This is a great show from a venue that always seems to bring out the best in the Grateful Dead. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is a pretty exceptional 1980 show, and might end up as one of my favorites from that year when all is said and done.
The opening Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo>Franklin’s Tower>New Minglewood Blues is fantastic – high energy, great solos and (if you’re listening to the soundboard) Phil bombs everywhere. It easily competes with, and often exceeds, the 1979 Half-Step>Franklin’s Towers that the Dead frequently played throughout that year. Althea is another first set highlight, with Jerry sending sparkling solos across the sky and Phil continuing to play his ass off. The first set ends, unusually, with Feel Like a Stranger, and while it’s not a total jam out, it’s an interesting way to end a set.
The strangeness continues at the start of the second set with an opening Little Red Rooster, a song that the band hadn’t played since the Pigpen days (since the online Deadbase hasn’t worked in months, I can’t give specific dates). This slips into a thrilling sequence: China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider>Estimated Prophet>Eyes Of The World>Drums>Space>Playing In The Band>Comes A Time>Playing In The Band. I don’t know where to start, since this is all incredible music. The Estimated>Eyes is epic, with continuous shredding from both guitarists and Brent throughout both songs. Things get really weird and far out there at the end of Eyes, pre-Drums, and the sparse, eerie Space continues the journey. There is a great transition into a low-key but well played Playing in the Band before we get to an incredible version of Comes a Time with a huge solo from Jerry that sounds more like the Jerry Band than the Dead, in the best possible way. Then we’re back into Playing with another great transition. Wow. To cap off the weirdness, the band plays Around and Around but instead of stopping (which you would expect), chooses to end the set with a typical opener – Alabama Get Away. Pretty cool.
As great as this show is, the recordings are all pretty bad. The audience tape improves as it goes on, but it’s still pretty rough, and the soundboard is patched all over the place (including a big portion of the second set) with the audience recording. The patch in Playin’ in the Band is particularly tough and the levels frequently top out. Don’t let this dissuade you – this is an incredible show.