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Dead of the Day: July 19, 1974

Selland Arena
Fresno, California
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For our Dead of the Day, we go back to another outstanding Wall of Sound show. This one is from Fresno, California at the Selland Arena back on July 19th, 1974. The show gets off to a hot start with a rocking Bertha complete with Keith’s great keyboard work (the listed "jam" is from the soundcheck). A short Mexicali comes next, followed up by equally quick, though perfectly solid renditions of Deal and Beat It On Down The Line. The band then busts into a Row Jimmy, which is textured and resplendent as Bobby keeps a skipping hot rhythm and Jerry lays on some woozy, deep licks. The Bobby McGee that rolls in on its heels is nothing to dismiss with some great playing enriching the elemental lyrics of the tune. Then, one of the truly stand out moments of the set emerges with the stand alone Scarlet Begonias. The version is so hot, especially as the jams extend out into some deep and spacey territory without ever leaving the essential theme. The El Paso that comes right on its heels is tight and tasty, including what sounds like a whip at one point, and who can argue with a whip? A strong Tennessee Jed then leads us into a Playin’ In The Band for the ages, containing worlds upon worlds in its many folds, lasting over thirty minutes. Throughout that time, Jerry’s guitar never wavers, providing the steady guiding light to an otherworldly exploration that reaches into the cosmos before descending into seriously deep space. But the boys bring it back, sending the song off into set break with a final, robust chorus and ripping, focused jam. The second set rolls out much like the first with well-played and occasionally jammed versions of several classic tunes, including Brown Eyed Women and Jack Straw. But things start to really heat up with the He’s Gone five songs in. The band focuses squarely on exploring every space the tune offers, which never really sends the song into the far corners of the universe, but certainly has it reaching the stratosphere as Jerry and the boys throw down heady licks and magnificent fills that echo through the hall. With its rocking modus operandi, US Blues is a sort of welcome departure from what the Dead began in He’s Gone. But the searching musical exploration resumes with the Weather Report Suite. Jerry, in particular, throws off some ridiculous, though subtle runs as Bobby, Phil, and Keith all wait for their moments, driving home inimitable lusciousness whenever the opportunity arises. Every WRS is amazing, but this one is truly something special, which is made clear by the hot, running jam that emerges in the Let It Grow and eventually spins off into a psychedelic and terribly haunting Spanish Jam. The jam itself finally gives way to an enlightened Eyes of the World providing bubbly spaciousness, followed by a splendid, set-closing China Doll. Just be warned, you are in for over an hour of music that is impossible to turn away from and is totally accessible like so much of the great ’74 shows.

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