Grateful Dead

Dave's Picks, Vol. 18: Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco, CA 7/17/76

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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

The 18th installment of Dave's Picks concentrates on the Grateful Dead's stint at San Francisco's Orpheum Theatre in July of 1976, offering the full concert from July 17 and selections from the previous night in the form of seven tracks (early editions included a bonus disc with a further eight tracks from July 16). That summer jaunt found the Dead returning to the road after an 18-month hiatus, once again featuring Mickey Hart as a full-fledged member, and Dave's Picks, Vol. 18 captures concerts after the Dead had 20-plus gigs under their belts: they'd shaken off the cobwebs and settled into a groove. The July 17 show certainly does groove, but it's not high-energy: it's loose and languid, a subdued sensibility that allows the band plenty of space to roam and solo. The interplay here flirts with jazz, particularly as Keith Godchaux's cloistered chords intertwine with Jerry Garcia's single-line leads in a way that recalls hard bop. Such instrumental excursions are pushed into the spotlight on the second set, one where Donna Jean Godchaux is nowhere to be found, and this unique swinging savoir-faire is one of the prime reasons to check out this installment of Dave's Picks: it's a vibe like no other 1976 show and few other mid-'70s Dead gigs either.