Longtime readers of this site know that 1978 is by far my least favorite year of the 70’s. However, I really liked tomorrow’s 1978 show from Nashville, so I figured that maybe the boys were on a hot streak during this part of the tour and I gave today’s show a shot. (It was also cool to listen to a very rare Alabama show during this week in politics). Well, the stars aligned and the Dead, in Donna Jean’s backyard, provided a warm bit of music for a cold cold day here in the Northeast.
This is not a very exploratory show – the songs don’t stretch out much. But the band plays well and there are some thoughtful bits of music throughout the night and the energy doesn’t flag.
My favorite part of the show comes during Terrapin Station, which is thankfully not an excessively long version. In this case, Jerry busts out a gorgeous solo prior to the transition into the “inspiration move me brightly” portion of the tune. It’s unexpectedly moving. Jerry’s not done with the poignant playing, either. During Stella Blue, he delivers a perfect closing solo that just shreds the audience. It’s worthy of hearing twice.
Hidden here is an interesting Playin’ in the Band sandwich, which starts six songs in to the second set, after Terrapin Station, and concludes at the end of the set after Stella and a rocking Truckin’ (plus Drums / Space). I had almost forgotten that the band didn’t finish the song when they came back to it, and Jerry and Phil tease around a bit before bringing us to the final conclusion. It’s a neat trick that would turn up more and more during the 80’s and 90’s.
In terms of the shorter songs, the big surprise of the evening is how good I Need a Miracle sounds. I’ve noticed this before about this song in 1978 – it’s still new and the band seems to enjoy riffing on it. (This would change). But, for now, enjoy the fireworks as it opens the second set. Brown Eyed Women is also good tonight, anchoring a first set that opens with Promised Land (and its shout-out to downtown Birmingham) followed by a mellow Shakedown Street. The boys even let Donna do her thing in front of the hometown crowd with From the Heart of Me. It’s not a good song (the performance tonight is fine, as far as it goes), but it’s nice to hear her get the chance to sing in Alabama shortly before she would leave the band.
Well, the Grateful Dead have gone 2 for 2 on this 1978 southern tour. Hopefully there will be more fun in store during the rest of it.
There’s only an audience recording of this show available – if you play with the EQ, it’s going to be fine, but the levels definitely move around a lot: https://archive.org/details/gd78-12-15.sony.wiley.9479.sbeok.shnf