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POP MUSIC REVIEW : All’s Peaceful as the Dead Rock Contented Fans

More attention was on the crowd than on the band at the Grateful Dead’s sun-baked concert at the Cal State Dominguez Hills soccer field on Saturday, thanks to negative publicity resulting from incidents involving a few rowdy fans at Dead shows in recent years. That’s fair. The most entertaining element of a Dead concert is the colorful fans, not the band, which merely provides a sound track for the blissful post-hippie reverie.

Saturday’s crowd of 30,000 was peaceful even by Deadhead standards. A media campaign by the Dead and promoter Bill Graham asking fans to help keep order seemed to have had an effect, though an estimated 5,000 people without tickets ignored pleas to stay away.

But there were no clashes between disappointed fans and security forces (like those at Irvine Meadows in 1989), and the ticketless contingent was allowed to listen to the show from outside the fenced-off field. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department reported 47 drug-related arrests, but the campus police chief, Michael Lordanich, praised the band, promoter and fans for a well-organized and relatively trouble-free event.

The Dead, too, was in fine form, gauging and modulating the mood of the crowd with the expertise gained from its singular 25-year history. The mostly upbeat first half of the show emphasized the band’s role as an interpreter of American frontier and folk myths, highlighted by a lovely version of Bob Dylan’s “Queen Jane Approximately,” while the second set featured the band’s notable ensemble improvisation, all to the delight of the tie-dyed spin-dancers. Many no doubt planned to return to the site for a scheduled Sunday show.

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