Jerry Garcia - lead guitar, vocals; Ron "Pigpen" McKernan - vocals, organ, percussion; Bob Weir - guitar, vocals; Phil Lesh - bass, vocals; Bill Kreutzmann - drums
Just a month after closing down the Fillmores, Bill Graham presented this two-night stand at the Berkeley Community Theater with the Grateful Dead and New Riders of the Purple Sage. These were marathon shows for Jerry Garcia, who was onstage with both bands. These were to be some of the last ever performances by the original five-piece Grateful Dead lineup. Just a few weeks after this show, front man Pigpen was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. The following month the group would begin rehearsals with Keith Godchaux, changing the sound of the band forever. Pigpen would return the following year, but would not be healthy enough to join the fall tour that October.
Additionally, this was a very prolific era for lyricist Robert Hunter, who was now actively collaborating on new songs with Pigpen, Lesh, Weir and Garcia. He had penned the lyrics to both the Workingman's Dead and American Beauty albums, as well as much of the new material that would comprise Europe '72 and several of the band members' most beloved solo projects.
The pair of 1970 studio albums are well represented by the likes of "Truckin'," "Sugar Magnolia," "Uncle John's Band," "Cumberland Blues" and a lovely "Brokedown Palace." A lot of the newer material is still being perfected, and would soon become staples of the band's repertoire. Garcia/Hunter classics like "Bertha," "Sugaree" and "Loser" were reaching the definitive stage of development. Pigpen's vocal dominance is minimal at this time, but when he does surface, it's thoroughly enjoyable. He delivers one of the earliest performances of the bouncy "Mr. Charlie" and cuts loose on "Big Boss Man" and a smokin' rendition of Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle."
Other classic Dead tunes, like Weir's "Playing In The Band," are still comparatively tame but are just beginning to leave the embryonic stage. Following the bridge, Garcia's fingers start flying, and although the jam section is brief, one can clearly hear the entire band beginning to discover the potential of this song. Over the coming months, the tune would continue to develop, eventually accomodating some of the most astonishing improvisational flights of the band's career.
They head deeper into space during "The Other One," before giving the "Not Fade Away/Going Down The Road" medley a classic high-energy treatment. In the end, the show is most worthwhile for showcasing the original five-piece lineup playing a wide range of their latter day classics. It was the end of an era.
The second set of this show is coming to Concert Vault soon!