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May 13, 1977

Auditorium Theatre
Chicago, Illinois
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The band started the show off by coming down the aisles of the theater in scrubs, calling for Drs. Beechwood and Shot (Mickey and Billy), all of which you can hear, though perhaps not fully appreciate, on the recording. And as everyone gets on stage, they light off on a trippy little tuning jam, finally opening with a bright and lively Music Never Stopped. In the interstice afterwards, Bobby explains the opening skit, saying the “drummers pulled an adolescent stunt” and that the rest of the band would “hold a grudge.” It’s not entirely clear what is going on, but the boys are clearly having a good time and sending out some incredible music. The rest of the first set is filled with tight and lucid playing, epitomizing the spring ’77 sound that sometimes gets referred to as “too perfect.” Just check out the flawless Ramble On Rose or Cassidy if you have any question what we are referring to. Later, the boys play the first Jack-A-Roe and a Looks Like Rain that, though not as jammed out as other versions, is as fresh and evocative as they come. To cap the set, the boys take us through Scarlet> Fire. And, as you would expect, Scarlet shoots off into the stratosphere. But it is a concise, even abbreviated version, especially as two of its seven minutes are spent in the transition, wandering through the back alleys, stalking danger with Donna’s subdued and mournful calls in the distance. Eventually, with Phil’s bombs, the band finds their way into Fire. And what a Fire it is, as the bass and percussion march steadily on, Jerry lopes along with occasional shots of lightening emanating from his guitar, and Donna proves beautiful accompaniment on vocals.

Mickey and Billy provide a relentless, thunderous beat to launch Samson and the second half. Each of the first three tunes - Samson, Bertha, and Estimated - are stunning in their own right. But the pre-Drums section does not offer much more than the sum of its parts. That all changes after the clipped Drums as a fiery Other One - especially the smoking jam at the end - takes it into an immaculate Stella. On the latter tune, Jerry’s guitar waltzes through a spacious sonic landscape created by the rest of the band with Keith and Bobby tossing in their own fireworks. The GDTRFB roars on from there, but the recording - an FM broadcast providing the only source - gets crackly and nearly unlistenable. Fortunately, things return to crispy for the Saturday Night closer and US Blues encore.

This might not be one of the best second sets of spring ’77, but it is hot nonetheless. And the first set is right up there with any other.

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