For five nights in October 1978, the Grateful Dead played Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, California.
Initially named the New Dreamland Auditorium, Winterland was built in 1928 for a then-astronomical $1 million as an ice-skating rink and multi-purpose venue. Beginning in 1966, Bay-area rock impresario Bill Graham booked concerts there. The Dead debuted at Winterland in 1967 and closed it on New Years 1978-79. (That final show has been officially released as The Closing of Winterland.)
Several months earlier, in September 1978, the band traveled to Giza, Egypt for three shows. According to Wikipedia, they played in an open-air theater east of the Great Sphinx, and the final night’s performance coincided with a total lunar eclipse. In his memoir, Searching for the Sound, bassist Phil Lesh recalled that, during the shows, he observed
“an increasing number of shadowy figures gathering just at the edge of the illuminated area surrounding the stage and audience – not locals, as they all seem to be wearing the same garment, a dark, hooded robe. These, it turns out, are the Bedouin, the nomadic horsemen of the desert: drawn in by the music and lights. Each night they remained to dance and sway rhythmically for the duration of the show.”
And in his memoir, Deal, drummer Bill Kreutzmann quipped that “Egypt instantly became the biggest, baddest, and most legendary field trip that we took during our entire thirty years as a band. It was priceless and perfect and, at half a million dollars, a bargain in the end. Albeit, a very expensive bargain.”
Highlights of the second and third shows have been officially released as Rocking the Cradle. The Dead opened the first two shows and the second set of the third with “Ollin Arageed,” a composition by Egyptian oud player Hamza El-Din, a world-music figure who reportedly influenced drummer Mickey Hart.
A few weeks later, rested and ready to play, the Dead returned to Winterland for five nights – a run that has become known as From Egypt with Love.
As a whole, the shows are uneven – typical for 1978, as I mentioned in July in the Red Rocks writeup. But there are definite highlights.
GD guru ECM notes that the band was promoting their new album, Shakedown Street, which was well represented throughout the run. The first night included the rarely played If I Had the World To Give out of the sorta-well-known “Banjo Lesson Space.” The second night featured Danish harmonica player and War co-founder Lee Oskar on Drums > Space, and closed with a strong Truckin’ and a I Need a Miracle encore. The third night is somewhat forgettable.
The fourth night is much better. El-Din joined the band for the Ollin Arageed opener, and Oskar returned for the post-Space cover of Got My Mojo Workin’. Ed mentions the “heavy metal ending to The Other One,” and calls the Stella Blue one of the best ever. Finally, the fifth night is fantastic throughout: Another Ollin first-set opener, a hot Scarlet > Fire second-set opener, and a 21-minute Not Fade Away with guitarist and Quicksilver Messenger Service founder John Cippollina that ventured into Caution and Mojo.
Portions of the last two nights have been officially released as part of the Road Trips series. That’s on Spotify.
Charlie Miller transfers of the soundboards are on the Live Music Archive.
Transport to 10/17/78 HERE.
Transport to 10/18/78 HERE.
Transport to 10/20/78 HERE.
Transport to 10/21/78 HERE.
Transport to 10/22/78 HERE.
Don’t forget to check out Ed’s amazing Instagram account @31daysofdead. And a Happy Birthday shout to my biggest kid. Have a great day, BTL! See you this weekend.