Jerry Garcia - lead guitar, vocals; "Pigpen" McKernan - vocals, organ, percussion; Bob Weir - guitar, vocals; Phil Lesh - bass, vocals; Bill Kreutzmann - drums
The Grateful Dead's last show at the Fillmore West was inherently a legendary event, and despite the fact that the group often failed to deliver their best performances at major events, on this night they cetainly rose to the occasion. This is also one of the last shows featuring the original, five-piece prototypical Dead lineup. Pigpen would become deathly ill a few days later, and Keith Godchaux began rehearsing with the band a few weeks afterwards. On this night, however, Pigpen is in remarkably strong form and Garcia seems to have boundless energy, as he also played on complete sets for the Rowan Brothers and the New Riders prior to this lengthy, final one with the Dead.
Though only their first set is presented here, the Dead played well the entire show, introducing much of the new material they'd been developing over the course of the year. In fact, the vast majority of this show is comprised of new material that hadn't been played prior to 1971. "Playing In The Band" was just beginning to be recognized as a vehicle for extended jamming. "China Cat Sunflower" and "I Know You Rider" had developed into one of their all-time classic transitional pairings, as had "Not Fade Away" and "Going Down The Road."
Pigpen, in particular, seems to be performing as if his life depended on it, and every song that he sings lead on is a standout version. He belts out a rare "The Rub," a hot cover of Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle" as well as a strong versions of "Next Time You See Me." He really cuts loose, however, on a nearly 19-minute "Good Lovin" that almost crackles with energy. Despite serious health issues, he is in top form here.
The band then takes a break before returning for an appropriately lengthy second set.