One Week in May '77: Part 3 - 5/7/77
Today we move on to Beantown, home of my namesake Deadhead blogger. The 5/7/77 show was played at the Boston Garden. The historic "Gahden" sat a shade short of 15,000, what a great place that had to be to see a show. This show however almost never happened. The day of the show, a crew member named Peter "Craze" Sheridan allegedly fired the union stagehands. Eventually things were smoothed over, but the night never truly recovered as the band suffered through numerous equipment repairs, including Jerry's guitar breaking before the Encore. During the equipment repair between Minglewood and Half-Step, Bobby rags on Mickey's need to "beat a nail into something", then gives Billy K. a hilarious roast in celebration of his 31st birthday
This night doesn't get the hype that the next night in Cornell does, but IMO, this show is every bit as good, especially considering everything they had to deal with that night. It almost seems on many an occasion that the tougher you made it on them (or they made it on themselves), that they would respond with an incredibly strong performance. If that is true, this night was the ultimate example.
The Bertha that starts of the first set begins a bit slow and methodical like the one in New Haven, a brief feedback snafu catches them by surprise during the first chorus, then they really kick it up-tempo during the second verse. From then on, you know it's going to be a fun night. After some brief equipment repairs, they launch into a hot Cassidy that really kicks into gear about the 3:30 mark. A very danceable Deal follows for the 2nd straight show. The Jack Straw that comes next is a bit disappointing as they never quite find the right groove. They respond strong with another great Peggy-O (although I think I like previous show's version better), followed by a nasty New Minglewood Blues. The Mississippi Half-Step that comes next is epic, possible the best one they ever played. Played with a funky shuffle to start, Jerry soars into orbit with a spectacular solo, and the band follows suit with amazing intensity. It slows down a bit to go "Across the Rio Grand-eo", then kicks back into a powerful finish. Truly the highlight of this show, and one of the top highlights of the entire week. As if that wasn't enough, Half Step moves quickly into Big River which starts off with a funky disco beat, finds a typical up-tempo beat to drive it through. A garden-variety Tennessee Jed is next, and a Music Never Stopped which features a jam that just builds and builds to orgasmic heights, finishes an amazing set.
The 2nd set starts off with an exquisitely played Terrapin Station, followed by a strong Samson and Delilah, two of the newer songs in their rotation that they seemed to truly enjoy playing. Friend of the Devil is next. FOTD was never a favorite of mine, at least until I heard this version. This was played absolutely beautiful and from the heart. Keith really shines on this one, Jerry sounds oh so sweet. Next comes a Eyes of the World>Drums>The Wheel>Wharf Rat combo that is out of this world. The fun, hi-tempo Eyes leads into a Drums, which trips a bit uneasily into a great Wheel powered by the Rhythm Devils and Keith, then a nice jam transition into a haunting Wharf Rat. A magnificent 2nd set closes with a rockin' Around and Around. Another song that wasn't a favorite of mine, at least until I heard the '77 versions, which rock with incredible intensity. U.S. Blues closes this incredible night, a night marred by numerous distractions and equipment failures.
I'm starting to think that this may be one of my all-time favorite shows, possible even greater than the 'greatest' show that took place the next night. That's our next destination, Ithaca, NY. The campus of Cornell University, at Barton Hall. What was it about that show that made it so legendary, and amongst many Deadheads, so controversial? We'll explore that in the next post in this series.