Today in Grateful Dead History: October 28, 1979 – Cape Cod Coliseum, South Yarmouth, MA

Dancing Skeletons

Today’s show is the second of two nights at the Cape Cod Coliseum in 1979.  Last night was a barn burner and the Dead pick up right where they left off with another thrilling performance that, as a whole, might be even better than the previous night’s show.

The band begins the evening with a ripping Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo.  The jamming here is not overwhelming, but everyone is playing nicely within the space of the music and there are some really subtle passages.

Last night, the band performed a blistering Franklin’s Tower in the second set that is a candidate for my favorite Franklin’s of all time.  They clearly weren’t done with that tune, because today they segue straight back into it out of Half-Step.  Where last night’s Franklin’s was laced with riffs upon riffs, tonight the band takes its time and lets the jam build, keeping things a little more open and pretty.  So between last night and today, we’ve got almost 40 minutes of Franklin’s Tower, and not one minute of it is wasted.

The rest of the first set moves along nicely until a ragged but cool version of The Music Never Stopped ends the first half of the show.  The Dead don’t lose their energy over the break and come out swinging with a forceful (but sloppy) China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider.  After Samson & Delilah and Ship of Fools, the band fires off into Playin’ in the Band, and it’s an amazing odyssey, with Brent taking the lead for large portions of the song and blazing away with psychedelic fury.  I don’t recall hearing him drive this particular tune like he does here, and the rest of the band responds, pushing the envelop deep out into space and beyond into Drums / Space.  Once everyone comes back to earth we’re treated to a tender Stella Blue and a couple of perfunctory closing songs.

So let the debate begin – was tonight better than yesterday’s more popular show?  I think that the first part of the second set of last night’s show is probably one of the best passages of music the band performed in 1979 (that I’ve heard), but today’s setlist is more to my liking and the Playin’ in the Band is fantastic.  Although I tend to lean towards today being the better of the two Cape Cod shows (the only time the Dead ever played on the Cape, I believe), you’re not going to go wrong with either one.

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