It’s been a busy week since my last post and I haven’t had the time to finish listening to a full show until today, so I’m pleased to be back with this one – my first show review from 1986 (giving us at least one show from every year). This is also a particularly special day, since it marks Jerry Garcia’s return to the Grateful Dead after falling into a diabetic coma earlier in the year.
If you don’t know the story, here’s a brief summary. After the Dead’s July 7th show at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., Jerry’s health rapidly declined and he ended up in a coma. How much of this was due to the drugs remains a mystery, but suffice it to say, he didn’t lead the healthiest lifestyle even if you remove heroin from the equation. In any case, Jerry almost died and the band was forced to cancel the fall tour. When Jerry came out of the coma, he had basically forgotten how to play the guitar, so he had to relearn the instrument by practicing incessantly. Keep that history in mind when you listen to this show, because it makes Jerry’s performance here even more remarkable.
The Dead sound good tonight – much better than they did in early 1986, pre-coma. Seriously, this is a damn fine show for the mid 80’s under any circumstances, let alone these. And they lead off the night with one of those Grateful Dead moments – Touch of Grey, with it’s chorus of “I will get by . . . I will survive” having so much more meaning after Jerry’s brush with death. Tonight is also the first time the Dead played Black Muddy River and When Push Comes To Shove. This is a very strange part of the narrative since Black Muddy River premiered at Jerry’s first post-coma show (the first show of the “new era”) and it was the last “Jerry song” at his final show in Chicago nine years later. Weird . . .
You’d expect that everyone would be rusty tonight, but that’s simply not the case. The second set has a great run with Playin’ In The Band>Terrapin Station>Drums>Truckin’>Wharf Rat>Playin’ In The Band>Good Lovin’ that should be played at full volume. Jerry rocks out all over these songs and it’s wonderful to hear the crowd go wild with every lick.
Add this one to the collection – between the history and the music, it’s a good one. Here’s a matrix version that really captures the crowd without losing the soundboard mixture: https://archive.org/details/gd1986-12-15.128689.mtx.nicksmix.flac16