Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Dead: 4-24-1978 Horton Field House Illinois State U

So the pure genius that I am actually recycled a show with last weeks burner from Miami 1974.  Oh well, I guess I just really like that show, and I did go to FLA twice this year so it makes a bit of stupid sense.  To make up for it though I wanted to find a gem and post it today.

Bring on the glorious 4-24-1978 concert from Horton Field House at Illinois State University.  Click that link or listen right C'here:

Unreal that I made it to the middle of October before posting a show from 1978.  Just goes to show you how many great years/tours/nights there were in the career of this amazing group of musicians.

This show has a bunch of high spots and rates as one of the best from the Dead during this phase of their career, which is saying a lot as 77-78 hold a special place in the hearts of most Dead Heads.  The show was the last before a week off for the group and they let it loose at the Horton Field House on this night.
 The full accompaniment of the Dead is on display here, and I would offer this show to all the Donna haters out there to prove she added a grand vocal dimension and forced the fellas to harmonize more then they ever had...she also covered up the warts of the vocals at times and it is on display all night here.  Donna and Keith would leave the band shortly, but tonight's show, as well as countless others, shows the heights this formation of the group could achieve.

There are a couple of copies of this night's show on the archive to check out, the great Charlie Miller himself posted 2 versions, I am going with one of his, but I wouldn't fault you for going in a different direction if you wanted, they are all fairly good recordings, I noticed the overall volume level is a bit dimmer on the other versions, and I wanted more bang in the speakers so I am using this version.  I would give the recording an A as a lot of heart and soul seemed to go into it.

A good beginning of things, but the weirdness happens about 2 songs in as the group teases, of all things, "Stayin' Alive".  Hippies doing disco...gag-able.  They actually played with the tune in various songs all that week (I hope to post more shows later) and the crazy thing is, the "Stayin' Alive" tease plays throughout all of "Big River" Johnny Cash just threw-up.  Maybe sacrilegious, but funny and the Dead are nothing if not pranksters.  Another Early highlight is "Friend of the Devil" stretched out and jammed real nice like for 10 minutes.

The mega-highlights that make this a must hear concert start to show up at the end of the first set and skid right on through to the begging of the second.  "Passenger" is a fast furious work out, before Jerry and Donna team up to create the beautifully heart wrenching "It Must Have Been The Roses".  They close out the first set with what could be argued is their top tier version of "The Music Never Stopped", this one is a jaw dropper.   Not an extended flight of fancy , just a funky-as-all-get-out burner to close out a dynamite set of tunes.  Shows that any night, any song could reach monumental peaks, as Jerry races and scrambles on guitar while the percussion crashes all around him to close out the track and set. The Dead's own taper section noted as much back in 2007 when they posted those two tracks here

After that a break was needed, but the momentum was never lost.  The group comes out flying for the opening duo of "Scarlett Begonias>Fire On The Mountain".  Again this combo on this night must pop up in "All Time Great" discussions.  I have mentioned some epic "Scarlett>Fires" on this site in the past, and this one goes toe to toe with those.  Phil slides his bass into Scarlett with ease and like all great versions of this tune the keys get a proper airing and Keith does that wonderfully.  The whole group just seems to be in complete sync to open up the playing here, building to dynamite crescendos and interacting with each other on what seems to be a higher level.  
Donna vocalizes as the group starts the journey to the Mountain and gather the kindling to start the fire with Garcia strumming away as Keith seems to be walking alone on the piano as Billy and Mickey crash around on cymbals before they all come together at the base and start to climb.   The groove gets rich and thick as the Wah Wah dominates the proceedings and the rhythm section gets into their best song.  I always have seen Fire on the Mountain as a Phil-Mickey-Billy jam more then anything else with the best versions having those three propel the others to greater melodic moments.  That takes place here as Jerry and Bobby start dueling around the 5:30 mark and just get after it with each other, this is actually some of my favorite guitar work from Bobby, and really does play like two leads, something that rarely happened with the band as Garcia often dominated.
Garcia singing "Let it burn let it burn let it burn" is icing on this glorious musical cake and then he decides to just rip into the track as Weir falls more into the rhythmic role we are used to as the band rolls on up and up into thin air.  These songs are the Dead at their peak and what you listen to the group for, excellence.

The band moves into "Good Lovin'" and while not up to the same levels it still kept the crowd grooving before they hit the next highlight song.  "Terrapin Station" was always hit or miss live, while it is an epic tale, the fellas were known to blow it on many occasions this night was not one of those as they nail it.  Jerry always is a bit iffy on the lyrics which can take away from the story, but the song is so large and encompassing it has power even when the band isn't completely together.  In this version the Inspiration break isn't as monumental as other versions but the totality of the track works wonders while it builds to a devastating ending via drum rolls and Jerry flashing some distortion.
The rest of the show is solid, if not particularly memorable, but with those high spots to end the first set and beginning the second you couldn't ask for much more.  "Not Fade Away" is fun, "Black Peter" has never been one of my favorites but this version is a good bluesy listen very emotional guitar playing.  I love Warren Zevon, and always got a kick out of the Dead covering "Werewolves of London", easily one of my favorite covers the band did.      

So enjoy this show, and I promise not to repeat it the next time I post a 1978 show.  

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