"Pigpen" McKernan - vocals, percussion; Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals; Bob Weir - guitar, vocals; Phil Lesh - bass; Tom Constanten - keyboards; Bill Kreutzmann - drums; Mickey Hart - percussion
Throughout their monumental career, the Grateful Dead established a tradition of ringing in the New Year by performing in San Francisco, with only one exception. The 1969/70 New Year concerts were on the East coast, with New Year's eve at Boston's famed Tea Party, followed by a run of four shows at the Fillmore East on January 2 and 3, 1970, with Cold Blood and Lighthouse.
This was a particularly interesting time, as the band still had one foot firmly planted in the heavy psychedelic explorations of the 1969 era but were taking the early steps toward a new song-based sound. Garcia and Hunter were experiencing their first truly prolific phase, writing many of the songs that would be featured on Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, albums which would eventually come to define the group for a new, much larger fan base in the 1970s. These would be some of the last Grateful Dead shows to feature classically trained avant-garde keyboardist, Tom Constanten, who would soon depart the band.
The second set begins with a trio of new Garcia/Hunter songs and it's wonderful to hear Garcia singing with such emotion and general enthusiasm for the material. This sequence, although radically different in tone to the end of the previous set, is a feast of Workingman's Dead material shortly before it was recorded. The rest of the set consists of a sizzling cover of "Good Lovin," with Pigpen in fine form, followed by a fantastic version of "Dancin' In The Streets." The latter features a lengthy jam, and the entire band seems to overflow with ideas during this improvisation.
The band returns for a wild double encore, but seem incredibly stoned, compared to the fantastic playing that just ended the set. "St. Stephen" is more plodding than usual and kind of sloppy overall. Even the vocals are out of whack, with Garcia forgetting where they are at one point. It transitions into a relatively tame but enjoyable cover of "In The Midnight Hour" with Pigpen belting it out, but the band is sounding a bit lethargic.
This show begins and ends slow, but what's in between is classic early '70s live Dead.