For as many shows in New York that the Grateful Dead have played, it’s almost amazing that there are only three of them that took place in Queens. Today marks the anniversary of the third and final one. The Grateful Dead treated a ravenous crowd at Colden Auditorium on the campus of Queens College to a show featuring songs from, perhaps, two of their most iconic albums of all time. In just a few weeks, the band would release American Beauty, taking them to an entire new level of national popularity. And with Workingman’s Dead still fresh from earlier in the year, this shows falls in a time period where the band is simply rife with creativity as they continue to from their own unique version of country-folk blended with West Coast psychedelia.
It begins with some extended tuning, during which guitarist Bob Weir tells the crowd that “Marmaduke stayed home,” a reference to their friend from New Riders of the Purple Sage – a band that often tagged along with the Dead for New York City shows. Weir chides that, “This is the economy package.” Elements of “Truckin'” and “Deep Elem Blues” can be heard in the pre show fine-tuning and that’s exactly how the show begins. Weir leads the band on vocals for the Dead’s brand new hit “Truckin’,” a song only months old at the time. Then, after some lighting and monitor directions, Jerry Garcia takes over for a modern take on a traditional blues tune, “Deep Elem Blues.” Weir throws in some well placed harmonies at song’s end before the Dead hand the proverbial baton off to Pigpen for a typically rousing cover of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle.” Pig’s bluesy vocal efforts bookend a winding, exploratory jam spearheaded by Garcia on guitar.
This opening sequence of Grateful Dead music has the Colden Auditorium crowd clamoring for more. The band responds in kind with “Sugar Magnolia,” another eventual classic still very much in its early stages. This is the ninth one ever performed. Garcia has the wah-effect in full gear for this one as the band rips into another brief, explosive jam after Weir deftly navigates the lyrics. The “Candyman” that follows may slow the tempo down a bit, but still serves as a first set highlight anyway with a sublime and harrowing Garcia guitar solo placed between more delicate vocal harmonies.
This clears the way for a dynamic closing sequence to the opening set, starting with “Cryptical Envelopment,” which gets an instant vote of approval from the crowd. At its conclusion, a “Drums” immediately emerges, shining the spotlight on drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart who take the rapt audience on a percussive ride, in the first set no less. This immediately segues into the explosive opening of “The Other One,” with all of Colden Auditorium now clapping along in time earnestly. It winds up producing perhaps the best jam of the evening, a searing, psychedelic journey that varies in intensity before rounding back into form. The opening set then closes with another rousing cover, this time Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away.” The jam briefly dips its toe into “Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad” but no lyrics are actually sung before “Not Fade Away” resumes and caps off a whirlwind ending sequence that would later finds its place closing out second sets instead.
The Dead’s second set at Colden Auditorium, after a false start of sorts, resumes with “Casey Jones,” along with more full-fledged audience participation via clapping. They follow this with a familiar cover of “Cold Rain and Snow” that gets considerable support from Pigpen on organ and Phil Lesh on bass. Bob Weir then resumes vocal lead for the dark, country western-themed “Me And My Uncle.”
Unfortunately, there’s a significant gap in the recording due to a tape flip issue that cuts out the portion of the second set that follows. And it’s likely another one of the more memorable parts of the show as it features “Good Lovin’,” sung with natural flair from Pigpen as always, sandwiching yet another “Drums” sequence that surely went deeper than its first set predecessor.
The recording picks up at the tail end of the “Cumberland Blues” that follows all of this. One last pre-song tuning session finally gives way to “Uncle John’s Band,” the last song of the evening. It’s fitting selection to end with another cut from their iconic Workingman’s Dead album as they, and the world, prepare themselves for the American Beauty era.
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Grateful Dead – Colden Auditorium – Queens, NY 10/10/70
Set 1: Truckin’, Deep Elem Blues, Hard To Handle, Sugar Magnolia, Candyman, Cryptical Envelopment-> Drums-> The Other One-> Not Fade Away-> Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad-> Not Fade Away
Set 2: Casey Jones, Cold Rain & Snow, Me & My Uncle, Good Lovin’-> Drums-> Good Lovin’, Minglewood Blues, Cumberland Blues, Uncle John’s Band