If the Grateful Dead had an East Coast base outside of New York City, odds are it would be at The Capitol Theater in Port Chester. By November of 1970, the Dead had already done two previous runs at The Cap earlier in the year. This would be the third one and the show they would play here this year. This would be no typical show though. Tonight, they would be joined by fellow West Coast troubadours the New Riders of the Purple Sage. Along with a full acoustic opening set, the last Capitol Theater show of the year certainly leaves a mark.
A knowledgeable crowd greets the show opening “Dire Wolf” with approval. The second verse seems to trip Garcia up a little but he makes up for it with a bit of an extended instrumental bridge. A true acoustic and relaxed version of “I Know You Rider” follows. This one is played on its own, with no “China Cat Sunflower” lead in, and at about half its typical speed, if not slower. Garcia takes the helm on vocals and leads the rest of the band through a really interesting take on this Dead staple that has the audience clapping along in time at parts.
Bob Weir then takes the lead on vocals and leads the group through the relatively new-at-the-time “Dark Hollow,” which debuted earlier in the year at New York City’s Fillmore East. After some bizarre group banter about Godzilla, it’s Garcia’s turn once again for “Rosalie McFall.” This was another new number at the time, also debuted only months earlier at the Fillmore East. The band does their best to steer around some feedback issues for this little bluegrass jaunt that’s ideal for an acoustic set.
The (new) hits keep coming, courtesy of Weir-led “El Paso,” only the seventh one ever. Performances number five and six took place the prior two evenings at The Capitol Theater. Afterwards, Pigpen finally gets a chance to lead and sings the last ever performance of the American Beauty gem “Operator.” Short harp solo – short time left with band? Another Beauty cut, “Ripple,” follows this, with the audience instantly engaged. And it would be a Beauty trilogy with the acoustic “Friend of the Devil” that followed. It certainly made sense from a promotional standpoint. The seminal Grateful Dead album was released exactly one week ago. It would later peak at No. 30 on Billboard’s Pop Albums chart.
A boisterous cover of The Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Susie” then follows, with even more additional audience “percussion.” It’s the last time the Dead would ever play this one in a live setting. The opening acoustic set then comes to a close with another Dead classic that was still a relatively new song at the time, “Uncle John’s Band.” This officially has the Capitol Theater crown whipped up into a frenzy before Garcia mentions they’ll be back shortly with the New Riders.
For the second set, the New Riders of the Purple Sage delivered their unique brand of acid-washed country and rock tunes. At this point in time, Garcia and Mickey Hart are still involved in the band along with its co-founders David Nelson and John “Marmaduke” Dawson. Jerry plays the pedal steel guitar throughout and adds some beautiful interludes on “All I Ever Wanted.” “Fair Chance To Know” also has a “Teach The Children Well” feel to it, likely due to the aforementioned pedal steel and the same man playing it on each. “Cecilia,” though not the Simon & Garfunkel cover, features some legitimate yodeling. But the set does end with a cover, a rollicking take on The Rolling Stones’ “Honkey Tonk Women.” It’s a lively set that adds a totally different dimension to a Grateful Dead show and certainly worth a listen.
Afterwards, the Dead come out swinging with a “Morning Dew” third set opener. They slowly glide through the composed section to an appreciative Cap crowd with Garcia’s dynamic vocals seeing it through. It’s a wonderfully patient and patiently evolving “Dew.” After things settled dow a bit, Weir takes over for a run through of “Me and My Uncle.”
This is followed by the one and only live performance of “Mystery Train” with Garcia on vocals, resembling a NRPS song in nature. Then it’s right back to an early cover of Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around,” the first time the Dead would play this longtime crowd pleaser. More rarities would ensue with “New Orleans,” only the second of four ever played. Still led by Weir on vocals, this ambles into “Searchin’,” the first of the only two ever played, with Pigpen reassuming vocal lead duties.
A Bob Dylan cover on the back end of this elicits yet another positive crowd reaction and the Northern California troubadours are off and running again with “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” with Garcia, once again, re-establishing lead vocal duties. Dylan covers were certainly no stranger to the band at this point. But this would be the last “Baby Blue” performed in nearly 20 years.
“Casey Jones” with yet another Cap Theater clap-a-long follows, another song tested earlier the last few nights. Speaking of “new” songs, the Dead would then roll out a song that would soon become synonymous with second sets, “Truckin’.” This Dead staple had only been debuted a few months earlier at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. This was another one the band decdided to “test run” the previous few nights at The Cap. It’s safe to say, by Sunday, they had this instant classic worked out.
The instant the fledgling “Truckin'” comes to a close, the longtime Dead classic “Dark Star” wastes no time in starting up. It would also return at their next show at the fabled Port Chester venue, 2/18/71. This one gets way dark and spooky, rewarding the folks that have stuck around for this long for some visual and aural trickery.
“The Main Ten,” is an incredible look at an instrumental version of the early renderings of a Grateful Dead classic. It’s a primordial and slower version of “Playin’ In The Band” before it ever came to fruition. This would be the last ever “beta” version of it before it would fully bloom into the first official PITB ever at this very same venue slightly more than three months later in February of 1971.
Amazingly, this seems to trigger a particularly early closing sequence. An early drums fakeout segues into “Not Fade Away” and the Port Chester crowd is alive. After some impressive interplay, the jam soon lends itself to NFA’s running mate, “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad,” another new song at the time that was just starting to develop as a show closer. Eventually, this steers itself back into “Not Fade Away,” and a close to this thunderous late second set sequence.
One last abbreviated “Drums” sequence leads to the last song and de facto closer this evening, a rendition of The Rascals’ “Good Lovin'” that sees Pigpen get one last chance to lead an ecstatic Capitol Theater crowd through one last cover. Another “Drums” sequence serves as one last percussive explosion before “Good Lovin'” eventually rounds back into form, capping off the last Grateful Dead show in Port Chester for 1971.
Grateful Dead w/ New Riders of the Purple Sage Capitol Theater – Port Chester, NY 11/8/70
Set 1: Dire Wolf, I Know You Rider, Dark Hollow, Rosalie McFall, El Paso, Operator, Ripple, Friend Of The Devil, Wake Up Little Susie, Uncle John’s Band
Set 2: Six Days On The Road, Superman, Whatcha Gonna Do, Glendale Train, All I Ever Wanted, Fair Chance To Know, Portland Woman, Cecilia, Truck Drivin’ Man, Last Lonely Eagle, Louisiana Lady, Honky Tonk Women
Set 3: Morning Dew, Me And My Uncle, Mystery Train > My Babe, Around And Around, New Orleans > Searchin’, It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, Casey Jones, Truckin’ > Dark Star > Dancing In The Street, Drums > Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad > Not Fade Away > Drums > Good Lovin’ > Drums > Good Lovin’