Today in Grateful Dead History: February 16, 1982 – Warfield Theater, San Francisco, CA

dancing-bearThis is the Grateful Dead’s first show in 1982, held in the intimate confines of San Francisco’s Warfield Theater and captured on a fair audience recording.

Unlike a lot of “first” nights, this one is not very ragged at all, and there is some intense playing throughout.  In the first set, the Shakedown Street opener has little to no rust and Little Red Rooster is loud and proud.  Big River is a Jerry exhibition.

The second set has a really interesting set of songs:  China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider>Playin’ In The Band>Terrapin Station>Drums>Truckin’>Nobody’s Fault But Mine>Black Peter>Playin’ In The Band.  All of this is good, but other than China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider, none of it is great.  (That China>Rider cooks, though).

So, if you’re looking for a little 1982 action in the middle of all of these huge shows from the 60’s and 70’s, this is a great selection.  But you’re not going to have your head blown off by the playing…

Listen here:


Today in Grateful Dead History: August 10, 1982 – University of Iowa Fieldhouse, Iowa City, IA

dancing-bearAs I said a couple of days ago, the Dead were really playing well during this Midwest tour in 1982, capping the run with this wonderful show at the University of Iowa.  Now, according to the comments on the Archive (and Phil Lesh himself, who complains from the stage), the Iowa Fieldhouse was apparently not the best place to listen to a rock concert.  But you wouldn’t know it if you listen to this incredibly well-done Matrix, and the band’s playing certainly isn’t harmed by the acoustics.

Like a lot of 1982 shows, the first half tonight is up-tempo, starting right off the bat with Feel Like a Stranger.  Friend of the Devil follows – it’s an incredible version and shows off the growing Jerry-Brent dynamic very nicely.  New Minglewood Blues is only notable because Bob Weir calls the women in attendance “corn-fed fillies”, showing off the wide range of his early 80’s sexism.  Bob keeps things going strong a couple of songs later with a very nice version of Cassidy, too.  Equipment issues arise and slow things down a notch, but the band rebounds with a few upbeat numbers, including the last Stagger Lee for almost three years, before ending the first set with an unusual Bertha that almost falls off the rails as it careens around the Fieldhouse.

That speed continues unabated in the second set, when the band comes out and rips off an incredible China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider to get things going.  There are a lot of good China>Riders floating around in the early 80’s – this is definitely one of them.  After a good Lost Sailor>St. of Circumstance, we get to the heart of the matter, a canter-wheeling, coked-out, twelve-minute version of Eyes of the World that, if it were played at a 1973 tempo, would have lasted for half an hour.  But the band is on fire tonight, and while this version feels like it’s going to collapse, Jerry manages to produce run after run that pushes right up to the edge of sloppy but never falls into a mess.  This is a good one.  Post-Space, the most notable moment for me comes when Jerry finishes the second verse of Stella Blue and the band just rips in behind him with incredible, unexpected force.  It’s chilling.  The rest of the song is just so-so, but that moment catches you by the throat.  At the end of Stella, Jerry launches into Around and Around, but Bob directly contradicts him and starts playing Sugar Magnolia instead.  Although things don’t fall apart completely, it takes the Dead a minute to regain their footing before finishing things off on a high note, capping quite the run of 1982 Grateful Dead shows.

Check out this amazing Matrix here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: August 8, 1982 – Alpine Valley Music Theater, East Troy, WI

dancing-bearToday’s Grateful Dead show from Alpine Valley in 1982 is not nearly as jammed out as yesterday’s affair at this same venue, but it’s still a very alive performance, enhanced by several all-star guests.

The band is certainly “on” in the first set, but the song selection, by 1982 standards, is pretty blase.  Here it is: Alabama Getaway>Promised Land, They Love Each Other, Mama Tried>Mexicali Blues, Loser>Little Red Rooster, Brown Eyed Women, Looks Like Rain, Peggy-O, Samson & Delilah.  Now, just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with these songs, and some of them are tunes I actively seek out, like Loser and Peggy-O.  But I’m not going to wait to go to the bathroom because the band is playing any of these.

Fortunately, the band is playing these songs really well.  Jerry’s guitar work on They Love Each Other, in particular, merits special attention, and after the Mama Tried>Mexicali Blues twofer, he’s right back at it, ripping it up on Loser.  Looks Like Rain is a pretty good version, too.  And, finally, check out the setlist placement of Samson and Delilah in the closing slot, something that only happened two other times out of 364 total performances of the song.

Speaking of setlist shenanigans, the band comes back from the break and launches into . . . Far From Me!  Now, Far From Me was not played nearly as often as Samson and Delilah, but out of 74 performances, the Dead only opened a set with it one other time – next month on 9/24/82 in Syracuse.  So this is a rare event.  I won’t say it’s enthusiastically welcomed by the crowd, but so be it.  Rock on, Brent.

With that classic opener out of the way, the band gets down to business in the second set with a 24 minute Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain that rages for a good long while.  In fact, just when you think they’re done, the boys run back into Fire on the Mountain for one last, two minute blast of guitar heroics.  This blends right into Estimated Prophet, which, like a lot of versions of this song in 1982, is used as a vehicle for the deep space jamming of the night.  As Estimated Prophet winds down, the Dead are joined on stage by Indian drummer extraordinaire Zakir Hussain, who plays with the band for the rest of the night.  As Space eventually fades, frequent Dead guest John Cippolina emerges to play guitar until the bitter end.  What comes next is a lot of heavy guitar action, especially during The Other One>Not Fade Away, as one would expect.   When we get to the encore, the band busts out Satisfaction, which is not normally one of my favorite Dead covers.  But tonight, it’s worth hearing, as Cippolina, Garcia and Weir all weave together into a very interesting montage.  Since everyone’s in a good mood, we’re treated to a second, calmer, Brokedown Palace encore to end the evening.

This past week + of 1982 music is a really sweet run for the Grateful Dead, with top-flight shows in Austin, Kansas City and these two Alpine Valley performances.  (They also played three other shows during this time which aren’t the best you’ll ever hear but they aren’t complete clunkers either).  If you want some serious ’82 Dead, you’ve come to the right week.

Unfortunately, none of the recordings for this night is wondrous.  But as AUDs go, this is pretty good, so I used it:

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:

Today in Grateful Dead History: July 25, 1982 – Compton Terrace Amphitheater, Tempe, AZ

stealieWhen Jerry forgets the first line of the first song of the show (Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo – the title is the most difficult thing about it), you know you’re going to be in for an interesting night.  When the second song is Franklin’s Tower, more lyrical problems are coming, and, sure enough, Jerry mixes up the verses with aplomb.  The rest of this first set coasts by with minimal issues, and Bird Song even manages to rise up pretty high, considering the beginning.  Still, by halftime, this show is pretty standard.

Most of the second set is fine – nothing to write about in detail, but nothing you’re going to regret hearing.  The one exception is Estimated Prophet, a 17 minute spaced-out mind-warp of a tune that goes so far afield that I wondered if the boys had skipped Drums and plopped right into Space.  This is the real deal, folks.  Listen to it.  Oh, yeah, this is only the second Crazy Fingers since 1976 – it was busted out a week earlier in Ventura.  It isn’t as sloppy as you’d expect, but it won’t peal your eyelids back, either.  It’s just that kind of night.

Listen here:


Today in Grateful Dead History: May 22, 1982 – Greek Theater, Berkeley, CA

stealieI’ve talked here before about the little moments that often stand out from an average Grateful Dead show – pinpoints of brilliance that make listening to 3+ hours of sometimes similar sounding music pop.  I counted two of those moments in this show from the Greek Theater in 1982.

The first comes during the spirited Sugaree that follows Jack Straw as the one-two show opener.  This is a good Sugaree, with those repetitive Jerry Garcia runs that are a trademark of this song from this era.  But midway through this version, Jerry slows things down for a minute and the song opens up, with the space between notes acting as its own instrument and standing in contrast to the fluid sprinting that took place before.  This openness is not unusual for Sugaree in the 80’s, but on this particular Matrix the notes ring clear and true and they send shivers.

The second moment occurs much later but it involves similar use of open space in the music.  We’re going to fast forward to the end of Space, which is slowly turning into Not Fade Away.  At this point, we’re experiencing the reverse of the situation I just described.  Instead of hearing the song open up, we’re hearing Space gather slowly together, bit by bit, into the coherent, heavier song.  This often happens in Grateful Dead jams, especially at this point in the show.  But once again, the clarity of the playing, the crystalline sharpness of Jerry and Bob working their way into Not Fade Away, stands out.

Those are my favorite moments.  The rest of the show, especially the first set, is nicely played and there are some fun versions of classic songs like Cumberland Blues and Deal.  There are lots of rockers in the second set and not a ton of jamming, but if you’re interested in having a party with the Grateful Dead, this would be a good show to listen to.

It’s the 80’s, so if there is a Matrix available, I typically like to work with it.  Listen to the very nice mix here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: September 12, 1982 – Lakeland Civic Center, Lakeland, FL

stealieIt seems like most shows from 1982 fall somewhere in the category of “good but not great”.  I always enjoy listening to shows from this year, but they rarely leave my jaw hanging.  (8/7/82 at Alpine Valley is a notable exception).  That’s alright – if you want to hear a totally listenable, fun Grateful Dead show, 1982 will usually fit the bill, and tonight is no different.

There aren’t a ton of Jerry highlights tonight, but he’s definitely cookin’ on Friend of the Devil and Cassidy.  West L.A. Fadeaway is also played in its infant form and it’s an enjoyable song.  Other than that, the first set just sorta breezes past.

The second set opens with The Women Are Smarter which is exactly what you would expect it to be.  Ship of Fools follows and is fine.  Playin’ in the Band comes next, and the middle portion achieves some degree of liftoff before crashing into Drums.  It’s worth catching this Playin’ just for the second half of the song.  Morning Dew is the other second set highlight, and while it’s also well done, it’s nothing to write home about, either.

As you can see, there’s not a lot of inspiration here, but this is still a fun one.  Listen to it here: