Now Playing: Grateful Dead – ‘There Comes a Redeemer’ December 4, 1973 Cincinatti Gardens

by | May 25, 2015 | 0 comments

Jamming in the ‘rock room’ and waving its musical flag wide
and high is yet another stellar Fall 1973 Grateful Dead performance. Today I am
enjoying the bonus disc included in the Grateful Dead Winterland 1973 complete
recordings box set.  The performance
hails from December 4th, 1973 and is nestled snugly in the midst of
a series of amazing live concerts put on the group. Surrounded by the Boston
Music Hall performances (11/30-12/2) and the December 6th lift off
in Cleveland (all immortalized by official releases) this particular night is
branded with the same quality as the concerts that surround it.
The music from the night featured in today’s ‘Now Playing’
is unique because according to legend the Grateful Dead were supposed to appear
at 8:00 and didn’t end up taking the stage until 11:00 PM. Travel issues and
stage schematics are believed to be the cause of the tardiness. The usual three
hour concert extravaganzas which were the norm from this tour did not take
place on this evening because of the aforementioned late start.  I can state for certain that the Dead made up
for any crowd disappointment by dealing a hand made up of spades. The music
available here and on bootleg, is still consistent with the usual quality from
the Fall tour, yet swings with a stoned party attitude that sits just outside
of the lines. The late evening probably resulted in more social time than usual
for the boys, but that never bother them before now did it? Special circumstances
usually resulted in special shows for the band, while ‘big’ shows were famously
While the bonus disc that was included with the official Winterland
release features the ‘best’ moments of the concert, a soundboard recording of
the entire evening in available for those who want to experience it. The first
set does contain some other moments of note like a rare ‘Johnny B Goode’
The bonus disc begins with a tight reading of a mid-first
set ‘China Cat Sunflower’/’I Know You Rider’. 
The band floats with a typical 1973 feathery sweetness, bouncing from
winter blossom to blossom and displaying with a delicate heaviness. The
midsection segue discovers Garcia springing to the surface with tightly coiled
curly ‘q’s’, sprinkling the melody with playful luminescent quotes. The jam
slips with enchantment into the ‘Feeling Groovy’ theme, before arriving at
‘Rider’ just on time. 
 The other highlighted first set rendering is of a compact
‘Truckin’/’Stella Blue’ that while fenced in still spotlights a stilted jam out
of ‘Truckin’ that cuts corners sharply and disorients with its gradual
disintegration into ‘Stella Blue’.  ‘Truckin’
is and would be capable of much more improve, but here in its first set
position acts as a nice leg stretching exercise while still featuring unique

The ‘Eyes of the World’ is the centerpiece of the night and
acts as the jam vehicle for the evening, opening the second set and featuring
the heaviest dose of jamming.   This
‘Eyes’ surpasses 20 minutes and is littered with Phil Lesh detonations, drones
and discoveries which at points diffuse the melody into sunny fractals, only to
be held together by barley visible threads of sound.  The verses of ‘Eyes’, like the songs preceding
it on the recording are beautiful and sung with great investment by Garcia.
After two scintillating Garcia solo spots the band begins to undress the
framework of the song.
A militant march through the ‘Stronger than Dirt’ theme blinds
the eyes with Billy K’s skipping and shimmering cymbal work. The jam falls
apart momentarily when the licks decompose and begin to overlap in the bands
enthusiasm. The jam teeters humorously on the edge of destruction, before an on
stage yelp can be discerned. The yelp awakens the beast and journey continues
as Garcia and Godchaux walk into a room with a sticky floor. The band tries to
steady themselves with a newly unearthed Garcia riff that starts to coagulate
the respective elements of the group. All bets are now off as a new musical
form is being developed in real time.
After thirteen minutes Lesh begins to rattle the foundation
of the venue and cracks and fissures start to become visible. Garcia and Godchaux scurry
from the deafening noises like electronic mice while looking for clandestines corner to hide in.
Lesh, as he has been throughout the performance must have had his hands in the
backstage cookie jar. His playing is out of hand. He molds his bass notes into a pliable sound form that
initiates a shifty and morphing layer of bedrock in which Garcia sleepily
drapes clean tone statements. The sounds become something greater than the
instrumental mediums. A moaning sonic beast comprised of sonic electrodes
thrashes around the venue and through the ‘rock room’.
Soon, a feedback dance takes place in the outer limits taking form as large
unknown objects brush against each other weightlessly soon triggering a wash of
sound. Lesh slams his bass into an unmovable planetary body causing a
disruption of a volcanic magnitude. Kreutzman uses the door blown open by Lesh
to enter into the webby fabric of space dissolving into the mix with  a
crisp series of snare strokes. 
Like an ice cube thrown onto smoldering rock, the jam
liquefies, filling the crannies and pock marked landscape. Garcia and Godchaux
team up for dazzling array of jams that become form long enough to expose trail
markers before deconstructing into a Garcia flip book of alternative
communications. Billy and Keith link arms to make a ring and contain the
mellifluous mixture being stirred by Garcia. Still parts squish out from the
edges. Lesh quits with his aggressive attitude and sits down, approving Garcia
to continue his descent into madness. A ‘tiger’ almost spills over the top but
is held in restraint by Garcia who continues  to pump his pedal into a toothy series of
growls and a number of waxy bulbous drips. An aura of strangeness falls onto the stage like morning culminating the previous excursions.
Before I know it Weir has strummed the introduction to
‘Sugar Magnolia’ which trudges out from the thick sonic web of ‘Eyes’,
stumbling slightly before Lesh turns on the faucet, permitting the groove to flow
freely. ‘Sugar Magnolia’ picks up steam nicely, as all members fall into place resulting in a floral rendition
that soon leads into the unusual segued placement of ‘Going Down the Road Feeling
While this second set is very short due to the circumstance
surrounding the late start of the concert, the result of this fact is a unique series of
song placements as well as the cool jam hidden in the recesses of ‘Eyes’.
‘GDTRFB’ has a nice leisurely opening that navigates the changes carefully
before slowly climbing steps that lead to an all time version. A plethora of bubbly
rock waves lap at the shore with the band raving up into a well deserved
conclusion. Killer rock, and a unique pairing of Suga’ Mags and ‘GDTRFB’.

‘Casey Jones’ leaves the station slowly, caught in the dust
spun up from the tires of ‘GDTRFB’.  A
chunky funky version that alternates between sleepy and speedy but results in a rolling good time closer.  Garcia gets the band to push
through the bumps finally cresting the hill and starting the long roll without
breaks toward the finish. The resulting crowd approval audible on the
soundboard proves that the band, in spite of the late start was still able to
deliver in a big way.

Dead fans are familiar with the wealth of mind melt material to be found
in the volumes of  the Fall of 1973, so this snippet of aural magic should come as no surprise.
While somewhat obscured by the massive trees that surround it, there is still moving
music waiting to be discovered for those willing to push aside the brush and
search. Take a trip back to 1973 when a normal night by Grateful Dead  standards could still move musical mountains and blow collective minds.


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