Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Album Review: Grateful Dead - RFK Stadium 6/10/73

Grateful Dead 
RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C. 6/10/73
****and1/2 out of *****

As RtBE has mentioned in past reviews of recent Grateful Dead releases, there aren't that many major Grateful Dead shows to still officially release. The band and their archivists have done an amazing job of getting their best music out through Dick's Picks, Dave's Picks, Box Sets, Road Trips, Download Series and the list goes on. 

That said, this release, RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C. 6/10/73, a stand alone show from the recent Here Comes The Sunshine Box Set, is a major show from the bands past, capturing them at the top of their game. 

This well loved and well documented show now gets an official release as Wet Willie and the Allman Brothers Band opened things before the Dead put on a three set show which saw the band welcome Dickey Betts and Butch Trucks for the final set. The group (Jerry Garcia – guitar, vocals Bob Weir – guitar, vocals Phil Lesh – bass guitar, vocals Bill Kreutzmann – drums Keith Godchaux – keyboards Donna Jean Godchaux – vocals) was in their prime and cooking during the spring of '73 and this show is a fine example of their talents. 

This is clearly evident from the first notes, a unexpected "Morning Dew" bombastically opens the show with dynamite playing as the band sounds in mid-set from the beginning, and like all archival releases lately from the band, the audio dynamics are pristine yet again. The Dead come down a bit after the ecstatic opener with a disjointed "Ramble on Roses" and "Wave That Flag" which feels new and fresh but not yet synched up. 

The best songs in the first set are the introspective ones. "Looks Like Rain" has gorgeous weeping lines from Garcia with great fills from Keith, an excellent "Bird Song",  a sweet "Row Jimmy" and a mellow, tasteful "Box of Rain". The key to all of these are Garcia's textured guitar runs that are restrained and gorgeous.      

Set two begins with a lazy and flowing "Eyes of the World" which is good, not great, yet excitingly ends with a very interesting, slow, bluesy jam, which flows into a passionate "Stella Blue". The box set that this show is a part of is titled Here Comes Sunshine and that song in particular was a highlight throughout 1973. The version played here is fantastic with warbling wah-wah, a killer all around version led by Jerry Garcia that should be sort out. 

The end of the second set revolves around a monstrous "Dark Star" that is incredibly melodic. This is a cool wandering version of the freeform beast, anchored by Lesh's bass which is going wild throughout the very musical version. There are lots of mini jams before the first words are even sung, then the song gets freaky with pulsing low end frequencies as the twenty seven minutes of adventurous music flows out. Things then drop into "He's Gone" as Garcia's slow weepy guitar solos return as the band eases into a laid back outro jam that is well played in every direction and elevates this to an all-time rendition.

The band knew the vibe was right as they delivered back-to-back ballads as "Wharf Rat" follows with an excellent version that keeps the spirit mellow and vibrating before shifting gears into a lively "Truckin'". The group seems to wrap up the show with a fun rendition of "Sugar Magnolia" and if they had ended it here, no one could have complained. 

They certainly didn't end it there though, in fact, even after all of this excellent playing the band was saving the best for last. Welcoming Dickie Betts on guitar and Butch Trucks on drums the group let the jams flow. A languid cover of Bob Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" eases the third set open, but things pick up for the blues standard "That's All Right". Here the group comes alive as the groove is explored while Betts and Garcia take turns following and topping each other with ripping solos. 

An average version of "Promised Land" rings out before the players once again lock in for "Not Fade Away". The group gets their feet under them and allows the rhythm section to push it along as cascading notes flow out; this is a perfect synergy of the Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead style combined. After "Drums" allows Trucks and Kreutzmann to do their thing, Phil then straps on his bass and brings everyone back to close the impressive "Not Fade Away". The players speed through a super fast version of "Johnny B. Goode" and one of the best Grateful Dead shows wraps up on an exciting note.   

A monster of a night of music and a must have for fans, RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C. 6/10/73 finds the Dead and guests clicking on all cylinders as this archival release does the night justice. 
Support the artists, buy the album and peep some video below:

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