Day 59: Bertha, 10/22/71

Grateful Dead Dave's Picks 3 album cover artwork

What better to put a little pep in your step on a Monday morning than a rocking version of Bertha? There are some songs that seem well qualified to wage war against The Mondays and Bertha is as apt a candidate as any I can think of at the moment.

If there was ever any question about how well Keith assimilated into the band, Dave’s Picks, Vol. 3 should be the go-to release to show people just how natural of a fit he was. When you listen to his playing and how well he was already integrated into the band’s sound it’s shocking to think that this was the third show he had ever played with the band. He made it live debut on the 19th up in Minneapolis, and played the previous night in Chicago as well. This speaks to the caliber of musician he was, too.

I know from past experience that this is a really fun song to play, but Keith really reinforces that idea. Listening to him play here makes me wish I knew how to play piano.

Jerry starts this one off and everyone falls into place, first Bobby, then the rhythm section, and finally Keith. As Jerry starts singing Keith starts to accent his block chords with little runs on the grand piano. Bobby throws down a few nice fills during the verse as well.

By the second verse it seems that Keith is warmed up and he really starts to sparkle. Both he and Bobby are the stars of this outing of Bertha in my opinion. There’s a nice build up in the jailhouse verse that releases into the chorus. Jerry lets it rips next and Keith is right on his heels and they play cat-and-mouse for the instrumental break.

The final “Any more!”s aren’t of the CSN variety, and Phil sounds a bit pitchy, but Keith takes one last chance to dazzle before the song ends. He makes the most of the opportunity.

Complete Setlist 10/22/71

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  1. Jerry lights into the song crisply, followed immediately by the others. You’ll note right away that there is plenty of each instrument in the mix. The piano is especially prominent and it plays lines that are embryonic forms of what would become at times sublime accompaniment. For now, Keith pounds a bit more and plays it busier and straighter than he would later. It almost sounds like a different player. The song benefits anyway. Garcia very confidently remembers verse after verse and Weir adds his famously springy fills. The guitar solo is ripped into with much gusto and it is simply fantastic. It runs smack into the final chorus. This tastes like Skull and Roses with a little icing on top. Delicious! It wraps to big Chicago cheers. Phil sounds surprised as he exclaims, “Thanks, folks!”

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