Monday, November 5, 1979
The Spectrum - Philadelphia, PA
Here’s another show that falls into that category of slightly unknown gems that go somewhat unnoticed. Famous from a statistical standpoint – it has one of the longest Eyes Of The World on record, clocking in at 23 minutes – the show lives a bit in the shadow of some other stellar performances from the days before and after. Captured here in a very nice above average AUD that only needs a bit of time to warm up sound-wise, the show is strong from start to finish, as most are from this portion of 1979. Treated to a show opening China>Rider, the stage is set for a special night of music.
While it seems patently obvious, the sound of the band from this period is a fabulous example of the transition from the late 70’s into the early 80’s, and this AUD captures it perfectly. This applies to not only the manner in which the band was playing, but also the actual sonic output of their sound system. There’s no end of good songs to discuss here, but I want to concentrate on what causes this tape to remain in my mind as one of the very first I grab whenever I’m thinking about 1979: the epic sized portion of the Eyes>Estimated>Frankin’s in set two.
This jam ends up forever in my mind not because of tremendous peaks and valleys filled with hairpin turns, but more for its ability to strike a chord that resonates so deeply into the pure pleasure of Grateful Dead music. As I’ve said before, there is often more power in the way this band would sometimes do nothing more than settle comfortably into one of its elemental grooves than the times when they crafted and pushed the music into mind numbing acrobatics. Here, we land in the elemental groove zone and it goes on for the better part of a solid hour.
Eyes flips on like a switch, and Jerry’s opening solo quite literally goes on forever. He stretches out into the unending reaches of comfort provided by Eyes, and allows himself to wander the foothills of his own magic valley, never worrying for the sun to rise or fall, beautifully lost in the pleasure of a fully open-ended moment. He often returns to the core rhythm of the song where he seems bound to step to the mic and sing, yet turns away only to go more deeply into hidden grottos that sing to him with the secrets of the earth itself.
This audience recording is of high enough caliber that we feel ourselves only a heartbeat away from Jerry’s guitar as he rolls completely back off the treble knobs, mixing the colors of his sound into deep earth tones of dark green and orange. His voicing of notes goes beyond the tune itself, speaking in a language we’ve at once never heard, yet our souls speak fluently. And it goes on and on and on...
A verse comes and goes, and Jerry again trails out into the boundless garden, down a seemingly infinite number of wandering paths. We are joyfully lost with him, swept along in his wake of delicate exploration. The verses continue to come and go, framed by Jerry’s continually long solos, each one toying back to a verse only to fly out again for more circuits around the hillsides.
By the time we get into Estimated Prophet, the band is navigating deeply into a psychedelic ocean of music. The song throbs and shimmers with spectacular motion, like a fountain tossing sound into the air which then coils and floats like smoke around you. Beautifully, Franklin’s Tower peaks its head around the corner before fully bounding into view. The energy picks up and the joyous march is back in full swing as Jerry’s guitar peppers the air with its lyrical dance.
As is consistently the case, Franklin’s Tower ignites the crowd and everything elevates into a jubilant atmosphere. The archetypical Grateful Dead groove pushes the song beyond anything categorically 1979 by tapping into the undercurrent of music that binds all Dead shows into one. There are no highlights needed as the band and audience are comfortably settled into such familiar territory. Until the end of the song...
After the last chorus is sung, the horizontal axis of the Philly Spectrum begins to tip at odd angles, slowly back and forth like the deck of some enormous ship at sea. Bobby alters his chording while layering on a phase shifting effect, and his sound sprouts multi-hued flames and feathers. Phil’s bass lines begin to growl like a storm approaching, and Jerry casts his lines into the swirling wind. Bringing the entire crowd into this ever-tilting landscape, the band pushes through a barrier with some heavy block chords that leave the music completely unraveled. Deep groans and swells open before you as the flat ground beneath your feet spreads into endlessly deep canyons. Footing is no longer necessary as gravity disappears and burns the remnants of musical structure away completely. A feverish space jam ensues, overwrought with Caution-like leanings as the drummers pound along like a speeding train. Eventually this dissolves into Drums, closing out an amazing three song jam that tops 55 minutes.
I remember getting this show in trade on cassette with no fanfare what-so-ever. I recall popping it into the deck and letting things roll on Eyes Of The World. As the song never stopped opening up in front of me, I fell completely into the music. 1979 just has a certain way of doing this. You never really see it coming, and thereby it sneaks it’s way deeply into your musical soul, lighting a fire you never want to see go out. Let it shine, let it shine, let it...
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