Dick's Picks Volume 5
Oakland Auditorium Arena
[December 28, 1979]
First Appeared in The Music Box, November/December 1996, Volume 3, #8
Written by John Metzger
As if the Dick's Picks 4 weren't enough, this time around Dick Latvala has put a complete show on compact disc for the first time. His selection was another favorite of tape collectors: the first Seva benefit show from December 26, 1979, at the Oakland Auditorium Arena. The concert was rather early in keyboardist Brent Mydland's career with the Grateful Dead. Nevertheless, it provides a clear demonstration of how quickly and how well he assimilated himself into the fabric of the band's creations.
The first set opens with a warm-up of Cold Rain and Snow. With a bass riff, Phil Lesh is the first one who slices through the mix. Then, Bobby Weir says "hello" with a feedback filled chord. Finally, Jerry Garcia takes a solo, Mydland turns on his keyboard, and it's off to the races!
Weir pulls out two blues numbers during the opening sequence on Dick's Picks Volume 5: C.C. Rider and New Minglewood Blues. Both are well-sung and well-played. Big River features some nice jams from both Mydland and Garcia. It's hard, though, to pick a highlight from the first set since it's all performed so perfectly. Nevertheless, the four-song conclusion, during which Grateful Dead runs through Friend of the Devil, Looks Like Rain, Alabama Getaway, and Promised Land, is hard to beat.
Friend of the Devil clocks in at nearly 10-minutes in length. Initially, Garcia teases the song until it becomes the introduction, and the rest of the Grateful Dead joins in. Mydland takes the first solo, a two-verse excursion that gradually builds in intensity until the band takes a verse of backing rhythm featuring Weir. Finally, Garcia takes over, climbing over the top with that sweet guitar sound we all know and love.
Weir keeps things mellow with a magnificent Looks Like Rain. His heartfelt vocals really carry the piece. He brings the song nearly to a whisper, and if you listen very closely, underneath Garcia's guitar is a subtle, but beautiful accompaniment from Mydland.
After 17 minutes of slow, restful material, the Grateful Dead picks up the pace with the set-closing pairing of Alabama Getaway and Promised Land. This is one of the longest versions of Alabama Getaway, falling just shy of 7 minutes, as the band takes turns soloing throughout the piece. Not wanting to be outdone, Weir adds a ripping Promised Land to the tail end of Alabama Getaway that will keep you hopping. If you're not winded by the end of the first set, you don't have your stereo turned up loud enough.
The first set, as fantastically played as it is, is only a warm-up for what is to come. The Grateful Dead returned to the stage with the same intensity with which it left, immediately launching into the first Uncle John's Band to be played in 26 months. This is an outstanding version that is sure to put a smile on anyone's face. The band really seems to have missed this one (further proven by the fact that Uncle John's Band appeared three times in the five show run)! Prior to churning out its typical ending, the jam meanders off into a short space segment, before the ensemble regroups and collectively takes a right turn into the reggae world of Estimated Prophet.
Estimated Prophet is suitably powerful, and the Grateful Dead blasts out a rhythmic jam, while Garcia soars in the clouds with his electric lead. Weir comes in a bit early with the verse, which quickly dissipates again into a Mydland-led jam. It becomes difficult to tell who is soloing, as all musicians take turns passing the lead while creating their own musical landscape. It fits together nicely, as each member of the group seems to rise above the rest for a brief moment only to slide back into the groove. Estimated Prophet leads into a fast-paced jam during which the drummers hint at Samson and Delilah, Garcia hints at Eyes of the World, and Weir hints at Cumberland Blues. Instead, a beautiful He's Gone slows down the tempo. This leads to a pre-drums The Other One, complete with Lesh's "dropping the bomb." As calming as He's Gone is played, The Other One is a frenzied cacophony with Lesh and Garcia both burning up the frets of their guitars.
The back half of the set is also quite well executed, and it features the first Brokedown Palace in nearly 26 months. The encore is an odd combination of Shakedown Street and the lost conclusion to Uncle John's Band. While these releases will never make up for seeing a Grateful Dead show in person, if you close your eyes tightly and listen closely, you just might catch some of the magic that still floats out there, waiting to be discovered.
Of Further Interest...
Dick's Picks, Volume 5 is available from iTunes.
To order, please Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1996 The Music Box