Jerry during “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,” Phil and Bob during “Big River”
The 1977 spring tour of the Grateful Dead will always be remembered by many as one of the best in the history of the band. My personal experience echoed this sentiment. After seeing the band play a tremendously enjoyable show in Springfield, April 23rd, which was only the second night of the tour, I was pleased to hear from a friend that he had offered me a ticket—a front row seat for the upcoming concert scheduled for May 7th, at the venerable Boston Garden.
The first set opened with “Bertha,” which is one of my favorite show openers, and I remember as sort of a theme song for the tour. Cassidy followed, and it became evident fairly quickly that equipment problems were going to be an issue this evening. As GD fans we accepted (begrudgingly) that the breaks between songs can be long, and sometimes really long! However these were dealing with equipment issues, which at the time did not seem to affect the quality of the sound reaching our ears! Having the evening coincide with Bill Kreutzmann’s birthday added a special feeling, and the band recognized him during the middle of the first set.
As an avid photographer, I was always interested in taking photographs, but rarely did I bring a camera to shows. Having seats in the front row, however, prompted me to bring my camera along with a decent zoom lens. After the excitement of the first few songs, I started to take photos, mostly close-ups, as opposed to the entire band. The set really took off with a terrific rendition of “Mississippi Half-Step,” and I captured many of my best images during this song, especially one of Jerry breaking into a big grin as he started his power chord section during that song. “Half Step”
shifted into a great version of “Big River,” a nice transition, and these two songs, along with a nice mid-set “Deal” were certainly the highlights of the first set.
At the time I was a bit disappointed with the second set opener of “Terrapin,” perhaps because it was a new song and I did not yet feel connected to it. But as the song progressed I was intrigued by the words and music, and soon realized this was going to be a classic addition to their repertoire. They added a second new song later, “Estimated Prophet,” which also showed lots of promise. I was really happy when they played “Eyes” (my all-time favorite GD song—after yet another long equipment break).
After listening to tapes of the show, and most recently digitized versions on the archive, I came to realize that part of the greatness of this show is the fact that the band was not only able to cope with the persistent and annoying equipment issues, but they rose above it all and delivered a very high quality and enjoyable concert, that has more than stood the test of time. Having some great photographs of the band on this night, during the apex of a great tour, is something I will always be grateful for.