Today in Grateful Dead History: August 3, 1982 – Starlight Theater, Kansas City, MO

dancing-bearThis is a show that falls somewhere short of legendary but well ahead of a “typical” 1982 performance, but the first half, in particular, is great listening on a sunny summer day.

I kind of fell into a half trance following the mammoth Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeelo>Franklin’s Tower opener, but had one of those eye-opening moments four songs later during Cumberland Blues – “Jeez, they’re really feeling it tonight”.  (After this happened, I went back and re-listened to Peggy-O, which fell in the middle of my stupor – it’s really good too).  Jerry, as usual, is the reason everything seems so bright tonight – his slightly unhinged guitar wailing on Franklin’s finds a little more focus on Cumberland, and he just plays continuous runs throughout the entire 6 minute song.  The same thing happens a few songs later on Big Railroad Blues.  And, as usual, when Jerry is feeling it, everyone else seems to up their game too, especially Bob, who is engaged and ripping during Cassidy and Man Smart (Women Smarter).

The second set maintains the up-tempo feel of the first with an interesting Shakedown Street>Samson & Delilah opener.  This is 22 minutes of spit-fire playing from all involved, even if we never really get any truly “out there” moments.  The crowd falls under a spell as the band slows down for a gorgeous To Lay Me Down (the last of three played in 1982), but they are quickly revived for a furious, and slightly sloppy, Let It Grow.  Bob must have been enjoying himself at this point, because he stays out with the drummers for the first few minutes of Drums, noodling chords and contributing where he can.  Things stay pretty calm post-Space as the band gently plays through He’s Gone which transitions into a bumping The Other One.  Like Let It Grow, this one doesn’t go out far, but there is a ton of energy swirling in the air and the band is riding it.  Continuing the back and forth momentum, Jerry pulls out Stella Blue (a second ballad in the second set) and sticks the ending, a gorgeous four minute ride that I thought was going to end halfway through, as the band drops down to almost complete silence (you can hear a pin drop on this Matrix recording) before rising up again into a second, thrilling run.  After Sugar Magnolia closes things out, we get a special treat – a Casey Jones encore!  This is only the second performance of this song this year, and it would be the last performance for almost two years.  It’s a just reward at the end of a pretty sweet night.

Don’t come here expecting deep, dark jams.  But if you want up-tempo, stretched out versions of some classic Dead tunes played by a band that is cranking in top form, you’ve come to the right place.  None of the recordings is great, but this Matrix will do the trick:


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