After a slight hiatus, we’re back in business. At least until the next break.
Today’s show is a normal 1987 Grateful Dead show in the familiar confines of the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in beautiful, downtown Oakland, California. (Hats off to 99% Invisible for that description). In this case, “normal” means very relaxed. There are lyrical flubs. Tempos vary widely. But it’s still a fun ride because it’s the Dead in 1987, in California, and what could be better than that? (Other than the Dead in California in 1967 or 1977 )?
Big Boss Man gets things rolling but Feel Like a Stranger is where the boys start feeling it. Things sound like they are very close to coming off the rails, but the band hangs on for a solid version of Stranger. It Must Have Been the Roses is one of my highlights of the night – the band’s tone is clean, and even though there are missteps, Jerry’s playing is crystalline. Everything else in the first set is copacetic until the set-closing Let It Grow, which is lights out. So, all in all, a nice start.
The second set opens with Scarlet Begonias. During the jam at the end of the song the band opens up some space and things become very quiet, right up to the moment that everyone throttles headlong into a jarring version of Hell in a Bucket. (Or maybe it’s Bob thundering ahead and the rest of the band going along for the ride). In either case, it’s always a strange night when Scarlet isn’t followed by Fire, so write this one down. (Note: It’s not as rare as you think, but still much rarer than Fire with no Scarlet).
He’s Gone follows into a very interesting Drums/Space that is another one of the night’s highlights, especially when Space merges into a pretty The Wheel. This is one of those transitions that you see coming and look forward to. Gimme Some Lovin’ is never great, but Morning Dew comes next and, although it’s nothing special (for a Morning Dew), it’s still a fantastic way to bring things towards the concluding All Along The Watchtower. And who doesn’t love a Black Muddy River encore?
If your expectations aren’t super high, this show is going to satisfy your 1987 cravings. If you’re not in a 1987 mood, well then you should probably look elsewhere.