I couldn’t do it. After spending yesterday with a sloppy, rushed performance at this very venue from 1988, I just couldn’t stomach listening to another show from that year when I knew that I had Bruce Hornsby’s official debut as a member of the Grateful Dead waiting for me today. So I skipped ahead to 1990 for a much more enjoyable experience.
The Dead actually began this six night run at the Garden on the 14th, but with no Bruce. That show is fine, but tonight’s introduction raises the stakes considerably. You hear the difference on the second song of this show, the typically uninteresting Walking Blues, which tonight features a charged up band (especially Bob Weir) throttling away with Bruce already wrecking shop on the piano. The next big moment comes several songs later during Bird Song, which builds to a tremendous crescendo fueled, dare I say it, by Vince’s organ at the end that sounds reminiscent of Brent’s celebrated build-up at the end of Shakedown Street at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in 1985.
The long (for 1990) second set is a little more uneven, due primarily to the song selection (what was apparently the only post-Brent Gimmee Some Lovin’ into All Along the Watchtower. Really?) But the selections that cook really take off, including this tasty nugget: Playin’ in the Band>Crazy Fingers>Uncle John’s Band. Bruce is all over these songs like he’s been playing them for years, and his interplay with Jerry is natural and exciting to hear.
I could easily stay right here at Madison Square Garden for the next few nights, but since I’ve listened to all these shows before, I might go elsewhere. For now, enjoy night one of the short-lived Hornsby era on this very good audience recording: https://archive.org/details/gd1990-09-15.bk4011.tdarian.french.88946.sbeok.flac16