You know what the “problem” is with Grateful Dead shows in 1977? They’re almost all pretty good and the song selection tends to be fairly standard, so in order to give any sort of a useful review of a show, you start focusing on hyper-specific issues with recordings and setlist selection. This great show from Springfield (one of many reasons why I love having this 1977 “problem”) is a good example of a show that rewards a sharp focus on the details – it might not seem like an over-the-top performance, but there is a lot of nuance here.
The first interesting moment of the night comes during Loser, a song that the Dead played well in 1977 but it often gets overlooked because it’s not a “jammy” tune. Don’t overlook it here – this one is ruthless.
A little bit further on, the Dead ramp up It’s All Over Now. You can tell they’re having fun here – even if this isn’t a great tune, it’s a energy boost. Which leads into . . .
. . . a very rare first-set-closing Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain. Please keep in mind that this is only the third time that the boys have ever played Fire on the Mountain, but it is more than fully worked up tonight. The jam in the transition is very sparse – a beautiful touch that I’ve never heard played this gently before. And woa boy, the soloing at the end of Scarlet Begonias is awesome. This is a very interesting version of this song pairing, and it really opens up the second time you run through it and know what to listen for. Do it up!
The second set opens on Estimated Prophet. Like the San Bernardino premier a couple of months ago, the Dead are still working out the sound of this tune, which results in all sorts of interesting guitar tones and effects throughout the performance. It’s a good one. Bertha chugs into an interestingly-placed 2nd set The Music Never Stops, which is a little ragged but oh-so-good. After that, the main event of the 2nd set – Help on the Way>Slipknot?>Franklin’s Tower with Keith playing on what sounds like a Moog for part of Slipknot? Like the transition jam in Scarlet>Fire and the guitar on Estimated, the use of this keyboard on this song is unusual and grabs your attention right away. It might have been a little too assertive for day-to-day use, but for tonight it’s a welcome “say what?” moment.
After this, we get the power Dead of 1977, rocking out with Around and Around>Going Down the Road Feeling Bad>Not Fade Away. If this doesn’t get you moving, I don’t know what will. And One More Saturday Night brings the hammer down as the encore.
You’re going to like this show, and the little Easter eggs that pop up will keep you coming back to it time and again when you need a dose of the unusual in a year that tends to be a little more staid.