Today In Grateful Dead History: March 21, 1986 – Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA

dancing-bear Things got really busy last week so I wasn’t able to write up a few of the shows – we missed some good stuff.

Speaking of good stuff, today’s show from the Hampton Coliseum has it.  But before they get warmed up, the Dead start off with the first ever performance of (I’m a) Road Runner, a song that Bob Weir played on occasion with other bands but the Dead only played once more.  You’ll know why when you hear it.  Still, it’s a song debut and worth hearing for the history.

After a few hit or miss tunes, the band fires up Bird Song, one of those tunes that they played consistently well in 1985 and 1986.  This version doesn’t feature any transcendent moments, but it’s a good listen.  The highlight of the entire show actually comes at the end of Tons of Steel, when the band goes into a Supplication jam that eventually turns into Let It Grow.  Bob Weir is so fired up by this transition that he sings the entire first verse of Let It Grow while the rest of the band is still wailing on Supplication, which makes for an interesting rhythmic dynamic but also for a cool moment.  Once the boys light up Let It Grow proper it’s all hands on deck, with a couple of false endings and some ripping guitar solos.  This is a great passage.

The second set begins with a pretty bungled version of Uncle John’s Band into a mediocre Terrapin Station, however, at the end of Terrapin, the Dead shift into a reprise of Playin’ in the Band and the resulting jam is well done.  Drums>Space>I Need a Miracle is nothing special, but Stella Blue is its usual stellar self – a sparkling Jerry solo caps off the song and makes up for several “interesting” passages at the start of the song.  The rest is fine.

The good parts of this show are very nice and show a band that can still be very engaged when it wants to be.  Nothing here feels particularly rushed like things tend to sound during 1985-86, and everyone makes substantial contributions to the music.  It’s a good show from a difficult year, which makes it all the more worth your time.

None of the recordings of this show are great – here’s the best I heard:  https://archive.org/details/gd1986-03-21.nak300.damico.87638.flac16

Today In Grateful Dead History: December 28, 1986 – Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, Oakland, CA

dancing-bear I continue to be impressed with the Grateful Dead’s late 1986 output.  As I discussed a couple of weeks ago, these shows marked Jerry Garcia’s return to performing with the Grateful Dead after he fell into a coma during the summer, and for all of the deleterious effects that the incident would have on Jerry’s ability to turn his guitar on a dime like he used to, there is little doubt that his passion remained unchecked.  In fact, it seems as if Jerry’s illness and subsequent recovery gave the band a healthy jolt in the energy department.

You can feel the Dead’s happiness throughout this show before a hometown crowd in the run up to New Year’s Eve.  Phil in particular jokes back and forth with the audience, and everyone else seems pretty loose too.  This looseness translates into an uptempo show with few if any long jams, making it the perfect show to give to someone who might be interested in learning more about the Dead but is wary of the improvisation.

Depending on how you feel about Looks Like Rain (I’m a fan), there isn’t a clunker on this setlist, which relies heavily on pre-1976 material.  Everything is well played, all things considered, and Big Railroad Blues and Sugar Magnolia really rock the room.  The “jammier” songs, Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain and The Other One, remain firmly grounded today, but that’s alright.  The Dead came to party tonight, and I doubt that anyone left disappointed.

Take a listen here:  https://archive.org/details/gd1986-12-28.sbd.walker-scotton.miller.99637.sbeok.flac16

Today In Grateful Dead History: December 15, 1986 – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA

dancing-bear It’s been a busy week since my last post and I haven’t had the time to finish listening to a full show until today, so I’m pleased to be back with this one – my first show review from 1986 (giving us at least one show from every year).  This is also a particularly special day, since it marks Jerry Garcia’s return to the Grateful Dead after falling into a diabetic coma earlier in the year.

If you don’t know the story, here’s a brief summary.  After the Dead’s July 7th show at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., Jerry’s health rapidly declined and he ended up in a coma.  How much of this was due to the drugs remains a mystery, but suffice it to say, he didn’t lead the healthiest lifestyle even if you remove heroin from the equation.  In any case, Jerry almost died and the band was forced to cancel the fall tour.  When Jerry came out of the coma, he had basically forgotten how to play the guitar, so he had to relearn the instrument by practicing incessantly.  Keep that history in mind when you listen to this show, because it makes Jerry’s performance here even more remarkable.

The Dead sound good tonight – much better than they did in early 1986, pre-coma.  Seriously, this is a damn fine show for the mid 80’s under any circumstances, let alone these.  And they lead off the night with one of those Grateful Dead moments – Touch of Grey, with it’s chorus of “I will get by . . . I will survive” having so much more meaning after Jerry’s brush with death.  Tonight is also the first time the Dead played Black Muddy River and When Push Comes To Shove.  This is a very strange part of the narrative since Black Muddy River premiered at Jerry’s first post-coma show (the first show of the “new era”) and it was the last “Jerry song” at his final show in Chicago nine years later.  Weird . . .

You’d expect that everyone would be rusty tonight, but that’s simply not the case.  The second set has a great run with Playin’ In The Band>Terrapin Station>Drums>Truckin’>Wharf Rat>Playin’ In The Band>Good Lovin’ that should be played at full volume.  Jerry rocks out all over these songs and it’s wonderful to hear the crowd go wild with every lick.

Add this one to the collection – between the history and the music, it’s a good one.  Here’s a matrix version that really captures the crowd without losing the soundboard mixture: https://archive.org/details/gd1986-12-15.128689.mtx.nicksmix.flac16