in my collection. I've adopted the style Dead archivist Dick Latvala used for the sake of organization, but also as a small tribute to the man. This blog will be an online version of that notebook. Feel free to leave comments or to email me. I want this space to be an open forum for all Deadheads.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
1973-10-25 - Dane County Coliseum
Venue: Dane County Coliseum - Madison, WI
Tape History: SBD
Release History: None
*Bertha, *Big River, *Here Comes Sunshine, Black-Throated Wind, They Love Each Other, Mexicali Blues, TN Jed [missing from tape], Looks Like Rain [missing from tape], Deal [missing form tape], El Paso, Row Jimmy, *Playin' In The Band
China Cat Sunflower -> I Know You Rider, Me & My Uncle, *Dark Star -> *MLB Jam -> *Dark Star -> *Eyes Of The World -> *Stella Blue, *WRS Prelude -> *WRS Part One -> *Let It Grow -> GDTRFB -> Saturday Night, E: Uncle John's Band
11-23-2010: This tape was my very first fall 1973 show. Maybe that's why it holds a special place for me. It takes a little while for the soundboard recording to really hit its groove. There are audible jumps here and there, and Phil is barely there until maybe halfway through "Bertha." There are many shows (and some would argue setlist construction) where the ebb and flow of a set will incorporate slower tunes between big jams, usually as a way to regain energy. Here the band had energy to spare and piled it on with no reservations. I'd also like to note a phrase I use in these reviews. Big jams often have soft landing points, i.e., "Black Peter," "Stella Blue," "China Doll," "Wharf Rat," et. al. I call these "everything is going to be okay" moments because they bring us back to Earth in a reassuring way after an intense sequence. This show has one of those moments.
The "Bertha," "Big River" opening tunes are inspired versions, Jerry soloing with purpose, creating hard, peaking melodic phrases. As far as "Berthas" go, only 08-06-1971 has a similar, angular and tense solo section from Jerry. The tone-setting "Bertha" should be a sign that the Dead were starting shit and taking names. Phil's inspired in "Sunshine." Bummer that the three tunes are missing from an otherwise grade A first set. "Playin'" goes off into space with Captain Jerry showing the way. Not the farthest out played in the fall of '73, but a solid version nonetheless.
Dynamic rhythm playing by Bob in the "China Cat" jam before "Rider," where Jerry mostly laid out as Bob did his chordal-based soloing. This is definitely uncommon, but it works! The "Dark Star" and "MLB Jam" sandwich is proof of exactly what this band is about. Inventive improvisations, where the band is pushing and pulling against each other, discovering new realms and creating indelible spontaneous compositions. Jerry and Bill, and Phil to a lesser extent, are the main instigators. (This show is yet another piece of evidence suggesting that the Dead were at their best with just Bill on the drums.) The feedback and tense guitar scales send the "Dark Star" out to the far reaches of the universe. Scary. In the role of "everything's going to be okay," we get a stellar "Eyes," with Phil and Jerry on fire. I loved how Jerry and Bob were on the same page with the "Eyes" intro, as Phil and Bill hit the root note and snare drum, respectively, in unison a few seconds later. Talk about being in the zone. This mind-bending sequence segues perfectly into a gorgeous "Stella Blue." Oh, and they play the "WRS" afterward. What a show! Dick Latvala called it "one of the all-time, out-of-this-world kind of shows...the most uncompromising show in GD history perhaps." By the way, as if ending with "WRS" isn't enough, you get a barn-burning "GDTRFB" and a "Saturday Night." An unforgettable night where the energy and drive to explore never lagged. I cannot recommend this show enough.
Let It Grow