On Sunday, July 1, 1979, the Grateful Dead played the Seattle Center Coliseum.
Originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair, or Century 21 Exhibition, the building was known afterwards as the Washington State Coliseum and then the Seattle Center Coliseum. The Seattle Supersonics called the arena home from the club’s first season in 1967 until its last in 2008. The arena also hosted concerts, including one by the Beatles in 1966. Seating capacity was around 16,000 for an “end-stage” concert.
1979 was a transitional year for the band. Donna and Keith Godchaux left the band in February of that year, and Brent Myland joined in April. After a quick east coast tour in the spring, they returned to the west coast for a set of three concerts in Sacramento, Portland, and Seattle.
The Seattle show is a lesser-known gem. John Coulter, writing in the Deadhead’s Taping Compendium Vol. II, hesitated to label the show an all-time classic, and settled instead on calling “a very fine one indeed.” He continued:
“The first set’s highlights wrap around it like bookends. it starts off with a thoroughly well played Half-Step into Franklin’s Tower. There’s lots of outstanding Garcia in both of these, and Mydland takes a nice turn at a lead in Franklin’s Tower as well. The set-ending Passenger – an idea that should have been tried out more often – simply smokes.
Set 2 begins in a disjointed fashion with Don’t Ease Me In and doesn’t hit its stride until Sugaree. A touch of sloppiness in the vocals is more than offset by the guitar work of Garcia and Weir, who both shine here. Terrapin and Playing follow, with a long jam in Playing that I keep wanting to like more than I do. Garcia keeps trying to take it somewhere, but it only twice falls out of noodle range, the second time when Mydland rises to match the intensity level shortly before Drums. Space resolves very nicely into a sweet Stella Blue, which abruptly shifts into the rock ‘n’ roll conclusion. Truckin’ > Around is a keeper, with a well-articulated jam linking the two. Shakedown for an encore is a nice bonus.”
The LMA reviews are even more positive with Burnt Rich tabbing it “one of the best shows on the Archive.” Jeffery-O adds, “This is definitely a crossover show, where the feel is typical of a keith & donna show, but it has that ‘Brent’ sound!!! I cannot believe Brent had only been with the band a little over 2 months?”
By far the best write-up on this show comes from Icepetal’s Grateful Dead Listening Guide blog. Icepetal calls it “a wonderful show that is ripe with this reflective power” and “overflows with that special timelessness.” According to Icepetal,
“The song selections often enhance this, and make for an extra enjoyable ride. There are actually a lot of shows like this somewhat lost in 1979. July 1st is only one of them. There’s a lot of gold to be mined out here (you just don’t hear much about Summer 1979). This show offers us a great path into these backwaters because the recording is fantastic, and I still tend to use audience recording quality as a bit of a guiding light as I pick shows to review. As I’ve said before, a good show matched with a good recording makes for an ideal listening setting. So, in hunting around the summer of ’79, July 1st stood out as a logical choice.”
I won’t repeat more of Icepetal’s excellent review. Please visit that website and read it yourselves. And while you’re doing it…
Transport to the Bob Menke audience recording HERE.
Transport to the Charlie Miller transfer of the soundboard recording HERE.