Today is the penultimate show on the Grateful Dead’s 1978 southern tour, and, like its brethren, it’s a good one, even if the band isn’t taking things to the limit.
The first set has some very good playing – Peggy-O is amazing and Passenger is at its high-flying best. Jerry Garcia is playing hot tonight, and, on this very muddy audience tape, his interaction with Bob Weir is about all you’re going to glean from the murk. While the sound quality is annoying, this allows us to hear how Bob’s complimentary playing really allowed Jerry to pull out all of the stops. Bob never gets in the way (even on slide), and Jerry works around Bob’s quirky chords like the two guitarists are one player. It’s interesting to hear.
The second set opens with I Need A Miracle>Bertha>Good Lovin’, which is a ton of rocking to start the second set. The jamming follows in the form of a beautiful Terrapin Station (like the Dead’s show in Birmingham earlier on this tour, the best parts of tonight’s Terrapin come prior to the “inspiration” section, but tonight the playing at the end of Terrapin seems a little better) and a great Playin’ in the Band which is missing what seems to be a small section. Like the other songs tonight, this one is all about Jerry and Bob, who seem to be dialed in and loving life. After Drums (no Space, yet), we hear a very solid Black Peter. This is one of those songs that I never skip but I never seem to really get that into, either. Tonight, Jerry is singing along with his blues solo at the end, thoroughly engrossed in the music and driving things down into that swampy, dirty blues feeling that the late-70’s Dead almost never created. It’s here to tonight and it deserves your attention. This devolves back into Playin’ in the Band, but the end of the song is cut.
So, now I’ve reviewed four of the Dead’s shows from this southern swing, and they have all been good to very good performances in a year that is very hit or miss. You can definitely feel this energy carry over into 1979, a really fun year for Dead shows and, in my opinion, a significant improvement over most of 1978. But as this project has shown me time and again, you can’t ever make any definitive statements about this band – just when you think you understand them, you get four great shows from December, 1978 to set you straight.
As I said earlier, this audience recording is not great, it’s missing a couple of songs and there are problematic cuts in a few others. But it’s worth the ride – just play around with the EQ to get things where you want them: https://archive.org/details/gd78-12-21.aud.cotsman.15209.sbeok.shnf