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Dead of the Day: June 22, 1973

P. N. E. Coliseum
Vancouver, British Columbia
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Our Dead of the Day comes at us from Vancouver in 1973 with two fully packed sets of incredible music including incredible, jaw-dropping jams in both sets. Things start off with an up-tempo, solid Bertha, followed up by a fine Beat It On Down The Line. But it takes until the Deal to get the first real taste of the jamming that is to follow, though even here it is just some short tasty licks by Jerry and Keith intimating what is in store. Three songs later, we are off and running with an interstellar Bird Song where everyone in the band comes out to play in turn; Bobby, Keith, Billy, Phil, and, of course, Jerry all contribute mightily on this mellow, jazzy, beautiful piece of music. A short, restive Race Is On comes next, linking to an unbelievable trifecta of Sugaree, Looks Like Rain, and Row Jimmy. Jerry’s guitar is sonorous on each, and Keith and Bobby are playing so sweetly, adding that special measure at every turn. It is hard to find a China> Rider that is not worth commenting on, and the one that comes here is no different. The China Cat is high energy, crescending and building again and again before sliding into a milky Rider that has so many lovely turns, mainly courtesy of Jerry’s lilting guitar. Playin’ in the Band closes out the set, going spacey from the very beginning, though always making headway with purpose. The second set opens in splendid fashion with Here Comes Sunshine with, as would be expected, Keith ripping the keys, though never dominating, always allowing the rest of the boys to make their contributions. The next couple tunes are all fabulous with out of control Bobby tunes in Promised Land and Greatest Story Ever Told, and an outstanding turn by Jerry on Black Peter. But the real meat of the second set begins with the He’s Gone. Just hold on to your seat as the Dead build a romping, pure rock and roll, raging fire on Truckin’ then head off into the stratosphere and beyond with the fifteen minutes of jamming that follows. The bass jam is particularly sensational as Phil takes center stage leading the rest of the band on some sort of quest for unexplored moons in a distant corner of the galaxy. Slowly, Phil releases his prominent role, though the searching and probing continues until they happen upon The Other One. But even here, they are sucked back into the ethereal voids of space before finding the theme once again. This second foray into The Other One leads them to Wharf Rat, which brings things back down to earth, but does not dispel the seamless transcendence of the music. Finally, a blasting, exuberant Sugar Mags completes the movement, though it does not finish off the set. That is reserved for an unusual closing Casey Jones. And then the boys come out for one final blistering release in Johnny B. Goode. All told, it is one of the best shows of 1973, which is saying quite a bit indeed.

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