I continue to be impressed with the Grateful Dead’s late 1986 output. As I discussed a couple of weeks ago, these shows marked Jerry Garcia’s return to performing with the Grateful Dead after he fell into a coma during the summer, and for all of the deleterious effects that the incident would have on Jerry’s ability to turn his guitar on a dime like he used to, there is little doubt that his passion remained unchecked. In fact, it seems as if Jerry’s illness and subsequent recovery gave the band a healthy jolt in the energy department.
You can feel the Dead’s happiness throughout this show before a hometown crowd in the run up to New Year’s Eve. Phil in particular jokes back and forth with the audience, and everyone else seems pretty loose too. This looseness translates into an uptempo show with few if any long jams, making it the perfect show to give to someone who might be interested in learning more about the Dead but is wary of the improvisation.
Depending on how you feel about Looks Like Rain (I’m a fan), there isn’t a clunker on this setlist, which relies heavily on pre-1976 material. Everything is well played, all things considered, and Big Railroad Blues and Sugar Magnolia really rock the room. The “jammier” songs, Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain and The Other One, remain firmly grounded today, but that’s alright. The Dead came to party tonight, and I doubt that anyone left disappointed.