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Printable Version
Reviewed by -
Lindsay Planer
Grateful Dead
The Closing of Winterland
Released: November 11, 2003
Origination Year: 2003
Time: 375:00
Tracks: 29
Produced by:Jeffrey Norman &
David Lemieux
Style: Studio
Format: CD / DVD
Enhancement: Surround DTS / Dolby
Label: Monterey Media

Track Listing
  1. Sugar Magnolia
  2. Scarlet Begonias
  3. Fire on the Mountain
  4. Me and My Uncle
  5. Big River
  6. Friend of the Devil
  7. It's All Over Now
  8. Stagger Lee
  9. From the Heart of Me
  10. Sunshine Daydream
  11. Samson & Delilah
  12. Ramble On Rose
  13. I Need a Miracle
  14. Terrapin Station
  15. Playing In the Band
  16. Rhythm Devils
  17. Not Fade Away
  18. Around and Around
  19. Dark Star
  20. The Other One
  21. Dark Star
  22. Wharf Rat
  23. St Stephen
  24. Good Lovin'
  25. Casey Jones
  26. Johnny B Goode
  27. We Bid You Goodnight
  28. Blues Brothers Segment
  29. Glendale Train - NRPS

Grateful Dead

Jerry Garcia:
Guitar / Vocals

Donna Jean Godchaux:

Keith Godchaux:
Keyboards / Vocals

Mickey Hart:

Bill Kreutzmann:

Phil Lesh:
Bass / Vocals

Bob Weir:
Guitars / Vocals

The Closing Of Winterland (2003) is an historic document of the final performance held at the legendary Winterland Arena. For 13 years the venerable venue was the crown jewel in rock and roll entrepreneur, Bill “Uncle Bobo” Graham’s San Francisco-based live music establishments. Although he had retained the lease on the building since 1965, it was only after the demise of his respective bi-coastal Fillmore Auditoriums in 1971, that Winterland gained prominence among Bay Area concert attendees.

In effect, this shindig became the last rites of the infamous ballroom scene that made Graham a powerful figure in the increasingly corporate world of rock. The building’s physical structure was beyond need of repair and Graham chose not to seek renewal of his lease. The final gathering of the tribes was appropriately held on New Year’s Eve, 1978/1979. Fittingly, The Grateful Dead -- who had logged nearly 60 shows there since 1965 -- headlined the all-star event, with New Riders Of The Purple Sage (NRPS), as well as John Belushi (vocals) and Dan Ackroyd (vocals/harmonica) under their musical non de plume as the Blues Brothers.

The Closing Of Winterland is available as both a four-disc CD collection, and a separate double-DVD set. The audio discs contain every note that the Grateful Dead played, with the entire programme mastered digitally, from the original 24-track analogue tapes. Considering these recordings are a quarter of a century old, they sound nothing short of sublime. The DVDs significantly expand the contents with a virtual time capsule of video captured by local San Fran Public Television station, KQED. At Graham’s persistence, they broadcast the event for the thousands of locals who could not get tickets. While the package centres on the Grateful Dead’s four-plus hours on stage, the second DVD yields copious bonuses, which in many respects rival the main event. Access to both a Dolby or DTS 5.1 surround mix, in addition to the standard 2.0 stereo, is a primary aural advantage of the DVDs as well.

Supplementary materials include the half-hour long Winterland: A Million Memories documentary, which examines the band, their audience and the unique relationship both had with the hall. There is an interview with Bill Graham on New Year’s Eve as he feverishly prepares for the festivities. Other key entries are the brief conversations with author, Merry Prankster and long time Deadhead, Ken Kesey, and even a few words with Mickey Hart and Bob Weir, as they take a proverbial ‘pause for the cause’ between sets. There is also footage of both the Blues Brothers (“Soul Man” and “B Movie”) and the NRPS (“Glendale Train”), plus a short “Making Of The DVD” featurette that goes behind the scenes and examines the technical aspect of preparing this epic project. As if that were not enough, viewers can utilise alternate camera angles during “Wharf Rat”, “St. Stephen” and “Good Lovin’”. By selecting the subtitle option, there are visible lyrics for the karaoke prone.

By the end of the 1970s, the Grateful Dead were at the beginning of their musical decline. Around this time, drugs would begin to noticeably erode the unit from within. Among the first casualties were the husband and wife team of Keith Godchaux (keyboards) and former Muscle Shoals session vocalist, Donna Jean Godchaux (vocals). In fact, only a few months later, the pair dismissed themselves. That said, the combo’s penchant for improvisation and in-the-moment musicality remained at the cornerstone of their on stage existence.

On this auspicious occasion they pull out all the stops with a healthy sampling of both new and seminal selections from their classic repertoire. Like sonic sorcerers, they effortlessly manoeuvre between the lengthy and thoroughly psychedelic coupling of “Scarlet Begonias” and “Fire On The Mountain”. Other Set One highlights are the snarling cover of “All Over Now,” and Donna Jean’s rare lead on “From The Heart Of Me.”

Set Two is immediately propelled into Reverend Gary DavisPiedmont gospel/blues “Samson And Delilah,” and winds through an emotive “Terrapin Station”, “Playing In The Band,” climaxing with an incendiary “Rhythm Devils” percussion break with Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. Ken Kesey joins the drummers on amplified remnants of Thunder Machine -- the infamous “Further” bus that the {$Merry Pranksters} travelled in. The lengthy, jammed out “Not Fade Away” is supported by guest John Cippolina (guitar) of Quicksilver Messenger Service and a few other surprise visitors.

Set Three will command the most attention from enthusiasts, thanks in part to the revival of “Dark Star” -- the first in over four years, an adeptly executed reading of “St. Stephen,” a rare triple encore including “Casey Jones,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and an a cappella “We Bid You Goodnight.”

The Closing Of Winterland is a vibrant rock and roll relic for anyone curious about what the band, their music and their audience were all about, and once again proves the age old adage “there is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert”. Both the CD and DVD configurations are available separately at most media outlets. More information can be found on-line at

Copyright © 2002-2003 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
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Disclaimer: various news pieces may state a specific media publication or program as a source. All other news is considered 'rumour' only. That goes double for release dates.

212 Frech

"Even though most of the people I knew in my youth are gone, I still reach out to them..."
Norman Maclean - Paraphrase

"...we should enjoy every sandwich." -- Warren Zevon, 2003