The reason that this show ended up on the Listening Guide in the first place is that it is, in fact, a very good 1981 Grateful Dead concert, from the beginning through the post-Drums/Space Truckin’. From there, you’ve got a decent Wharf Rat and the standard rockers.
The pre-Drums second set is where most of the action is set, including a very solid Shakedown Street to open the set and a Wheel that morphs into Brent’s slow blues Never Trust a Woman and back again with some beautiful flourishes along the way. Brent, in general, is a major player during today’s show, nowhere more so than during this entire sequence, where he layers feelings both vocal and instrumental throughout the songs as they segue together.
The other major nugget comes at the conclusion of the first set, with a tremendous Let It Grow flowing into a surprise China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider to end the set. Jerry’s tone throughout these proceedings is stellar and the band lets it rip on the fast-moving China>Rider, driving through the transition with force. Sometimes it seems like Jerry can’t get the ideas out fast enough, but this is a really solid trip through some great material, and the sound is perfectly balanced.
There are other good songs in the first set, like the rugged and raw Althea and Little Red Rooster, but the forceful stuff takes place between Let It Grow and Drums. Enjoy this tour through 1981’s bounty.
Although the audience recording of this show is fantastic, I still prefer the Matrix: https://archive.org/details/gd1981-08-28.mtx.painoman.92893.sbeok.flac16