One Week in May '77: Part 5 - 5/9/77
So, how do you follow up arguably the ‘greatest show of all time’? With another great show! Do you even think the boys knew that the show they had just played in Cornell would be considered their best ever? Probably not, the truth is that they were clearly ‘in the zone’, on a roll like few other times in their history, playing as if they were truly of one mind, one spirit. As I look at the set lists for this week, there were a number of songs that were played at least 3-4 times, such as Peggy-O, Tennessee Jed, Music Never Stopped, Estimated Prophet, and more. Maybe simple repetition was leading to a tighter sound?
May 9, 1977 however started off quite different than the other nights of that week. Played at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium (Capacity: 16,000+), a blazing Help On The Way>Slipknot>Franklin’s Tower kicks off the first set. Gotta love any show that starts off with H>S>F. Another highlight of the week, especially the Help>Slipknot. I particularly love the crispness of the percussion in this performance. A couple slips on the lyrics during Franklin’s is probably the only thing keeping version from being the best ever. Perfect versions of Cassidy and Brown-Eyed Women follow suit. The Mexicali Blues that come’s next is a bit uneven, never finding quite the right tempo. Another Tennessee Jed follows, sounds like the rest (really not a fan of this song). A super-hot Big River roars to life after Jed, possibly an all-time best version. Jerry is on fire during his second solo with the boys blasting away on all cylinders behind him! Yet another beautiful Peggy-O slows things down a bit, and then, a bit of a surprise. A Sunrise actually, Donna’s song that was only played 3 times live, once that night. Not a bad song, but it sounds more like the Jefferson Starship than The Dead, IMHO. Another Music Never Stopped closes a marathon, well performed first set.
The second set starts off with a slow-tempo Bertha, very similar to the version played in New Haven 4 nights earlier. Bertha to me is supposed to be a fun, danceable song, the band didn’t see it that way in ’77 I guess. Things heat up a bit next with some of Bobby’s Good Lovin’ (need more cowbell!) I love the soulful, stunning Ship Of Fools that follows, played to perfection and a personal favorite version of mine. A mellow, yet intense jam links a rare back-to-back Estimated Prophet>The Other One. During the end of the Estimated jam, Mickey and Billy start to take over a bit driving the band into one of the strong Other Ones that I’ve heard from the late ‘70s. Mickey and Billy keep churning with some Drumz, which leads into a solid Not Fade Away (marred only by an AUD patch during the first verse). Just when you think the roof is going to blow off the building, the boys take it down a notch for a Comes A Time that comes straight from the heart. Jerry’s solo after the final chorus starts off coming from somewhere very, very deep inside, then finishes beautiful and bluesy, the band’s heart and soul are truly one during this special moment of the show. It seems like they are truly emotionally drained at this point as they slowly rev up Sugar Magnolia, but then kick into high-gear at the first verse and find the energy to finish the second set off strong. A show that seemed to have just about a bit of everything finishes off with a Uncle John’s Band that kind of makes you just sit back and say “Ahhhh”.
Again, no visible magic, just a band at their peak whose sound was about as tight as ever. Some just refer to a great 4 show run from New Haven to Buffalo this week, but the show two nights later belongs in this great run IMO. So off we go to traverse the Great Lakes to the Twin Cities. Until then…