Today In Grateful Dead History: August 17, 1991 – Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA

terrapinThis show is a great Bruce Hornsby performance marred by the not-at-all delicate keyboard stylings of the Dead’s other pianist, Vince Welnick, with unfortunate results for this show’s listenability.

We get underway with a fine version of Help on the Way>Slipknot>Franklin’s Tower that doesn’t attempt to rise to great heights and succeeds admirably at doing not much of anything.  The first great Hornsby moment of the evening occurs in Brown-Eyed Women, but just when you’re ready to buckle in and enjoy, Jerry decides to skip a verse and goes straight to the bridge.  Now if this were a 1995 Grateful Dead show, complete collapse, probably multi-song dysfunction, would follow.  However, this being the just so-slightly more competent 1991 version of the band, they recover, barely, and all hope is not lost.

Queen Jane Approximately follows and is pretty good, except when we get to hear another great Hornsby solo overrun by the cacophony of Vince.  Frustration rears its ugly head again.  (Get used to it).

I usually worry when the second set starts with Women Are Smarter, but once the band gets that out of its system, we are treated to Ship of Fools, Smokestack Lightning>He’s Gone>Drums>Dark Star Jam>Morning Dew.  The Dead get into a thick groove on Smokestack Lightning, a really swampy, nasty thing, almost Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers esque, and He’s Gone is a great follow up with that same kind of plodding, funeral beat.  But you’ll never guess who ruins Bruce’s solo . . .

Drums/Space is fine – and the jam into Morning Dew is Dark Star themed, but I certainly wouldn’t label it as such.  (Bruce did these Dark Star teases all over the place throughout the summer – the Giants Stadium show comes to mind as an especially frustrating — if you want to actually hear Dark Star in its entirety — example).  There’s more Vince overplaying here, too, in case you missed my theme of the day.

This show illustrates the problem with all of these Hornsby / Vince shows – they’re cluttered and one of the pianists (Vince) often negatively overshadows his much more talented band mate (Bruce).  It’s incredibly frustrating to hear the potential being bled right out of the shows.  Oh well.

Take a gander here:


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