Today In Grateful Dead History: February 25, 1990 – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA

terrapinThe Grateful Dead kicked off 1990 with this show in Oakland and the rust is definitely showing at the start, with a messy Touch of Grey to lead things off.  Things pick up a little bit as the first set moves along, with a very nice, gentle version of Queen Jane Approximately to anchor things.  Normally, the band would bust out all of the stops on the set ending Deal, but tonight the song really doesn’t go anywhere.  So that’s the first set.  Pretty low key.

The second set suffers from a similar lack of energy.  China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider is perfunctory and Just a Little Light is Just a Little Light.  Musically, Estimated Prophet>Eyes of the World is fair to good, but, again, the boys just don’t seem into it.  After Drums / Space, there are bland versions of The Wheel and Give Me Some Lovin’ before my favorite song of the night, a out of nowhere, passionate performance of Wharf Rat.  I guess everyone was saving up for that one moment, because once it passes, we’re right back to the basics to end things with Sugar Magnolia.

1990 definitely features some intense Dead shows.  This is not one of them.

I listened to the Matrix here:


Today In Grateful Dead History: February 24, 1974 – Winterland Arena, San Francisco, CA

stealie I’m going to keep this review short and sweet – this show features one of the greatest Dark Stars the Grateful Dead ever performed.  Period.

If you don’t have time to listen to an above-average three-plus hour 1974 concert, just skip right to Dark Star, turn down the lights, turn up the volume and disappear for 45 minutes –  you’ll need half an hour for the Dark Star and another 15 minutes for the great Morning Dew that follows it.

This Dark Star has everything you could want in a Dark Star, from very open, spacey sections to one of the most melodic crescendos you’re ever going to hear.  Bear with this piece – the first ten minutes don’t seem like they are going anywhere, but when you’ve heard the whole thing, you’ll know why the Dead were playing that way at the start.

Once Dark Star concludes, we’re treated to an exceptional version of Morning Dew that is the icing on the cake.  Don’t skip the Dew.  It’ll rattle your windows.

These two songs are all you’re going to need from this show, but there is also a good Playin’ in the Band, a nice Weather Report Suite and, in my opinion, a great version of CandymanChina Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider is also top shelf.  But, honestly, tonight belongs to Dark Star>Morning Dew.

Go.  Listen.  Now.  Here:

Today In Grateful Dead History: February 23, 1992 – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA

terrapinI haven’t spent a lot of time writing about 1992 and I don’t have a really good excuse, so despite better available shows for this date in history, I chose this show from Oakland.  And you know what?  It’s not that bad.

The first set definitely favors the Bob Weir songs and his guitar is turned up nicely in the mix.  Bob was kicking ass at this show – example A being his incredible fills during Peggy-O and example B being his enthusiastic rendering of Black Throated Wind.

There were two live debuts tonight.  The first, Way to Go Home, was a Vince song that featured Jerry playing guitar like a Smooth-era Carlos Santana, which is all you need to know.  The second premiere was Corrina, a song which on its finer days actually gave the band a decent platform for musical experimentation, and they take full advantage of that here.  Please disregard the out of tune vocals and wait for the second half of the song, with literal Hendrix licks from Jerry and a lot of interesting and well played ideas from the rest of the band.

The second set features a really good setlist, opening with China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider and then moving into Playin’ in the Band>Terrapin Station.  I definitely didn’t expect Terrapin to be the highlight of those four songs, but there is some pretty good playing at the end before an inspired Drums featuring Hamza El-Din.  The remainder of the show is fine, with Stella Blue serving as the emotional anchor before the Throwing Stones>Not Fade Away rave up to end things.

This is not bad stuff and the Corrina is worth noting.  Check it out on a very good audience recording here:

Today In Grateful Dead History: February 22, 1974 – Winterland Arena, San Francisco, CA

stealie The Grateful Dead began 1974 in the same place they would end it – Winterland.  This show, the first of the year, has almost everything that makes 1974 great – long, gooey, jazzed up versions of great songs with a ton of room for improvisation.

1974 saw some of the longest Grateful Dead shows ever performed, and this three set monster is a good example of the format.  There are great versions of songs of all lengths here: short songs like U.S. Blues and the fast (i.e. good) version of They Love Each Other, medium ones like Wharf Rat and Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo and the show highlights, Playin’ in the Band and Truckin’.  In between these tunes, there is still another two hours of music.

Let’s talk about Playin’ in the Band for a minute, because this is one of the first times that I remember Slipknot making an appearance as a motif in a Grateful Dead jam.  This comes 2/3 of the way through an expansive, dialed in Playin’ that amazed me given that this was the band’s first show in a couple of months.  Later on (like almost an hour later on), Truckin’ also goes far out there, like many good versions of the song did in 1974.

The Dead would get crazier and crazier as 1974 progressed and things like Seastones started to happen, so this relatively laid back affair is a fantastic introduction to 1974, a hell of a way to start the year, and it features an all time great Playin’.  Check this one out.

Listen to the soundboard here:

Today In Grateful Dead History: February 19, 1995 – Delta Center, Salt Lake City, UT

dancing-bear It strikes me as somewhat funny that the Grateful Dead began their final year of touring by playing not one, not two, but three shows in Salt Lake City, Utah, one of the most conservative big cities in the country (although not even close to the most conservative place in Utah).  Tonight’s show was the band’s first of 1995, and it seems like the Dead are playing it safe, with a setlist of tried and true songs that doesn’t push the boundaries but isn’t going to be too much of a disaster either.

Before we go any further, just insert all of the usual 1995 Jerry Garcia caveats here.  They apply, as always, to this show, but it’s not too bad tonight.

The first set of this performance never really gets going until we arrive at Walkin’ Blues three songs in.  This is a really basic tune that, due to Bob Weir’s exuberant vocals and the strange rhythms, actually gets your foot tapping.  I don’t know why I’m partial to this song in the 90’s, but I am, and it’s one of the better early efforts tonight.  The set closing Don’t Ease Me In is also good, with a couple of competent solos from Jerry to end things.

The second set opens with China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider, the clear show stopper tonight, mainly for the I Know You Rider portion.  Jerry really rips into this one and it sounds like the band is going to push this show into another gear.  Samson and Delilah follows and is, at the very least, up tempo.  (Not mid-80’s uptempo, but still…)  However, things slow down for Phil Lesh’s If the Shoe Fits and the band really never picks up the pieces again.  Near the end, Attics of My Life is nicely rendered, and the It’s All Over Now Baby Blue encore is always a sentimental choice.

So there it is – the start of the Dead’s final year and a not too shabby performance in a strange place to get things going.  One could argue that it’s all downhill from here.

Check out the audience recording here:

Today In Grateful Dead History: February 18, 1971 – Capital Theater, Port Chester, NY

stealie It’s nice to be back from vacation and settled back into the Grateful Dead.

Today’s show from Port Chester, New York in 1971 features the live debuts of Bertha, Greatest Story Ever Told, Loser, Johnny B. Goode and Wharf Rat, so it can realistically be called a historic performance, and that’s even before you find out that it was Mickey Hart’s last night on stage with the Dead until the 10/20/1974 “farewell” concert.  Also, it’s at the Capital Theater, and since there are no bad performances at the Capital Theater, this show is worth your time even without the attraction of the new songs.

Let’s talk about the debuts first.  First off, they all basically sound like themselves, which is somewhat unusual for the Dead, who would often debut a tune and tinker with it for years before arriving at a “definitive” version. (I’m thinking of the In The Dark songs in particular, which were worked out live for years before being officially released).  The one interesting note comes in Bertha, which features a final Jerry solo after the last chorus – this wouldn’t stick around for very long.  The rest are all typical versions.

I think the most interesting musical section of this show takes place here: Hard To Handle, Dark Star>Wharf Rat>Dark Star .  This is a very good but not top tier Hard to Handle, but the combination of Dark Star and Wharf Rat, with a return to Dark Star, is very nicely done.  The band nails the transition from Dark Star to Wharf Rat, but the really awesome part is the truly beautiful playing during the jam out of Wharf Rat and back into Dark Star.  It’s an all-time highlight.

The remainder of this show is a frantically paced rocker, with no more jamming but a lot of your favorite songs well-played.  Strap in and enjoy.

Check it out here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: February 4, 1979 – Dane County Coliseum, Madison, WI

Dancing Skeletons

We spent yesterday in Madison, Wisconsin 1978, so today I thought it would be fun to travel forward in time to Madison, Wisconsin 1979.

Things have changed in the space of a year.  We’re sitting at the tail end of the Keith and Donna era here – February 17th is going to be their last show with the Grateful Dead.  By this point, the road had taken its toll on Keith in particular and his playing here tonight is definitely limited.  However, the rest of the band’s energy is just fine, and this is an above average musical performance from start to finish.

The Dead played a bunch of Mississippi Half Step>Franklin’s Tower openers in 1979, and this one hums along with the best of them.  But for my money, the highlight of the first set is the fantastic Peggy-O, with some crystalline guitar work from Jerry.  Lazy Lightning>Supplication at the end of the set is also fiery, with Bob Weir playing his heart out and Jerry shredding relentlessly.

The second set is not exactly larded with my favorite Dead tunes, but the band is playing well.  There are a couple of really sweat moments in Terrapin Station and portions of Playin’ in the Band are also fairly dynamic.  You’ve got to stick with it to hear the band rip Around and Around to pieces.  This is one fired up version of that song – one of the better ones I’ve heard recently.

So, in conclusion, this is a well played concert for the  beginning of 1979, with some really good first set songs and not as much going on in the second set, due primarily to the choice of songs and not the band’s approach.  Catch Keith and Donna while you can.

For some reason, this show is split in two on the Archive.  Here’s the first set: and here’s the second: