Happy Summer Solstice. We’re capping off the Grateful Dead’s Alaska cruise with this very good final show at tiny West High Auditorium.
Like the other two night of this run, tonight’s show features a couple of setlist position rarities. The first set ends with Feel Like a Stranger, which only happened a couple of other times. This particular Feel Like a Stranger is dialed in like the rest of this show, with Brent and Jerry ripping runs and Bob moving fluidly betwixt them. The second set opens with Big Railroad Blues, which, as far as I can tell, only happened at one other show. The break didn’t slow down the boys, who come ripping out of the gate on this one too.
Now that the trivia is out of the way, let’s focus on the rest of the music, which is uniformly good and intense tonight. The show lights up from the very start with a beautiful Sugaree. This is one of those tunes that Jerry loves to dig in to, and he launches a massive solo here that elevates the entire place. He’s clearly in a good mood tonight, as the Big River solos are also on fire, leading to an almost over the top Loser that fries the recording. Lazy Lightning>Supplication is nuanced, with all of the band in gear and the intricate parts resonating around the quiet room. Ramble on Rose does the same thing, captivating everyone as the magic fills air.
The second set takes things even higher, starting off with the afore-mentioned Big Railroad Blues and a solid Samson and Delilah. But it’s the next segment that makes this night the big winner out of the three Alaska shows: Terrapin Station>Playing In The Band>Drums>Space>Truckin’>Stella Blue. The Grateful Dead Listening Guide, as usual, does a much better job describing this section than I ever will, so you should read his description of this passage first. I’m not a huge Terrapin Station guy, but even I think this version is great – the band’s control of volume throughout the song is amazing and transporting, and the ending jam is not excessive like it sometimes is. Space>Truckin’ is just about perfect, and Stella Blue will make you weep. It’s as if all of the energy from this run was able to build up to this moment of release, and the band pours its heart right out into the audience. This is the good stuff, people. After Sugar Magnolia fires things up again, we’ve got a double encore – One More Saturday Night (because it is) and a welcome Brokedown Palace to send everyone home into the midnight sun.
It’s Matrix time – enjoy this special night here: https://archive.org/details/gd1980-06-21.mtx.dan.28470.sbeok.flac16