Shortlist: July 27, 1974 – Roanoke, VA

  • Big River (instrumental) (2:43)
  • Jack Straw (5:03)
  • Mississippi Half-Step > (7:22)
  • It Must Have Been the Roses (5:08)
  • Bertha (5:18)
  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Briefly (10:48)
  • Johnny B. Goode (instrumental) (1:42)
  • Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down the Road > (15:45)
  • U.S. Blues Jam > Promised Land Jam (6:35)
  • The Main Ten (10:37)
  • Brokedown Palace (5:35)

 76-minute mp3 download

Remember that stretch of July 1974 when Donna was away recording her solo album, and Bobby couldn’t play guitar because of a broken wrist and just did some singing, on crutches? Basically, the band decided to honor several tour dates as a four-piece:

  • Jerry: guitar
  • Keith: electric piano
  • Phil: bass
  • Billy: high-hat and other drums

Some stuff just couldn’t convert. “Row Jimmy” without Bobby’s guitar was like a clock missing a gear. But at other times, this stripped-down combo achieved a smooth, spacious groovy lockup that reminds me a little of 1977. Jerry on the left, Keith on the right, going solo in the rhythmic and harmonic role that he and Bobby’s guitar usually shared. Phil definitely seemed into it, putting some extra spring into their step on some tunes, like “Jack Straw” and “Bertha” in this show.

Roanoke was the last of these shows, by which time they weren’t even attempting to play normal set lists, doing some songs as breakneck instrumentals and gravitating toward songs with groovy riffs that they could just play with for a while.

Of course, none of this ever happened, but if you want a frame of reference for appreciating this show – and the edit I’ve made of it – that’s it.

The SBD mix of this show almost doesn’t have Bobby’s guitar in it. Sometimes it’s quite perceptibly there, but much of the time you have to look for it, or it slides into/behind Keith’s piano. And it’s Keith’s piano, holding down the right channel as loudly as Jerry’s holding down the left that turns this bad mix into a happy accident: A Grateful Dead that is strangely unfamiliar and yet works, if you pay attention to the right songs. They make you dance a little differently. My source is the beautiful Miller-engineered one, with a big, shimmering, spacious sound. Definitely a show that sounds great on your good speakers.

I took all the vocals out of “Big River,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Promised Land” (which they jammed into), which serves to highlight the solos Keith took in those songs. I also dropped out the song part of “I Know You Rider,” so for once we don’t have to listen to it in order to get from the beginning of “China Cat” to the end of “Rider.” “The Main Ten” is a piece of the “Playin’” jam.

The way “U.S. Blues” went down in this show is funny; when they got to the end of the song, they weren’t agreed on whether to end it or jam on, so it ends with a whimper of collapse. Then they gather themselves and go for it.

This is my second favorite early '70s "Half-Step."