John Dawson - guitar, vocals; David Nelson - lead guitar, vocals; Jerry Garcia - pedal steel guitar; Dave Torbert - bass, vocals; Spencer Dryden - drums
These 1970 NRPS sets are particularly interesting, as the band was still in its formative stages at the time. Jerry Garcia plays pedal steel guitar on everything, and ex-Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden had recently signed on, as had bass player and creative force Dave Torbert. They were still very much part of the extended Grateful Dead experience, and a year away from releasing their first album. But with Dryden and Torbert replacing Lesh and Hart, respectively, they were becoming a genuine band in their own right. Dawson and Nelson's repertoire already included early versions of a good amount of the material that would later be recorded on the first NRPS album, much of which is included in this set.
Following Bill Graham's introduction, the band opens with Chuck Berry's "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," followed by the soon-to-be radio hit off thier first album, "Louisiana Lady."
Several other interesting covers are featured, including the country tunes "Can't Pay the Price" and "Workingman's Blues," not to mention a tasty cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lodi."
Four songs that would be featured on the first NRPS LP the following year are also showcased. Repeated from the early show is the ever-popular dope smuggling song, "Henry," as are "I Don't Know You" and "Last Lonely Eagle," the latter in its entirety, passionate, and with an extended pedal steel solo from Garcia.
The highlight, however, is unquestionably the lovely version of "All I Ever Wanted" during the middle of the set, probably the most beautiful song Dawson ever wrote.
No matter what you call 'em, this is a beautifully complementary, historic lineup featuring many of the most accomplished and passionate country-rock musicians of their day. If for no other reason, the show is remarkable as a testament to the endless variety of stylistic paths such competent musicians could travel and explore - so long, that is, that they kept the drive to saddle up.
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