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Dead of the Day: November 23, 1973

County Coliseum
El Paso, Texas
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With the fireworks in the second set, it is hard to say the first is better, but each tune in the early going nears perfection, making for a superb first half. Obviously, highlights abound; just listen to the sensational fervor at the back end of Deal and the contributions of Jerry and Keith on Jack Straw. Even so, the Weather Report Suite at the back end of the set may rise above the rest. It is smooth and luscious throughout, but suddenly launches into a ferociously tasty space about two-thirds of the way through, taking this headiness all the way out to set break. The Greatest Story that takes them the other way out of the mid-point of the show is a wonderful piece of soupy hot fast jamming, led by Jerry. Up next, the boys roll a sweet Sugaree, and after someone changes Bobby’s mike, they launch into a fine, tight Me And My Uncle. Then the band combines on a really solid He’s Gone before the boys head into am absolutely sublime Truckin’, which is especially smooth and silky in the latter portions. They then turn to an epic Other One. Alternatively bright and rocking, brooding and mysterious, and downright spacey, The Other One is a tour de force. A lovely Bobby McGee arrives next with Bobby’s emotional vocal delivery and Jerry’s sweet licks. But the Eyes that unfolds afterwards is even more wonderful with sumptuous, even-handed jamming by the entire band. Of course, it is Jerry’s inimitable guitar that really makes this tune soar, but the rest of the boys are right there, especially Bobby and Keith. From there, the band takes the show out with a series of rocking tunes, capping it all with a Johnny B. Goode encore. 

Even if you do not like the song, you have to listen to the opening of El Paso in the first set. Within a note or two, a few people in the audience of west Texans recognizes the tune, letting loose with a scream. A half-second later, Bobby starts in on the first line, and the entire place just explodes. Even on the soundboard, you can hear continued hoots throughout the entirety of the song. It is actually an exceptional version of El Paso, gaining momentum as it goes, making it seem like the band was - as they almost certainly were - spurred on by the audience. Sadly, it was the only show the Dead ever played in El Paso, but at least the locals got to hear the boys play their namesake Marty Robbins tune.

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