Today in Grateful Dead History: October 17, 1983 – Olympic Arena, Lake Placid, NY

Dancing Skeletons

This show starts off with a sixteen minute bang of a Sugaree that sets the tone for the rest of the first set, which is uniformly excellent.  Think about settling in for the beginning of a long night with the Grateful Dead and getting sucker punched by this monster at the very start. This is just minute upon minute of Jerry Garcia spitting fire and the rest of the band swirling behind him.  On this Matrix recording, you’re also treated to Bob Weir, high in the mix on the left, leading Jerry on.  There are probably better Sugarees, but for sustained excellence over a very long duration, this one may take the cake.

The rest of the first set is all killer, no filler.  Little Red Rooster, which would normally be the weak link in the setlist, is hot, as if Bob heard what Jerry had to offer and set out to match his intensity.  Friend of the Devil and My Brother Esau both have that certain groove that 1983 shows can fall into – white boy funkiness, so far as it goes.  But then we get a lovely, dynamic Bird Song that thrills from start to finish.  Hell in a Bucket transitions into one fired-up version of Deal.  This is primal Deal action, here, people.  And then we come up for air.

The knock on this show is that the second set can’t keep up with the first, but does it really have to?  Nope.  At least on a setlist level, a second set that starts with Touch of Grey into Samson and Delilah isn’t doing anything slow, and tonight is no different.  The boys do bring things down a notch with the only To Lay Me Down of 1983 and the last performance of this tune until 1988, so we’ve got a little history going on as well, and a nice version of the song to boot.  The middle portion of the second set is nothing special, but we still get to hear Terrapin Station, and the post-Drums/Space rocking section really lives up to its reputation with I Need A Miracle>Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad>Good Lovin’ .  I’m not going to say that any of these tunes is high on my list of must-hears, but taken together, you can hear the power the Dead were pushing out on this night in the heart of the Adirondacks.

This Matrix is pretty sweet:


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