Today’s show falls smack in the middle of the Grateful Dead’s six night run at the Boston Garden on their 1991 fall tour. As was their want on this tour, the Dead settled into the building for multiple nights in a row, trying not to duplicate many of the songs. While the approach rewarded the fans who bought tickets for every night of the run, you could definitely get stuck with a strange setlist if you only showed up for one night. Take the second set of tonight’s show, for example: Samson And Delilah, Iko Iko, Looks Like Rain>He’s Gone>Nobody’s Fault But Mine>Spoonful>Drums>Space>The Last Time>Stella Blue>Sugar Magnolia E: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. This is probably not many fans’ dream concert. Thank God the Dead rock out hard tonight, because this one had stinker potential written all over it.
The boys get things moving with an energetic (and short) first set. The highlights are both Dylan covers – It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry and Maggie’s Farm. Let It Grow closes the set and is filled with the lovely little examples of interplay between the band members that make this tour so solid. Bruce Hornsby, as always, gives this set the extra oomph.
Now for that second set. This is a really dynamic Looks Like Rain that stacks up well with any version from any era. He’s Gone sticks to the basics, but then it devolves into what I thought was going to be the Nobody’s Fault But Mine jam. Instead, Jerry actually sings the lyrics to the Blind Willie Johnson song. I can find a couple of shows where this happens after today’s show, and one from 1985, but this is a rare occurrence indeed and it segues into a cool Spoonful, which has a very similar feel, so we’ve got ten minutes of blues in as pure a form as the post-Pigpen Dead are ever going to play it. Drums/Space>The Last Time are normal, and you think that Stella Blue is going to be pedestrian too, but then Jerry launches into one of those 1990’s Stella Blue solos that just rings perfectly true and brings the house down. It’s a keeper.
Lesson from tonight’s show – don’t judge a show on its setlist alone. This one is a good one.
Listen to the soundboard here (this one has more high end than the other versions – the more popular version is muddier but has better Phil): https://archive.org/details/gd1991-09-22.sbd.serafin.7692.shnf