Orpheum Theatre – San Francisco – July 1976

The fifth night of a six-night run. I only wish I had known in 1981 when I went to see the Grateful Dead at the Rainbow in London that you could go every night and see a different show. I was mortified when I found out. My copy of this show is a matrix (combined audience and soundboard recording) and to be honest the first set is a bit muddy although it does improve for the second. So I thought I would try and find an audience recording and am I glad I did. The sound is crisp and Keith’s piano is particularly clear. Despite some disappointing experiences with audience tapes I may have to change my outlook.

The first set starts and ends with Chuck Berry covers and in between is where the good stuff is. After a 19 month break from touring some of the songs come back in a slower style. Friend of the Devil is almost a ballad. The first of these is Half Step, and very fine it is too. There is a sweet Peggy O where Keith’s piano playing gets an honourable mention and a pretty sick Sugaree.

Second up in set 2 is another slower version; Comes a Time, not as heart-wrenching as some of the 90’s versions where Jerry’s voice, ravaged by years of smoking, can bring you to tears but there is a very good jam at the end. After a short Drums Phils bass signals the start of The Other One which soon develops into a listenable Space and then into Eyes of the World. About halfway through Keith finds a great riff on the piano and with a couple of slight variations and Jerry’s guitar playing around the piano, they slip briefly back into the Other One. Going Down the Road is up next with, as usual, great guitar from Jerry. Saturday Night ends the set and things have gone so well that the crowd brings them back for two encores. The band obviously agree as they treat them to another 20 minutes of music with NFA and US Blues. Now, how many bands give you that?

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