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.

Monday, April 18, 2016

1978-01-22 - McArthur Court

Venue: McArthur Court - Eugene, OR
Tape History: SBD (AUD by Reinhart Holwein, download here)
Release History: None

Set 1
New Minglewood Blues, Dire Wolf, Cassidy, Peggy-O, El Paso, *TN Jed, *Jack Straw, Row Jimmy, The Music Never Stopped

Set 2
*Bertha -> Good Lovin', Ship of Fools, *Samson & Delilah, *Terrapin Station -> *Drums -> *The Other One -> *St. Stephen -> *NFA -> Around & Around, E: U.S. Blues

04/18/2016: This show is a great introduction to 1978 Dead if you've yet to dip into that much neglected year. This was my second tape, after 07/08, which will be officially released May 2016. The early winter tour took place mainly in California except for this date, the tour's conclusion. (They took off with a six show Midwest jaunt about a week later. Two exceptional shows, which were combo released as Dick's Picks 18, reviewed here and here.) One day, I'll end up posting my review here for 07/08, but for now, let's dig in to 01/22, a night where Jerry is on fire throughout and the band never ceases to push. The tape quality is excellent. Phil is high on the mix, but not overpowering other levels. Bobby is equalized to the right side, Jerry is in the middle, higher in level than the other instruments. Keith is on the left and, surprisingly, the drums are very low. It's a nice, direct intimate sound. You could never tell the show was recorded at the University of Oregon basketball arena.

Overall, the first set is fine though unspectacular. There is a lot of dead air after most songs in the first set. It's hard for the band to flow when they're pausing for more than a minute, sometimes three, between songs. You can definitely tell in the first half of the set, where songs such as Minglewood, Cassidy, or El Paso usually pack a punch and deliver an energetic effect. Once we get to Tennessee Jed though, it's clear something's changed. There's a very nice second solo section, driving to a peak at the key change and a swift crash back to the chorus. Great pacing and focus, the drums and Bobby driving Jerry to climb up the register. Here Jerry shows an amazing capacity to invent melodies as he's soloing. The crowd loved it and showed their appreciation during an extended ovation. Surprising us every step of the way, the band rips into Jack Straw, oddly placed near the end of the set. Keith really shines here and connects with the Rhythm Devils to drive Jerry on that Detroit Lightning out of Santa Fe. And drive he does. Pushing and pushing to find that combination of melody and tone, crafting winding lines that unexpectedly peak, effortlessly hitting chord changes while flying up the fretboard, fanning near the end of climactic solo as a lead-in to the last chorus. Crowd goes nuts. What a special performance of Jack Straw! These two songs are exceptional not only for this era. The set closes with Music, a classic 1978 set closer, having closed all 22 shows it appeared in. There's a nice solo section that doesn't quite match the intensity in Jack Straw, with a nice drop into the main groove yet nothing like the crash in 02/03.

The second is where the money is. Pure heat, nary a pause to be found with Jerry profoundly on fire for every minute. Bertha has some great ensemble playing, much more group-oriented than the highlights from the first set. Keith is working closely with Jerry here, supporting his playing by laying down guiding arpeggios and chords as Jerry nears the end of his solo. Samson has similar group dynamics as Bertha, something the group, and drums in particular, appear to relish. From Terrapin to the end of NFA we're treated to one of the finest sequences of music this band ever created. To start, the Terrapin seems like an unlikely candidate to set off what's to follow. It is magnificent yes, gentle and patient, exploratory and reflective. It segues into Drums before we descend into the maelstrom of The Other One.

It is truly epic, a certain candidate one of the best I've ever heard. A great intro by Phil and the drums drops us off into the middle of this swirling madness. Jerry and Phil are very clearly driving this beast. Jerry consistently weaves his triplets above the hectic movement beneath him. Phil plays the opening riff multiple times until the band is ready to dip into the verse. Great listening from the whole band, playing as an ensemble engine to Jerry's stampeding eighteen-wheeler. After the 9:30 mark, the drums begin to pick up while Phil and Bobby nearly drop out. Keith is trying to keep with Jerry, but it is obvious Jerry is in his own zone here. At the 12 minute mark, Bobby comes in stronger and Jerry states The Other One triplet theme and takes off again. The Rhythm Devils do an incredible job here, placing their cymbal splashes and rolling toms in unison with what the rest of the band is doing. Near the 13 minute mark, Phil comes in again and we're very clearly going into the second verse. That's a very long jam with multiple thematic changes between both verses. Exceptional work by all. Around the 15 minute mark, most everyone drops off, except for Jerry, the drums, and Keith, with Phil showing shrewd restraint, recognizing that the jam is developing just fine without him. Near the 17 minute mark, the whole band save Jerry drop out, and he and his mutron expand on a fantasia that finds him leaving no turn unstoned on his fretboard. Slowly, his solo excursion leads him to quote the melody from the film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," which was released two months earlier. He teases it more and finally plays it as part of his improvisation and teases it some more, the crowd notices and you can hear their surprise at what's going on. He quotes it again before seamlessly transitioning to the riff from St. Stephen, skipping the common introductory melody.

Bobby joins first, then drums, Keith, and Phil. The tempo kind of lags, but it the tune picks up after the bridge. Bobby and Keith are totally in sync, Jerry continues to float above them, and Phil stays with the drums. When they drop into the main melody, prompted by the drums, it sounds pre-planned. A wonderful moment then transformed by the drums and the Bo Diddley beat into NFA. Phil and Jerry intertwine their lines, with Phil really shining here, his bass loping all over the place. Jerry stays hot and doesn't run out of ideas as he goes through the changes multiple times. Jerry briefly plays the Playin' theme, and the band gets real quiet for a moment before gathering intensity and dropping into their reprise of the first verse.

My highest recommendation for this show. Extraordinary second set and blazing playing by the band as a whole, and especially by the man in the black t-shirt.