The first few months of 1987 were an interesting jumble of shows for the Grateful Dead – three shows at the San Francisco Civic Center in January and then three shows at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland at the beginning of March (this is the first of those shows), followed by three weeks off and then the start of the spring tour. Those January shows were not very good, but the time off clearly helped the Dead, because tonight’s performance is a fairly good 1987 show captured on an excellent audience recording.
The first set just kind of motors along, but the band is playing the tunes well, notwithstanding the typical lyrical issues. There’s not much to comment on until the end of the set, an inspired Let It Grow out of a pretty standard Row Jimmy. I didn’t think the boys were really going to do anything with this song, but about halfway through, Jerry flips a switch and we’re off to the races . . . right into intermission. Talk about a potential momentum killer.
Fortunately for us, the energy doesn’t flag as the band comes out for the second set with Hell in a Bucket and then Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain. Jerry really turns up the heat during Scarlet Begonias and the climax of Fire on the Mountain is pretty massive, all things considered. Not to be outdone, Bob Weir gives Sampson and Delilah everything he’s got, and you can hear the band contemplating more fireworks when Jerry throws a bucket of cold water on things by launching into Black Muddy River. Now don’t get me wrong – I love this song, I just don’t like it as the fourth song in a very up-tempo second set. So everything grinds to a halt and it doesn’t pick up during the slow burn of He’s Gone, which hints at Truckin’ or The Other One but heads into Drums instead.
The post-Drums sequence is labeled as Jam on this recording, and that’s appropriate because whatever this is, it isn’t Space – there’s way too much of a form to it, and by about halfway through you can sense The Other One taking shape. This version is a runaway train flying down the track, much in the vein of the start of the set. So just when you’re getting ready to jump out of your seat, Jerry once again diverts the band into Black Peter. SCREEEEEECH. Thankfully, we get some redemption at the end, with a very long blues solo that picks up steam as it goes. This is a great late 80’s Black Peter, after all. Having gotten this out of their system, the boys are finally ready to let the party start, which they do with Around and Around>Good Lovin’ and then a Don’t Ease Me In encore, what looks like the last time this song would ever be played in that slot.
The second set is the meat here – start there and get the first set potatoes if you have the time or inclination.