Today in Grateful Dead History: January 22, 1978 – McArthur Court, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

Dancing Skeletons

This show from Eugene, Oregon is one of the more popular performances from 1978 due in large part to the second set jam between The Other One and St. Stephen that mirrors the theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  This is definitely a cool moment, pulling you in and holding you there as Jerry explores the outer reaches of space and Keith plays the movie’s theme behind him.  Things slowly, icily dissolve until St. Stephen roars into being, first Jerry, then Bob, then the drummers.  This St. Stephen boasts one of those epic “outros”, a swirling mass of power where everyone seems to be in perfect sync for at least a minute before the song concludes.  (Trey Anastasio has definitely listened to this solo before – it informs all sorts of future Phish jams).  And while some complain that St. Stephens from this era sound sterile compared to the totally unhinged versions from the 60’s, Jerry’s guitar tone here is so rugged that you’d be forgiven for thinking that late-60’s Garcia had been dropped into the late-70’s Dead.

So that’s the reason everyone is tuning in, but how’s the rest of the show?  Also top notch, for 1978.  The Grateful Dead are flat out thrashing tonight, with heavy versions of Tennessee Jed and Jack Straw in the first set and a full-steam-ahead Bertha>Good Lovin’ to start the second set.  The more delicate moments, like Peggy-O and Ship of Fools, also feature some nice collaborative playing.

In short, I don’t think that this show is overrated – that second set jam is a master class and the rest of the night is darn good too.  Check out the soundboard here:


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