Jerry Garcia, the mainstay of the Grateful Dead, definitely sounded like part of the Grateful Alive on the second of two nights with his own band Saturday at the Wiltern Theatre. Following a recent brush with death from diabetes, Garcia isn't much changed in voice (the same old cracklin' wisp) or looks (though he's reduced his Orson Welles proportions). But his melodic, often inventive guitar solos carried plenty of passion and fire to justify his fans' rabid support.
Drawing largely from his several solo albums and a few blues sources, Garcia and his band featured a somewhat churchy feel courtesy of Melvin Seals' organ and the background singing of Gloria Jones and Jackie La Branch. Particular highlights came in Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" and Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist of Fate," the latter providing both a comment on Garcia's recent adventures as well as a preview of this summer's proposed Dylan/Dead tour.
Though a few times the pace grew sluggish, each of the show's hourlong halves ended on energetic notes--especially the first, with Garcia's old "Deal" building to a near frenzy. Why, even Garcia's singing got relatively strong before the night was through.