Closing Of Winterland

Grateful Dead

It was a turning point the hippies in San Francisco weren't looking forward to. The closing of the fabled Winterland in 1978, the last vestige of the free form, flower power generation, was a sign of things to come: bigger venues designed for comfort and convenience over ambience and alternation. The Grateful Dead rolled through the whole menagerie without much more than a yawn, but their following would transform into an odd mixture of young and old, rich and not so rich, employed and looking-for-a-miracle types. But before that happened, the Dead, along with the Blues Brothers (featuring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) and New Riders Of The Purple Sage (aka NRPS) took the stage on December 31, 1978 for a New Years Eve blowout. Right after promoter Bill Graham, dressed as Father Time, soared across the venue commandeering a giant joint to ring in 1979, the Dead ambled on stage and opened with "Sugar Magnolia." Three sets and six hours later, they strummed their final notes as the sun came up and the entire audience was served breakfast, courtesy of Uncle Bobo aka Graham. It's all here (except the breakfast) and more, in full color and spectacular stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1, on the Closing Of Winterland DVD.

As a double disc set, there are plenty of goodies to keep you and yours loopy with delight. First, there's the show itself, which was broadcast live on San Francisco's public TV station KQED with a simulcast feed over FM radio via KSAN (these were the days before stereo television). The Dead were definitely "on" that night. They jammed with several special guests and sailed through stellar versions of "Scarlet Begonia," "Friend Of A Devil," "Terrapin Station" and "Dark Star," among several others. The actual show takes up a disc and a half. The rest of the second DVD is crop full of bonus features - a documentary on Winterland, a documentary on the making of the DVD, clumsy interviews with band members, Graham and Ken Kesey, and performance clips of the Blues Brothers and NRPS. This is unquestionably one of the most electrifying DVDs from the Grateful Dead. I bought two so I could share one with a friend.

~ Shawn Perry

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