"Pigpen" McKernan - vocals, harmonica; Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals; Bob Weir - guitar, vocals; Phil Lesh - bass, vocals; Tom Constanten - keyboards; Bill Kreutzmann - drums; Mickey Hart - drums; Guest: Stephen Stills on "Turn On Your Lovelight"
On this Saturday night, the Grateful Dead followed Sons of Champlin and the Jefferson Airplane, closing a monumental show. While this set contains only four songs, it is absolutely astounding from a performance aspect, with almost every second a delicious feast of late '60s era exploration.
The experimentation begins right away with a beautifully executed "Dark Star" that features all the dynamics and nuances associated with the Dead's finest ensemble playing. The concentration level is palpable as the band reaches further and durther toward deep space. The percussion work of Kreutzmann and Hart propel things along while Garcia, Lesh and Constanten all get opportunities to lead the group through areas of free-floating contemplation as well as emotionally charged jamming.
This "Dark Star" also contains the earliest known "Feeling Groovy" jam, a jazzy and beautifully melodic improvisation. As one would expect, the "St. Stephen" that rises out of the ashes of "Dark Star" is nothing short of explosive. The same can be said for "The Eleven," which finds Phil Lesh driving the band on a breathtaking ride. Here, the degree of collaborative expression is astounding, with Garcia creating new phrasing and infectious riffs at every turn, and all the band following suit. This complicated piece doesn't let up for a second and is an example of the Dead firing on every cylinder. Toward the end of "The Eleven," one can sense that the band is unsure where to head next, but again, Lesh takes the reins and decides to make this a full-blown Live/Dead album performance and propels them into "Turn On Your Lovelight."
Pigpen takes over vocal duties and the band launches off into a propulsive version that no doubt had everyone up and dancing. Approximately six minutes in, the band begins vamping as Pigpen improvises vocals as intuitively as the instrumentalists and among the background vocals by Weir, Garcia and Lesh, one can make out the voice of Stephen Stills adding to the "let it shine, let it shine" chorus. Another minute or so sails by and Stills begins integrating his guitar into the fray. For the remaining fifteen minutes, Garcia and Stills trade riffs and vamp along, adding a new flavor to an already smoking rendition. The two guitarists are easily distinguishable, with Garcia's tone cleaner and sweeter and Stills' at its raunchiest with a lot of bite. Stills never tries to encroach on Pigpen's vocal territory and finds ways to embellish what is already going on, rather than attempting to showcase himself. The playing eventually reaches a feverish intensity, with the band bringing the song to a ferocious climax. Just when one catches their breath, it's over. The classic Live/Dead suite of "Dark Star->St.Stephen->The Eleven->Lovelight" was performed in it's entirety.
Following a minute or two of standing ovation, Bill Graham takes the stage and sums it up perfectly by saying, "We may be a little prejudiced but let's get one thing said… On any given night, the very greatest rock and roll band in the world, the Grateful Dead."