Jerry Garcia - lead guitar, vocals; "Pigpen" McKernan - vocals, organ, percussion; Bob Weir - guitar, vocals; Phil Lesh - bass, vocals; Bill Kreutzmann - drums
This fourth night of the Dead and New Riders of the Purple Sage's final stint at the Fillmore East is probably the best overall performance of the run. The Dead were enjoying one of the expressive peaks of their career, returning to their musical roots, and proving to really jell - both on the stage and in the studio.
The Dead's first set sticks primarily to tight arrangements of songs from their classic 1970 albums, the country-rock Workingman's Dead and folky American Beauty. Tunes from these beloved albums showcased here include "Truckin'" and the rowdy "Cumberland Blues."
The exceptions, however, are notable and memorable. A beautiful rendition of "Bird Song," the opus written for their recently departed friend Janis Joplin, shines with its sentiment. Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" (largely popularized by Joplin's cover version) proves a soulful crowd-pleaser. An early take on Marty Robbins' classic "El Paso" is included, as are definitive versions of "The Rub" and "King Bee." The latter two, featuring Pigpen in fine vocal form, were never played better than on this night. A rare electric version of "Ripple" is also a delight.
This first set ends with Garcia's bluesy "Deal" as the band prepares to really heat things up in a smoking second set.