Grateful Dead

The Closing of Winterland [Video]

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Closing of Winterland is an essential release aptly recapturing a watershed moment not only for the Grateful Dead and their extended family and followers, but for the entire San Francisco music scene as well. When rock & roll promoter and entrepreneur Bill "Uncle Bobo" Graham held the Winterland Arena's final shindig on New Year's Eve 1978, he was, in effect, offering last rites to the infamous Bay Area ballroom circuit that had made him a power broker in the increasingly corporate world of popular music. As the physical structure was beyond need of repair, Graham chose not to seek renewal of his lease on the building. So, what better time than the end of the year to hold a farewell party and what better band than the Grateful Dead -- who had performed nearly 60 shows at the venerable venue -- to headline? The all-star cast is also represented by the New Riders of the Purple Sage, as well as John Belushi (vocals) and Dan Aykroyd (vocals/harmonica) under their musical non de plume as the Blues Brothers. Fortunately for the modern consumer, the entire party was captured on 24-track audio as well as professional video and was being simulcast locally on both KQED public television and KSAN-FM radio. This two-DVD collection is nothing short of an audio-visual time capsule unlike any multimedia projects to date. Contained within are not only every note that the Grateful Dead played during their three extended sets, but several bonuses that actually rival the main event. Here are but a few of the supplementary features: a half-hour-plus "Winterland: A Million Memories" documentary, which explores the band's unique relationship with the hall, as well as interviews with Graham, Ken Kesey, Mickey Hart, and Bob Weir. There is footage of the Blues Brothers covering the Sam & Dave R&B standard "Soul Man" and a funky version of Delbert McClinton's "B Movie." The NRPS are represented by a photo/video montage as they run through their classic "Glendale Train." Additionally, there is a brief "Making of the DVD" video sidebar that gets behind the scenes at the technical processes involved with such a mammoth undertaking. Not enough? Look for the alternate camera angle option, which commences during the second verse of "Wharf Rat" and runs through "St. Stephen" and "Good Lovin'." For the singalong prone, there is a visible lyric preference, and hi-fi buffs can choose to listen to the soundtrack in the standard Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo or either DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. With such high-quality source materials to work from, all the archival footage on Closing of Winterland -- which is a quarter of a century old, mind you -- looks as brilliant and equally matches the time-warp "you-are-there" presence of the surround sound mix.