Dick's Picks Volume 28
Pershing Auditorium / Salt Palace
Lincoln, NE / Salt Lake City, UT
[February 26 & 28, 1973]
First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2003, Volume 10, #7
Written by John Metzger
Just two weeks prior to the pair of February 1973 concerts highlighted on Dick’s Picks, Volume 28, the Grateful Dead had unveiled a plethora of new material that not only added to its ever-expanding, country-rock catalog, but also allowed the group to veer towards jazzier terrain. Many of these songs, of course, are featured on this dazzling four-disc set.
Indeed, the Grateful Dead wasted little time getting down to business at the Lincoln, Nebraska concert on February 26, as evidenced by the inspired renderings of Loser, Jack Straw, Looks Like Rain, and Big Railroad Blues that were scattered throughout the album’s edited first set. Some undoubtedly will complain yet again about the missing songs, but the pacing works quite well in its newly trimmed-down format. Not to mention, if the perfunctory delivery of both Promised Land and Don’t Ease Me In is any indication, the cuts certainly were justified. At the very least, tossing out a few carefully chosen tunes decreased the redundancy with the other showcased concert on Dick’s Picks, Volume 28, while allowing it to move at a faster pace towards Playing in the Band. That’s a good thing too because the song is given an epic workout, full of free-wheeling jazz fusion jams that overshadow everything else on the opening disc of this collection — including the terrifically groovy They Love Each Other that began the show’s second set.
Without question, Playing in the Band provided the perfect springboard for the latter half of the concert’s roller coaster ride, which showcased a rollicking Big River, a pristine Tennessee Jed, and a blissful medley of Not Fade Away and Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad. Sandwiched between all of this was a glorious mosaic of Dark Star,Eyes of the World, and Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo — three diverse songs that seamlessly blurred together within the alchemical hands of the Grateful Dead. Dark Star was long and spacious as the band conjured magic from its slow, deliberate exploration of offshoots from the song’s main theme. A delicate dance of guitar was mirrored by steady, rolling bass, all of which rode bubbling billows of percussion before dissolving into the controlled chaos of deep space. From the other side of this tumultuous black hole escaped the jazzy elegance of Eyes of the World, which rejoiced within its giddy refrains before leaping headfirst into the galvanizing gallop of Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo. This trilogy is as good as anything released thus far in the Dick’s Picks series, making the 28th edition well-worth seeking.
The other show featured on Dick’s Picks, Volume 28 was recorded on February 28, 1973 in Salt Lake City. For those who continue to care about such things, only one song (Promised Land) was edited from the concert for this collection. As the Grateful Dead delivered song after song with near perfect precision, it left little doubt that the Salt Lake City event was better than the preceding one in Nebraska. They Love Each Other, Sugaree, He’s Gone, and Jack Straw were all delightful preludes to the rapturous fireworks launched during the second set. There, China Cat Sunflower blossomed around the mercurial lead of Jerry Garcia with the rest of the band following closely behind, turning the jam that linked the song with I Know You Rider into a pressure-cooked classic. The highlight of the concert — and Dick’s Picks, Volume 28 — however, was the mind-bending blast through Truckin’, The Other One, Eyes of the World, and Morning Dew that formed the set’s deliriously demanding centerpiece. Truckin’ was wildly raucous, and the band rode its riveting blues-rock groove straight off the edge of the song’s proverbial cliff. A brief bass and percussion segment caught the melody and spun it around and around, transforming it with thunderclap force into the furious assault of The Other One. Thrashing and bashing its way around its serpentine rhythms, the tune mutated from frenzied anthem to exuberant jazz to untethered mayhem and back again within the span of its fifteen splendid minutes. Given this, Eyes of the World provided the perfect outlet, reaching similar heights as the other version on this collection, while the post-apocalyptic prayer Morning Dew concluded the mini-suite in truly dignified fashion. For certain, this is the Grateful Dead at its very best, fearlessly diving into unchartered territory and allowing the music to take it wherever it may lead.
Dick's Picks, Volume 28 is available from iTunes.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box