John Dawson - guitar, vocal; David Nelson - guitar, vocal; Dave Torbert - bass, vocals; Jerry Garcia - pedal steel guitar; Spencer Dryden - 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 headlining. Presented here is the fine opening set by the original New Riders of the Purple Sage lineup, featuring Jerry Garcia on pedal steel.
The set offers a nice selection of tracks from the group's self-titled debut album, including "Portland Woman," "Glendale Train," "Louisiana Lady" and a particularly nice "Garden Of Eden." NRPS has a more overtly cowboy country flavor than the Dead, but the two groups' instrumental approach and arrangements have much in common - not surprising, as the members of both bands had been working and playing together for some time.
Both "Superman" and "Sailin'" are heard here prior to being recorded for the second and third NRPS LPs, but what is most interesting is the diverse selection of cover songs. Some are straightforward country, like "Hello Trouble," "Workingman's Blues" and "Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down." These are all fairly true to the originals, with John Dawson taking lead vocals and Nelson and Garcia trading sweet countrified licks throughout. They also tackle the Billie Joe Royal hit, "Down In The Boondocks," and close the set with one of the Band's most popular numbers, "The Weight."
The show took place toward the end of Garcia's tenure with NRPS, when his pedal steel playing was at its most fluid and developed. For that reason alone, the recording will be of interest to Garcia fans, but he is really just added flavor on an already great recipe for good time music. Here at home in the Bay Area, the NRPS are at the top of their game.