Dave’s Picks 13 is a good show, which doesn’t make it distinctive for 1974. But 2/24/74 does have the distinction of my favorite Bill Graham intro, now officially preserved.
“Whatever is going on with the rest of the world, whether it be wars, or kidnapping, or crimes, this is a peaceful Sunday night with the Grateful Dead.”
(Before we dive in, are you looking for a quick recap on the 1974 Project page?)
New Blues To Open
In case you’re wondering what was happening around then, a young Army private had commandeered a helicopter and buzzed the White House out of some displeasure, and Helen Reddy and Jim Croce had recently done well at the very first American Music Awards. In a couple of days, people would start buying the first issue of a magazine simply called, well, People.
And of course, the Watergate scandal was over a year and a half old, and the worst was yet to come.
So like Graham said, things were happening. A Sunday night Dead show may have been a prime escape, but it wasn’t a complete escape. The band lifted the lid on the night with a tight “U.S. Blues” that had debuted only two nights earlier.
BIODTL also reminds the listener that one of the best things about the first set is the songs where Jerry can just stand back and lay down fills.
“Mexicali Blues” is followed by a laid-back, well played “Brown-Eyed Woman” featuring some elegant work from Keith Godchaux. (The highlight, though, is Phil’s particular accent on the backup vox, “and the lickah was …”)
In “Beat It On Down The Line” (5 hits), you can hear a little Janis filtering into Donna’s style as she accompanies Bob. BIODTL also reminds the listener that one of the best things about the first set is the songs where Jerry can just stand back and lay down fills.
Before “Jack Straw”, the tape picks up one of the more disturbing things I’ve encountered in Dead listening: A guy distinctly yells out a request for “Around & Around”. The band disregards and the guitars sound nice on this one, with Weir flipping some stylish rhythm chords during Jerry’s first solo.
You’re Getting Warmer …
The “China Cat Sunflower” riff begins and the cheers go up. The band doesn’t rush it, and that gives it a little extra heft, especially as they work through the instrumental passages between verses. Garcia’s vocals may be a little unsure and lower in the mix. Tonight, the pairing’s high-water mark might be the homestretch solo toward the end of “I Know You Rider”. Especially nice: Garcia bubbling up that one little riff before the a capella part.
As the band starts “El Paso”, you can hear someone yell, “Yeah! Woo!” and I’ll bet it’s the “Around & Around” guy. This performance kinda grew on me … Bob telling the sad story, Bill and Phil holding the song together, Keith and Jerry wandering around the perimeter, keeping themselves entertained.
In the middle verse of “Loser”, hear how remarkably spare they can keep the sound while all five guys are playing.
As the band starts “El Paso”, you can hear someone yell, “Yeah! Woo!” and I’ll bet it’s the “Around & Around” guy.
Having played just under an hour at this point, Weir counts to 10 (mostly) and they commence the 18-minute set closer. Everyone’s warm now, and “Playing In The Band” sounds more focused than they have so far tonight, especially Phil.
The rhythm section is running the show until they get through the 3-minute “song” and drop off a cliff. The rest of the path features the usual contours of the era. It’s a nice version. Around 15 minutes in, Phil drops a low one to signal one of my favorite parts of the Dead repertoire: the “Playing” re-entry.
This one’s not long, but it’s right, and they bring it on home.
“We’re gonna take a short break. We’ll be back in a few minutes, so everybody hang loose.”
Bertha & Johnny
Garcia reels off a long line of notes to start “Cumberland Blues” but Phil sounds a little fuzzy about some of the turnaround. That keeps this from being a real heavyweight version. Garcia’s later solo seems to refocus everyone, and the last verse is in the pocket.
I usually skip “It Must’ve Been The Roses” and this doesn’t warrant a review of that policy. For one thing, the band vocals on the chorus might be an example of “less is more.”
Listen to Keith sprint into the start of the “Big River” solo and later add little bass-note pickups to bump the measures from one chord to the next. Garcia steps out on the 2nd solo and sticks the landing, and suddenly you’re sorry there isn’t a little more song there.
Big cheers. The people loved them some Johnny Cash.
“Bertha” is a good pick to build on that momentum. “I had a hard run …” and everyone’s feeling good. Keith plays some drips at the “rainstorm,” as one does.
The complete “Weather Report Suite” follows. It’s not bad, but it will definitely get better this year. Bobby feints toward “Wharf Rat” at the end, but a minor setlist rarity carries the day as they turn into “Row Jimmy”.
This song allows plenty of space to enjoy individual contributions. A little patch with an alternate soundboard recording doesn’t distract, and the last verse features some always welcome extra spaciness between Bob and Keith.
Not Too Fast, And Not Too Slow
Well, Weir took 16 minutes with his WRS suite, and it seems Jerry was going to take 16 of his own low-key style, moving from “Row Jimmy” to “Ship Of Fools”.
Garcia lays down the opening series of steady half-notes with such emphasis in a “here’s the tempo, boys” manner that it’s a reminder that this song, too, is only 48 hours removed from its premiere. And of course it would be another four months before anyone could buy a studio version.
Garcia lays down the opening series of steady half-notes with such emphasis in a “here’s the tempo, boys” manner that it’s a reminder that this song, too, is only 48 hours removed from its premiere.
As for this version, Weir really matches the guitar effects to the music and lays down a couple of super-lush chords in the chorus. Even though it’s not a simple song, the band sounds comfortable, down to Donna already having her part down plus some aaaaah’s from Bob.
“Promised Land” served as a needed brief palate cleanser, and it’s a pretty good one, would consider for a ’74 comp.
Dark Star > Dew
I’m not saying there’s anything intentional in how the band who pioneered fan recording happened to play “Dark Star” > “Morning Dew” that often fit so nicely on one side of a cassette, but I’m not NOT saying it, either. After nothing bad but nothing outstanding, they decide on the vocal verse about 18 minutes in. An original theme sprouts up around 27:00, and it’s probably the most interesting passage.
Those don’t generally last more than two or three minutes, though, and Jerry guides them into the Dew, where it is great to hear the band clear out briefly but entirely to make way for the first vocal line. The performance doesn’t scale the dynamic heights of some of the best, but it’s good.
With nuclear apocalypse concluded, it’s time to remind the audience that hey, you’re young people with the good fortune to be young in 1974! Bob Weir is just the man for that job.
With nuclear apocalypse concluded, it’s time to remind the audience that hey, you’re young people with the good fortune to be young in 1974! Bob Weir is just the man for that job. He’s got a “Sugar Magnolia” and he’s not afraid to use it. (Phil sings along with Bob on the first verse? How long did he do that?)
(Much) Later, Baby Blue …
After almost 3.5 hours, the Dead ease things (and people) back down with a thoughtful “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” encore. At the time, Dylan had released it only 9 years before. The Dead started covering it the following year and had played it off and on ever since.
Nothing here hints why it should’ve been, but this 1974 premiere turned out to be the last time they would play Baby Blue for 7.5 more years. As the songwriter also said, and as Bill Graham had alluded, the times were changing.
With that, the first run of 1974 was in the books and the Dead started another month off. This official release marked by the rarity of stage talk at the beginning, middle, and end wrapped up with a brief word from Phil.
“See ya next month at the Cow Palace, I hope.”
Wish I could’ve made it, Phil. Eventually commemorated as Dick’s Picks 24, 3/23/74 would feature the debut of one of 1974’s most distinctive features: the Wall of Sound.
2/24/74 Winterland (Dave’s Picks 13)
Set 1: U.S. Blues / Mexicali blues / brown-eyed women / beat it on down the line / candyman / jack straw / china cat sunflower > I know you rider / el paso / loser / playing in the band
Set 2: Cumberland blues / it must’ve been the roses / big river / bertha / weather report suite > row jimmy / ship of fools / promised land / dark star > morning dew / sugar magnolia > not fade away > going down the road feeling bad > not fade away // it’s all over now, baby blue
It’s all over until 1981, Baby Blue: