10.15 – 10.18.1970 Fillmore West

The Miles Davis septet returned to Bill Graham’s Fillmore West in October 1970 a dramatically different band than the one that shared a 4-night stand with the Grateful Dead earlier in the year. Gone was the effects-laden headiness, unpredictability, and unrelenting intensity that defined those April shows, replaced here by four identical sets built around dense, repetitive grooves. The resulting performances were likely a bit easier for the Fillmore audience to digest, and judging from their reaction on the tapes, the crowd certainly dug it.

In a typically eccentric Fillmore pairing, the septet shared the bill with Leon Russell, with support from Seatrain and Hammer. Not exactly the time traveler destination of a Miles Davis/Grateful Dead matchup, but a marked improvement from opening for Steve Miller. Curiously, there are no known photos from the October 15-18 shows, and tapes from only three of the four nights are in circulation – none of them complete. The fidelity of the October 15th tape suggests the shows were professionally taped, so a future Bootleg Series release may not be out of the question.

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4.9 – 4.12.1970 Fillmore West

Having sized up Bill Graham’s Fillmore audience with two nights at Fillmore East the month prior, the Miles Davis sextet arrived at Fillmore West well-prepared for a four-night run opening for the Grateful Dead. They were also riding high on the release Bitches Brew, unleashed just days prior on March 30th, and by all accounts were fully intent on upstaging, outplaying, and straight-up out-psychedelicizing the Dead with nightly mind-melting sets.

Bassist Phil Lesh recalls his reaction to the April Fillmore West shows in his memoir, Searching for Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead

As I listened, leaning over the amps with my jaw hanging agape, trying to comprehend the forces that Miles was unleashing onstage, I was thinking, “What’s the use? How can we possibly play after this? We should just go home and try to digest this unbelievable shit.

Like most of Miles’ Fillmore gigs, all four nights were recorded, with the evening of April 11th memorialized on the Columbia double LP, Black Beauty.

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