Speaking of good stuff, today’s show from the Hampton Coliseum has it. But before they get warmed up, the Dead start off with the first ever performance of (I’m a) Road Runner, a song that Bob Weir played on occasion with other bands but the Dead only played once more. You’ll know why when you hear it. Still, it’s a song debut and worth hearing for the history.
After a few hit or miss tunes, the band fires up Bird Song, one of those tunes that they played consistently well in 1985 and 1986. This version doesn’t feature any transcendent moments, but it’s a good listen. The highlight of the entire show actually comes at the end of Tons of Steel, when the band goes into a Supplication jam that eventually turns into Let It Grow. Bob Weir is so fired up by this transition that he sings the entire first verse of Let It Grow while the rest of the band is still wailing on Supplication, which makes for an interesting rhythmic dynamic but also for a cool moment. Once the boys light up Let It Grow proper it’s all hands on deck, with a couple of false endings and some ripping guitar solos. This is a great passage.
The second set begins with a pretty bungled version of Uncle John’s Band into a mediocre Terrapin Station, however, at the end of Terrapin, the Dead shift into a reprise of Playin’ in the Band and the resulting jam is well done. Drums>Space>I Need a Miracle is nothing special, but Stella Blue is its usual stellar self – a sparkling Jerry solo caps off the song and makes up for several “interesting” passages at the start of the song. The rest is fine.
The good parts of this show are very nice and show a band that can still be very engaged when it wants to be. Nothing here feels particularly rushed like things tend to sound during 1985-86, and everyone makes substantial contributions to the music. It’s a good show from a difficult year, which makes it all the more worth your time.
None of the recordings of this show are great – here’s the best I heard: https://archive.org/details/gd1986-03-21.nak300.damico.87638.flac16