Thursday, November 09, 2006

Back to the 60's

After wandering around the 80s material for a bit, I've decided to backtrack a few decades to the all important formative years of the Dead.

February 2, 1968
Crystal Ballroom
Portland, OR

Viola Lee Blues, Cryptical Envelopment -> The Other One -> Cryptical Envelopment -> Clementine -> Good Morning Little School Girl

As usual, the Viola Lee that starts out the show is absolutely phenomenal, the Dead were clearly blazing their way through '68. The band quickly sets out with this one and set a quick and rowdy pace, which, once established, Jerry circles many times over with his fine guitar playing. The jam immediately proceeding the 1st verse is obviously led by Jerry out of the gate, as he leaves the band on a frantic tear, hypnotizing the entire crowd at once with his swirling and soaring. Garcia's playing throughout epitomizes his pre-71 sound as he is full of energy. As tends to happen, this Viola Lee Blues really cooks and the band is allowed to really find their collective groove early on with this monsterous opener. This definitely sets the tone for what is sure to be an excellent set. By the time they reach Cryptical, it seems like they would have run completely out of energy. But any thoughts of weariness or any other form of exhaustion are immediately dissipated when Jerry proceeds to rip the entire beginning of The Other One, hardly letting a second pass in which he is not filling the air with music. This Other One features Bob singing different lyrics than are normally sang, adding tremendously to this version. The following Cryptical is both assertive and enthusiastic as Jerry proclaims that "he had to die."

After the 2nd Cryptical is where things really get interesting. The band breaks out Clementine, and before the lyrics are sung the band uses the song to really space things out a bit and the opening jam is pure musical greatness. The song's quirky lyrics are given a fantastic run through by Jerry but the band (following Jerry's lead) quickly set out to re-explore the vast area that lies within this song. Jerry's solos in this jam following the 1st verse are very well played but the band takes away some of Jerry's ripping power by really opening the song up and taking a more rhythmic approach to it. Jerry takes the 2nd verse powerfully, yelling on the Clementine. His following solo helps to express what the lyrics can not, as he leads the band down a path, a very strange path at that. The only complaint against this song is that it is not long enough here, as just as you are enjoying the jam the band slyly commences Good Morning little School girl, but what a rocking version it is. Excellently played, excellently sung by Pigpen. Jerry's playing is, of course, exquisite, and really complements Pigpen's charming yet creepy rendition of this classic.


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