Today in Grateful Dead History: August 15, 1987 – Town Park, Telluride, CO

terrapinA new post!

I began earnestly listening to the Grateful Dead during the two years that I spent living in Vail, Colorado, and my brother lived in Telluride for a season, so this show (and tomorrow’s show) holds a warm place in my heart.

Given the altitude adjustment, it’s a little surprising that this is such a high energy performance, but the Dead manage to really dig into things, especially during Deal and Morning Dew.  But the energy isn’t the only notable thing about this show.  Some of the calmer numbers, like Looks Like Rain and Desolation Row, have quiet passages of true beauty.  Jerry’s work on Looks Like Rain is probably the best example of this delicate touch, and his guitar work echos some of the silky passages that he used to play during this song in the early seventies.

Lastly, we have Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain, which opens up the second set.  If you only listen to the first couple of minutes of Scarlet Begonias, you’ll probably be worried that this is going to go off the rails, but the boys rally and pull off a seamless transition and some great work together.  This is a top of the line 1987 version of these songs.

Bottom line – this is a fun, spirited 1987 show with a few real highlights and very few lows.  Enjoy the rocky mountain high.

There are several versions of this show on the Archive.  I think that this one sounds the best, but the tracking is messed up, so beware:

Today In Grateful Dead History: April 4, 1987 – The Centrum, Worcester, MA

terrapinThe second set of tonight’s show from the Worcester Centrum is laid out in a really strange way, with an opening sequence of Iko Iko followed by Playin’ in the Band>Comes a Time>Willie and the Hand Jive, all pre-Drums, and then a post Drums sequence of Truckin>Playin’ in the Band>Morning Dew.  This is all good stuff, almost stunningly so for 1987.  The Comes a Time, in particular, was played a bit in 85 and 86, but only surfaced twice in 87, and this was the last appearance of Willie and the Hand Jive, ever, so they are moments to savor.  The Truckin through Morning Dew sequence is awesome, with Phil bombs all over the place and some heightened solos from Jerry near the end.   So, as you can see, the second set is worth the price of admission.

The first set is a lot sloppier and doesn’t really go anywhere.  There are some good songs being played, they just aren’t being played well.  Example: Box of Rain.  Second Example: Cassidy.  But if we have to sit through this warm up act in order to get to the main course, so be it.

Listen to the very nice audience recording here:

Today In Grateful Dead History: January 29, 1987 – San Francisco Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA

terrapinToday was the only show available for this date in history.  I missed yesterday’s show (the 1987 show from this same venue), which was also the only date available for that day in history.  But I did listen to the show yesterday, and I can tell you that anything that I say about today’s show applies to yesterday’s show as well.

Today’s show is not great.  Bob Weir is a mess, lyrics are flubbed all over the place and no one seems to be very engaged until we come to Drums, which explodes with excitement after a very lackluster version of Terrapin Station.  I’m going to go so far as to say that Drums is the highlight of this show, and when that’s the case, you know the show ain’t that good.

Seriously, folks, skip all of the Weir tunes except Cassidy, which is redeemed by a very spacey and calming second half solo from Jerry.  On the Jerry tune side of things, Stella Blue is okay and Sugaree is passable.  The rest meanders.

But if this show gets you down, just listen to some show from the end of ’85 or the beginning of ’86 to hear how much better the band sounds here in ’87.  At least they’ve got that going for them.

Listen here:

Today In Grateful Dead History: September 8, 1987 – Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI

terrapinWhen we last got together, I was lamenting the lack of interesting material in the September 4, 1980 show at this same venue.  Well, fast forward seven years and we arrive at a performance that makes that 1980 effort look like Europe ’72.

Granted, a few minor things (like Jerry’s diabetic coma) happened in Grateful Dead land between 1980 and 1987 that might account for the lack of dynamism here.  But the frustrating thing about 1987 is that the band could bring it when they felt like it.  Tonight, however, there is just nothing going on.  It’s not that the performance is sloppy – it’s just boring.

So instead of focusing on the specific songs (since there’s not much to discuss), let’s point out a couple of positive things about this show.  First of all, there are significant portions where Phil rises over the top.  Second, Brent’s interplay with Jerry, especially on the Scarlet Begonias-less Fire on the Mountain, is tremendous at times.  It’s shows like this that remind me of what a talented player Brent was during all of his years in the band.  Finally, this show has a mystery.  If either of my readers could please tell me what Bob shouts at the end of Turn on Your Lovelight, I will be in your debt.

Here’s the link to the show if you’ve got nothing else to listen to today or if you want to help me figure out Bob’s shoutings:

Yesterday in Grateful Dead History: August 13, 1987 – Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, CO

Dancing Skeletons

Due to Word Press difficulties I wasn’t able to put this post up yesterday, but I thought it would be good to finish off our three day run at Red Rocks (1987 version) this morning.

The first set of this show is fine, but nothing to write home about.  It does open with a rare version of Big Boss Man, interesting but not well played.  The highlights for me were a forceful Loser and Cassidy.

The second set begins with Uncle John’s Band>Estimated Prophet>He’s Gone.  The first two tunes are just ok, but the band plays a very passionate version of He’s Gone with that mournful a capella at the end that really gets to you.  Later on in the second set we get Stella Blue, my highlight of the night for the sweet, delicate interplay between Jerry and Brent during the solo portions.  This is not one of those sweeping Stella solos that you never want to end.  Instead, we’re treated to a quiet, almost sad passage that forces you to listen carefully and fully appreciate the song.  It’s a keeper.  After that, it’s a rave out until the second encore – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.

So, what have we learned after three days in a row of 1987 shows?  On the whole, I’d say the quality of the playing was pretty high, especially for the period.  There weren’t a lot of transcendent moments (the second night was definitely the best), but there weren’t a lot of errors either.  The Dead began drawing new fans due to the success of In The Dark in 1987, and I think for those new “Touch Heads”, these shows would be a great introduction – light on the huge jams, but catchy, well played music otherwise.

Here’s the link to the soundboard:

Today in Grateful Dead History: August 12, 1987 – Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, CO

Dancing Skeletons

It’s fun to listen to several shows in a run to get a sense of the band’s momentum, which is why I’ve passed up several other promising performances (including a 1979 show at this same venue) to check out the middle night of this three night stay at Red Rocks.

After yesterday’s disappointing effort, the Dead sound like a totally different band tonight, with thick, interesting jams and a much more dynamic first set.  You know things are going to be better right off the bat with a forceful Hell in a Bucket opener followed by a wailing Sugaree featuring some peak Jerry shredding, especially during the middle passages.  Hearing this, it’s hard to believe that Jerry completely relearned how to play the guitar less than a year ago.  The middle songs of the first set are all pretty good, but the set ending Bird Song>The Music Never Stopped takes the jamming prize, especially Bird Song, which goes way out on a limb.

The second set gets off to a rollicking start with a fun-loving but not very unique China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider.  This leads to The Women Are Smarter (or whatever it’s called – it’s all Iko Iko to me).  Terrapin Station comes next, and while it’s not going to blow any doors down, it’s still a welcome addition to the show.  Drums/Space is very trippy and the transition into The Other One is interesting.  The Other One itself is short but very good, so long as you don’t get frustrated with the now ubiquitous Bob Weir vocal effects.  This brings us to Dear Mr. Fantasy (average), Wharf Rat (above average for 1987), Lovelight (average) and a Quinn the Eskimo encore (average but always fun).

So, now we’ve spent two very different days at Red Rocks.  Anyone interested in seeing what happens tomorrow?

Here’s the soundboard for the show: