If you like Jerry ballads, then you’re going to love this show, which features not one, not two, but three stellar slow dancers. First up is Mission in the Rain, the least ballady of the three, and a treat that the Grateful Dead only played during June, 1976, leaving the tune for the Jerry band to hone over time. This is a nice version, with plenty of Phil-fills to keep everyone honest.
The second great ballad tonight is High Time, a wonderful song that the Dead put on hiatus back in 1970, only to resurrect it six years later at the June 9th Boston show. This is a perfect version, mournful, with beautiful harmonies and real intricate playing that has the hall rapt with attention.
Third on the list is Comes a Time, which flows out of a memorizing Wharf Rat in the middle of the second set. This one is also gorgeous, with Keith’s playing shimmering throughout and Donna’s vocals dialed in perfectly before a classic Jerry solo to play us out.
While we’re on the topic, let’s take two minutes to discuss Donna’s contributions here. 1976 is, for me, Donna’s best year. The smaller venues suited her and the calmer tone of the playing allowed her to relax and sing some really beautiful harmonies throughout the course of the year. Her contributions tonight really improve all three of these songs. Likewise, the space in the music gives Keith plenty of room to show off what he brings to the table, and this show is a classic example of how his little fills and improvisations can elevate even the most straightforward tunes into magical things.
Leaving the ballads aside, the rest of this show really sparkles with energy, be it during the show opening Samson and Delilah, Jerry’s attack on Big River or the Dancin’ in the Streets rave up (more really cool Keith licks reside here, too). There is a ton of intricate playing as well, especially on Lazy Lightening>Supplication and Let It Grow, which devolves at the end into the theme from A Love Supreme before the transition into Wharf Rat. Even the encore is on point, with U.S. Blues sandwiched in the middle of Sugar Magnolia / Sunshine Daydream.
Lastly, a note on the recording. The primary non-audience recording comes from the FM broadcast of this show, and it has been merged into a pretty cool Matrix that retains the radio interruptions. Listen to this something-for-everyone (but especially the ballads fans) show here: https://archive.org/details/gd1976-06-12.132933.mtx.nicksmix.flac16
(Some of the material from this show made it onto Road Trips Volume 4, No. 5 as filler: Mission in the Rain, The Wheel, Comes a Time and the encore).