The Sportatorium sounds like the name of a team handball arena in Bulgaria, but it happens to have been located in South Florida, which is pretty close. (If you’re looking for a good read, check out the venue’s Wikipedia page. In case you’re too lazy to do this, I’ll give you the highlights: a Robert Plant concert was rained out at this indoor venue, Roger Waters called the acoustics a “real compromise” and there was a massive riot at a Rush concert. Seriously – Rush.) Despite the arena’s shortcomings, the Grateful Dead typically played well here, and tonight’s show is no exception.
I have to warn you that the pace of tonight’s show is somewhat rushed, as in crackhead on a mission rushed. The first set opens with Deal (unusual, but not the most unusual thing about this show) and the band maintains that energy throughout. It’s All Over Now, tucked in with a bunch of other good songs, may be the first set highlight since the song fits the band’s energy to a T. Even Loser can’t be slowed.
The second set opens with Morning Dew (see, I told you there would be stranger things than Deal). You’re not going to believe this, but the band rushes into it and it takes a few seconds to mesh, but then we’ve got a pretty good version. Even better is the Estimated Prophet that follows – a real killer performance that segues into a completely out of control Eyes of the World. I always like to wait for the moment when these mid-80’s cocaine versions of Eyes get completely ridiculous. Tonight’s version stays coherent for about 10 seconds, which makes it a middle of the road attempt. Drums / Space are their typical good 1985 selves, and the rest is a little mushy. But the fact that things stayed relatively unhinged for 2/3 of the show makes it a damn good listen.
As this project marches one, one of my main takeaways to-date is how much I’ve enjoyed the shows from 1985. They’re not typically intricate and they’re certainly fast, but in certain scenarios, that’s just fine. I grooved throughout this entire show, and I think that you will too. The soundboard is augmented with the audience recording in some places, and be forewarned that the pitches on the two recordings don’t match up. Listen here: https://archive.org/details/gd1985-10-25.sbd.miller.89117.sbeok.flac16