Jerry Garcia and his primary group, the Grateful Dead, are notorious for the length of their concerts, but the Jerry Garcia Band's show Saturday at the Wiltern Theatre stood out for being too short. Of course, short is relative in Dead Time, but the burly guitarist's format--playing for 45 minutes, taking a 35-minute break, then returning for another 45-minute set--definitely left the crowd puzzled.
Actually, the brevity might have been a plus: In those small doses one didn't have to be a card-carrying Deadhead to appreciate the spectrum of styles and influences that inform Garcia's playing. Over ever-shifting musical backdrops provided by his three musicians and two female singers, Garcia continually reeled off long, fiery, piercing guitar solos. His best fretwork was so smooth and lyrical--yet so effortless--that it was almost other-worldy. Even his vocal limitations were a minor shortcoming in the mostly instrumental performance.