Today in Grateful Dead History: July 7, 1978 – Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, CO

Dancing Skeletons

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:

Today in Grateful Dead History: September 14, 1978 – Giza Sound and Light Theater, Cairo, Egypt

egyptThe Grateful Dead took their whole traveling circus to Egypt in 1978 and the results were, shall we say, mixed.

I’m not going to get into too much of the background information about the Egypt shows.  If you want to hear the full story, well told, check out Phil Lesh’s book, Searching for the Sound: My Life With the Grateful Dead, which goes into some detail about how these performances came to be.  Suffice to say, it took a lot of work to bring the Grateful Dead into a Muslim country run by an autocratic regime, and the band was set to capitalize on the experience by filming the shows and releasing a live album culled from the performances.

As usual with the Grateful Dead, things didn’t go quite as planned.  The recordings were not well done (it took thirty years for that live album to appear as Rocking The Cradle: Egypt 1978) and the performances, according to the band members themselves, weren’t much better.  While everyone seems to have had a blast in Egypt and appreciated the experience, the band was not exactly playing at its best.  When it comes to today’s show, the first night of the Dead’s three night stand, it bears noting that the performance and the recording thereof were so bad that none of the material was included on the official release.  So be forewarned.

That being said, the first fifty minutes of this performance are incredible, as Egyptian musician and future Dead collaborator Hamza El-Din sets things off with a subtle performance of traditional music (known as Ollin Arrageed) that slowly builds as members of the Dead join in the playing.  This all culminates in Not Fade Away, which starts the Dead’s portion of the show proper.  This is thrilling stuff and captures an energy and a majesty that would probably be impossible to duplicate in any other setting.  If all the Dead got out of this trip was this fifty minutes of music, it would have been worth it.

Once you’ve listened through the end of Not Fade Away, just shut off the recording.  Almost everything else is a hot mess, with maybe Samson & Delilah excluded.  This isn’t just me talking – the members of the band all thought this performance wasn’t good.  Take their word for it and stay far away.  But definitely listen to that first fifty minutes of music.  It will change your day for the better.

As I said before, the sound quality here is not good.  You should listen to the Charlie Miller soundboard for the Egyptian music (ie the good part) here: 

If you’re a masochist, the best source for the rest is the audience recording, here:

Don’t listen to the soundboard past Not Fade Away – the vocals are almost non-existent (just one of many problems with the recording).


Today in Grateful Dead History: February 3, 1978 – Dane County Coliseum, Madison, WI

Dancing Skeletons

A healthy chunk of this show was used on Dick’s Picks #18, the Grateful Dead’s first release of 1978 material as a part of that live series, which says that the powers that be thought that this was something special.  And they’re right – today’s Dane County Coliseum show has several incredibly inspired moments, including one of the all time greatest performances of The Music Never Stopped.

If you’re not into audience recordings, you’re going to have trouble listening to this show on the Archive, since none of the first set and only parts of the second set are available on the soundboard recording.  Ditto the Dick’s Picks experience.  My advice is to spend the first couple of songs dialing in your graphic equalizer and enjoying the ride from there forward – once you get it going, this audience recording is just fine.

The first set, other than The Music Never Stopped, is a good 1978 first set, with very high quality performances of Loser and Passenger.  (Neither of these songs is on Dick’s Picks #18, by the way).  As I mentioned before, The Music Never Stopped is the best song of the first set (in fact, it’s the best song of the night).  I like this tune, but I get frustrated when the band is ripping along through the first solo portion only to collapse into a pile of garbage when the song changes direction near the end.  This doesn’t happen tonight – everyone hits their cues perfectly, which was probably quite difficult because right before that point, the Dead were locked into one of the tightest, steaming hot jams you’ve ever heard.  And it’s not just Jerry here, but everyone, together, doing what the Dead do best.  The follow up jam doesn’t disappoint either and the crowd goes crazy at the end.

The second set opens with a basic version of Good Lovin’ and then Ship of Fools is cut off halfway through.  The rest of the second set of today’s show became the second disc of Dick’s Picks #18Estimated Prophet>Eyes Of The World>Playin’ In The Band>The Wheel>Playin’ In The Band.  This is a wild ride, but things never get completely detached or meander too far.  This works very well during Eyes of the World, which can often drift along aimlessly.  Tonight, the band is as tight and focused as it’s going to sound while playing a fifteen minute song.  Likewise, a great Playin’ in the Band is cut in half by The Wheel, which gives us a little time to catch our breaths and breaks up the “monotony” of what would have otherwise been a 30 minute Playin’ – a monster for any era, even if you judge it by 1972-74 standards.

This recording is missing the Johnny B. Goode encore, but after that second set, I don’t think anyone is going to care.

You’ll get the best parts of this show by buying Dick’s Picks #18, but if you can’t locate it or if you want the full experience, check out the audience recording here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: January 22, 1978 – McArthur Court, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

Dancing Skeletons

This show from Eugene, Oregon is one of the more popular performances from 1978 due in large part to the second set jam between The Other One and St. Stephen that mirrors the theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  This is definitely a cool moment, pulling you in and holding you there as Jerry explores the outer reaches of space and Keith plays the movie’s theme behind him.  Things slowly, icily dissolve until St. Stephen roars into being, first Jerry, then Bob, then the drummers.  This St. Stephen boasts one of those epic “outros”, a swirling mass of power where everyone seems to be in perfect sync for at least a minute before the song concludes.  (Trey Anastasio has definitely listened to this solo before – it informs all sorts of future Phish jams).  And while some complain that St. Stephens from this era sound sterile compared to the totally unhinged versions from the 60’s, Jerry’s guitar tone here is so rugged that you’d be forgiven for thinking that late-60’s Garcia had been dropped into the late-70’s Dead.

So that’s the reason everyone is tuning in, but how’s the rest of the show?  Also top notch, for 1978.  The Grateful Dead are flat out thrashing tonight, with heavy versions of Tennessee Jed and Jack Straw in the first set and a full-steam-ahead Bertha>Good Lovin’ to start the second set.  The more delicate moments, like Peggy-O and Ship of Fools, also feature some nice collaborative playing.

In short, I don’t think that this show is overrated – that second set jam is a master class and the rest of the night is darn good too.  Check out the soundboard here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: January 14, 1978 – Bakersfield Memorial Auditorium, Bakersfield, CA

Dancing Skeletons

I don’t have a lot to offer when it comes to this show.  I can tell you that none of the recordings are particularly great, audio-wise.  This soundboard, for instance, is very muddy, but it’s better than the matrix, which is not always synced up properly.

In terms of content, we’ve got a fairly normal 1978 show.  I’ve gotta say, I’ve never been a 1978 fan, but these January shows are not half bad, this show included.  Unfortunately, I can’t point to many highlights – the Estimated Prophet>Eyes of the World sequence is fine and Not Fade Away gets the job done, but beyond that, we’re in fairly standard Dead territory here.

Instead of belaboring this, I’ll just give you the link and you can check things out if you want to:

Today in Grateful Dead History: January 8, 1978 – Golden Hall Community Concourse, San Diego, CA

Dancing Skeletons

The Grateful Dead decided to stay put in sunny San Diego for this third and final night of Jerry’s Garcia’s beginning of 1978 laryngitis tour. (I know that the 1979 MSG show that took place today is a good one, but for the sake of wrapping up the laryngitis tour, I stayed here in 1978.  We’ll do MSG next year).

As I’ve discussed previously, Jerry’s voice gave out in the middle of the January 6th show in San Bernardino and he didn’t sing any songs at all during last night’s affair here in San Diego.  Jerry doesn’t do any singing tonight either, giving us a second night in a row of the Bob Weir Experience featuring Jerry Garcia on lead guitar.

I don’t know if it’s just the better (for the most part) recording quality, but, on the shorter numbers (not the jams), the Dead seem sharper tonight than last night.  You can hear a good example of this on Jack Straw, which they played on both nights.  Tonight’s version just has more oomph.   Supplication also rocks out hard, Truckin’ has got a boost to it and Sugar Magnolia seems to go on forever.

The problem, if you want to compare this night to last night, is the aforementioned jamming, which was being pulled off in high style yesterday but tonight seems to just kind of meander along.  The Other One does go to some interesting places during the last third of the song, but we don’t get the same weirdness we heard yesterday.  All things considered, this is ok – compared to later on in 1978, this show kicks ass, even without Jerry singing.

Check out the soundboard recording here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: January 7, 1978 – Golden Hall Community Concourse, San Diego, CA

Dancing Skeletons

We continue Jerry’s Garcia’s beginning of 1978 laryngitis tour with this stop in San Diego, where we find Jerry completely unable to sing any songs.  This means that if you have a thing against Bob Weir, you better not get anywhere near this show tonight, because, at least vocally, it’s all Bob Weir all the time.  But as he did at yesterday’s show in San Bernardino, Jerry shines tonight with some great guitar playing, and the band does some really unique things behind him.

If you’re used to the normal Jerry song – Bob song – Jerry song rhythm of a Grateful Dead concert, then this show is going to take some getting used to, but once you adjust, it makes for some interesting first set listening, especially the ending sequence of El Paso>Let It Grow>The Promised Land.  Jerry lets it all hang out in the usual places on Let It Grow, and the band plays a bunch of those 1976 sounding fusion riffs and rhythms during the second half of the song, showing that they still have their chops here at the start of 1978.

The second half of the show really opens up.  You first hear evidence of what’s going on with the 23 minute version of Dancin’ in the Streets, which has to be one of the longest iterations of this song that I’ve ever heard.  There is a lot of space here, with Jerry and Bob passing lyrical guitar passages back and forth and Phil dropping in here and there to gather some of the space for himself, while the drummers throw down some bizarre stuff in the background.  The Samson & Delilah that follows is pretty typical, but then we get to our second Playin in the Band in as many days, and while this version isn’t as crazy as last night’s, it’s still very well developed and an excellent 1978 version of the song.  After Drums we’re treated to Not Fade Away, which goes pretty far out there for such a basic song.  I don’t know what has gotten into Jerry and Bob, but here they are again, trading licks and playing runs together like Duane and Dicky.  It’s a pretty manic, magical version of the tune, and pretty unique.

Even if you think that you’re not going to like a show with no Jerry songs, you’re going to find something here to enjoy.  Check out the fairly clunky soundboard here: