DVD Review: Grateful Dead - The Closing of Winterland

Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: The Closing of Winterland,
December 31, 1978
Label: Monterey Video
Year: 2003

Rating: 4.5 Drops

Winterland, originally built as a boxing venue and then an ice skating arena in San Francisco Ca, became the second home of Rock promoter Bill Graham when the acts he normally sponsored at his Fillmore Auditorium, a few blocks away, became too popular and a larger seating capacity was needed. Bill promoted well over 500 shows at Winterland through its legendary slice of history that saw acts such as the Rolling Stones, the Doors, Stevie Wonder, Cream , James Brown, Jefferson Airplane, the Sex Pistols, and certainly one of the greatest Rock and Roll bands of all time: The Grateful Dead.

After going through several renovations, Bill Graham could no longer manage keeping the crumbling building together and decided to close the doors of Winterland with one final smash evening on December 31, 1978 with opening acts New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Blues Brothers, and the Grateful Dead to headline this sentimental farewell concert. ‘Pete’, according to one of the Winterland management crew, ‘Who is always the first to show up’ made it to his legendary place at the front door three days before the show. Bill Graham’s sister, Esther, set up a soup kitchen outside to feed all the ‘Beautiful Kids’ waiting outside with a healthy menu of soup, rolls, and carrot cake. It had been, according to the obsessed fans banner, “1535 Days Since Last SF Dark Star”. San Francisco public television station KQED and pioneering FM Rock station KSAN were there to capture every moment in video and audio: It was the beginning of a historical evening.

With well over 5000 ‘Heads’ crammed into Winterland, and the opening acts having wowed the crowd, Bill Graham dressed up as ‘Father Time’ and took his midnight ride in his carriage to the stage that was a blazing monster joint that only King Kong could enjoy in one sitting. Once the gigantic doobie hit the stage, with Dan Aykroyd finishing the countdown, a million balloons flooded the audience with uproarious applause as the Dead whipped out the first chords and riffs of Sugar Magnolia. From that moment on, the night belonged to the Grateful Dead and the swarming sea of fans paying their last rites to the place that held 59 Dead shows, nearly 10% of all Grateful Dead performances.

There are so many magical moments on this film that I could spend several more pages or a full essay on the subject without a doubt. Now, this is the best Grateful Dead footage that is in my library and certainly one that will be enjoyed over and over again. With 2 DVDs, a 28 page collectors book, and over 6.5 hours of material, you can get completely immersed in this magical evening. And, you now have the luxury of archiving it right in your own home. Plan on making an all-nighter or an entire weekend out of this DVD the first time out of the box!

By: S. Remington

DVD Review: Allman Brothers Band - Live at the Beacon Theater

Artist: The Allman Brother Band
Title: Live at the Beacon Theatre
Label: Sanctuary
Year: 2003

Rating: 5 Drops

The Allman Brothers Band pulls into New York city every March for an extended string of performances that dedicated fans have come to refer to as 'The Beacon Run'. This DVD puts you not only in the front row for two stellar nights at the Beacon, March 25 & 26, 2003, but nestles you directly in the lap of one of the founding bands of the Jam scene and clearly one of the greatest Rock and Roll bands of all time. The film brings you in through the front door of the famous Beacon Theatre on New York's upper West side and literally suspends you out over the crowd and the stage for a beautiful and blistering 3 hours of Allman Brothers magic.

Over the years I've seen the Allman Brothers Band, through rough times and good times and different line-ups, but I'll tell you right now they have arrived AGAIN! They have never sounded tighter and more full of collective energy and joy and watching this film is nothing short of awe inspiring. Gregg Allman has made a complete transformation and this rekindled fire within himself is a potent fuel for the entire band to feed and explore the improvisational landscapes that set this legendary band apart from the rest and continues to evolve musically today.

This professionally shot film is some of the most electric concert footage that I have ever seen and is enhanced with crystal clear digital audio to transform your home entertainment center and living room into a super charged Allman Brothers experience. The band charges brilliantly through many Allman Brothers classics including 'Ain't Wastin' No More Time', 'Woman Across the River', 'Midnight Rider' with full fledged fervor and ferocity. One of the highlights of the set list was a mind altering collaboration of Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes giving a slide guitar clinic, both trading lead back and forth, in an amazing rendition of 'Rockin' Horse'.

The DVD is also packed full of features, photo gallery, a bonus track with Derek and Warren tearing up an acoustic version of 'Old Friend' in a backstage dressing room rehearsal, and a wonderful interview section with all of the band members as they speak on the roots of the Allman Brothers Band and the stage chemistry they share today. I watched the film from beginning to end and only tagged the pause button long enough for a restroom break and to switch discs. This DVD is definitely a must have for the hardcore Allman Brothers fan young and old alike and its treasures will certainly be explored again and again from my living room for years to come.

By: T. Monroe