Today we’re treated to one of the three performances of Saint Stephen in the Brent era (or the Vince era, for that matter), which in and of itself makes this 1983 show from the Hartford Civic Center worth hearing.
Long a staple of Dead shows in the 60’s and early 70’s, Saint Stephen was shelved after 1971, only to return after the 1974 hiatus for a serious chunk of 1976 and 1977. Come 1978, the band seemed to have soured on this crowd favorite, playing it only four times during that year and once more at the tail end of the Keith and Donna era in January, 1979. Then Saint Stephen disappeared, only to rise once more at Madison Square Garden on October 11, 1983. After that bust-out, the Dead played Saint Stephen again at today’s show and then once more a couple of weeks later in California before shuttering it for good.
Today’s version is better than the performance at MSG, but it’s still fairly sloppy. That doesn’t matter, as the crowd goes wild throughout the song and the middle section is filled with some high energy work from Brent that makes you wish that they let him play this song a few hundred more times. Oh well.
There are a couple of other interesting moments at this show. Let It Grow is massive and the band seems to be constantly drawn forward. Every time you think that they’re going to stop, they keep right on plowing ahead, with Jerry racing through scales in sixth gear. This leads into a high energy Day Job that closes the first set out with a roar.
The second set begins with a very fast China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider that once again features those lightening Jerry solos and some neat Bob Weir fills. Playin’ in the Band leads into a spectacular China Doll, one of the best I’ve heard recently. Instead of stopping at the end, the band plays a very intricate and delicate passage that lingers in the air for longer than most versions. It’s beautifully done.
This is not the best 1983 show you’ll hear, but you’ve got to check out the rare Saint Stephen and China Doll, at the very least. I’ve said before that I’m not a huge fan of early/mid 80’s soundboards, so check out this Matrix, which, in my opinion, gets the balance just right: https://archive.org/details/gd1983-10-15.mtx.seamons.99326.sbeok.flac16