On this date, the Grateful Dead played the first of two nights at the Beacon Theater. Since the Fillmore East closed in 1971, the Grateful Dead has been at a loss where to play in New York City. In '72 they played the Academy of Music on Irving Place, but after that they only played venues close to NYC. (Ask anyone from NYC, Jersey City is NOT New York.) After this two night (and only) run at the Beacon, the Grateful Dead returned to the Academy (renamed The Palladium) in 1977 and then did not return to NYC until 1979 when they started playing Madison Square Garden. Besides their TV hits on SNL and the Acoustic/Electric Radio City run, they never played any other venue in New York City.
The first night HERE, is a C quality audience tape. The audience in the recording is pretty overpowering but the enthusiasm of the night really comes through. Listen to the crowd go nuts for the start of "Brown Eyed Woman." The audience is hanging on to every note. As a show goer there are certain nights when the vibe is more important than the setlist and this is one of those nights. They cheer for every song. Then they cheer for every chorus, whistle for every solo and applaud the conclusion of every song. It is electric.
The first set closes with an excellent spacey "Playin'." The second set features a light fluffy "Crazy Fingers," where out of the jam Bobby calls "Dancin'." This new version of "Dancin'" wows the crowd and fades in to the relic "Cosmic Charlie."
The second night I uploaded from my personal collection (Set I and II). There are some interesting strings of songs on this night. As the "Let It Grow" fades the "Might as Well" comes springing to life. The second set opens with a "St Stephen," "Not Fade," "Drums," and "Stella Blue" that doesn't fail to excite. The show closer of "Sugar Mags"/"Scarlett"/"Sunshine Daydream" is an unique way of capping off the show.
The highlight of the run is the newish "Help"/"Slip"/"Franks" that comes at the end of the first night's show. This is only the sixth time that they've played the triad. The "Slipknot!" opens wide into a disintegration jam, before the band, piece by piece puts the song back together and vaults into the "Franklin's."
After the Grateful Dead concluded, the Beacon became a favorite spot of Phil Lesh and Friends, Ratdog, and Furthur. In 2006, Phil Lesh and Friends did a five night run at the Beacon Theater. The first night, I got in there early. It was the first show that I hit up solo. I found myself a seat in the upper balcony and people watched. A guy came up to my section who needed crutches. He obviously needed them his whole life. I admired his determination to make his way up to the balcony. Phil was in a major Ryan Adams phase (whom I also am a big fan of album wise) and opened the show with "New York New York."
Late in the second set, I could feel what Phil was going to play next. The band launched into "Help." Suddenly, I noticed the arm brace crutches were in the air a couple of rows ahead of me. Then I heard him scream, "Crippled but FREEEE." It was not just a song to him, it was a philosophy and a way of life. Bravo.
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