Today in Grateful Dead History: September 6, 1983 – Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, CO

Dancing Skeletons

After three shows in a row from 1983 last week, I found myself back for this beauty from Red Rocks that is markedly better than the previous week’s shows in Eugene.

For one thing, the playing is much tighter tonight, with all of the band members dialed in from the beginning.  Jerry Garcia, in particular, is having a good night.  It’s definitely one of Jerry’s “fast” nights, with lightening runs scattered all over the place.  You really start to notice Jerry’s playing during Dupree’s Diamond Blues and then New Minglewood Blues, with a really fun solo section that seems to go on forever.

The band hits a collaborative zenith during Bird Song, as it often did in the 80’s.  This is not a delicate version of the tune – everything is a little fired-up – but all of the boys are listening to one another and the song takes flight accordingly.  My favorite part of the first set comes next, during Supplication (Lazy Lightning precedes it, as it almost always does, and is just ok).  This is an amazingly aggressive version of Supplication that seems as if it will never end.  Jerry rips off run after run, Bob sings his heart out and Brent toils away at the keys for what seems like forever.  (It’s an almost nine minute version of the song, which is almost forever in Supplication terms).  Instead of ending the set there, the Dead unleash a careening, cacophonous version of Might as Well that almost sees all four wheels come off.  I needed a breather after that ending.

Good thing we took a break, because the Dead come right back out with a furious version of Help on the Way>Slipknot>Franklin’s Tower.  The first two songs are all right, but you can tell they saved up for Franklin’s, which they unload with reckless abandon.  This is not a gentle moment, but rather a full-steam express-train version of Franklin’s Tower that will peel your eyes back as it roars past.  It stands up there with some of the better 80’s Franklin’s.

From there, we get a much more nuanced Playin’ in the Band than you’d expect given how energetic everything has been so far.  This Playin’ shows off the band’s subtlty and range, with Phil leading the charge throughout.  After a relatively low key Drums, we have an interesting Space that teases Uncle John’s Band off and on for the better part of ten minutes before the band moves into that song proper.  And what a version this is, another expressway version with solo after solo in the repetitive ending.  Eventually we come back around to Playin’ in the Band, which is nicely reprised to bring everyone full circle.

At this point, the band is gassed and they finish with sloppy but passionate versions of Throwing Stones>Not Fade Away with a Brokedown Palace encore.  After a night like this, I expected something more upbeat to end things, but Brokedown lets us down easy, which was probably necessary after this tour de force.

This show isn’t a subtle performance by any means, and there are certainly discordant sections here and there.  But for a band that is often accused of mailing it in throughout 1983 and 1984, this show stands out as a ripping, passionate affair that rises to the top of the shows from 1983 that I’ve listened to so far.

It’s 1983, so I always try to find the Matrix version:


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