Today’s show from Red Rocks is tomorrow’s more famous show’s scrappy little brother. The Dead play really well tonight, but unfortunately, the second set song selection gets in the way of this being a full on classic ’78 show.
The first set, however, is pure thrills throughout. You can tell everyone is on from the first notes of the Jack Straw opener. Candyman is fired up. Me and My Uncle>Big River is lose and silky. Friend of the Devil is smooth sailing. Cassidy and Tennessee Jed are both great versions, with some excellent guitar work on Cassidy and Jerry singing his lungs out with added feeling on Tennessee Jed. The thrilling conclusion of all of this is a red-hot The Music Never Stopped, which ends the set on an upswing. This song is 1978 made into music – ragged, jagged, close to the edge but still mostly well-played and with some killer crescendos near the end. You’re probably not going to find a better version of this in 1978.
The Dead still bring their A game for the second set, but the songs, other than Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain, don’t allow the band to fully shine, which is why tomorrow night’s show is much more highly regarded. Here is the setlist for tonight’s second set: Cold Rain And Snow, Beat It On Down The Line, Scarlet Begonias>Fire On The Mountain, Dancing In The Street>Drums>Space>Not Fade Away>Black Peter>Around And Around. And the double encore is U.S. Blues and Johnny B. Goode. So there’s a whole lot of rockin’ going on, which must have been fun as a concert-goer, but listening now, it’s just a bunch of take-it-or-leave-it tunes and no jamming. Contrast this with tomorrow night, where the least of the best is the Terrapin Station encore and you get the idea.
You’re not going to go wrong with the first set tonight, though. So if you don’t have all day, just listen to that. Here is the Matrix, which is much better than the mono-only soundboard and the distant AUD: https://archive.org/details/gd1978-07-07.mtx.octopusrider.98917.flac16