Today in Grateful Dead History: August 18, 1989 – Greek Theater, Berkeley, CA

dancing-bearTonight’s show is the middle night of the Dead’s final stand at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, a place they played every year from 1981 on but outgrew as the decade came to an end.  The Greek shows, like a lot of the Grateful Dead’s Bay Area performances, tend to be a little laid back, but this easy-going vibe usually translates into fun performances, like this one (and the previous night’s show).

Brent Myland is all over this performance tonight, almost always making the songs better.  For instance, on the very good version of Iko Iko that opens the second set, Brent tips things over the edge into the stellar category.  However, his playing during the first set’s Row Jimmy is a little disorganized and gives the song a slightly slipshod feel.  Everyone else is playing well, and the song doesn’t suffer so much as it never achieves what it could.  He’s much more dialed in on the very sweet version of When I Paint My Masterpiece.  The Dead do some serious exploring on Bird Song (a great song for this kind of thing in 1989) and the first set closer, The Promised Land, is piping hot.

As I’ve said before, Terrapin Station is not one of my favorite live Dead songs, although it has its moments.  Tonight’s version is a full on assault on the back half of the song and it holds our attention from beginning to end.  One of the cooler moments of the evening takes place when the band transitions out of Space and into a special version of Crazy Fingers that just ends perfectly.  Stella Blue has a similar magic about it tonight.  And of course, those encores – Black Muddy River and a rare And We Bid You Goodnight are both amazing.

There are many good versions of this show on the Archive – I stuck with this soundboard, but feel free to experiment:  https://archive.org/details/gd89-08-18.sbd.bertha.9964.sbefail.shnf

Today in Grateful Dead History: July 19, 1989 – Alpine Valley Music Theater, East Troy, WI

dancing-bearThis has been a good week for shows, with this explosive 1989 joint taking its place right alongside some good 70’s material from Monday and Tuesday.

Sugaree makes it clear where things are headed tonight – it’s tight, loud and expressive and not at all aimless.  Jerry continues ripping on Althea, too.  Victim or the Crime, not one of my favorite songs by any stretch of the imagination, is really on tonight, with lots of strange melodies and clashing tones.  Desolation Row features some truly nuanced singing from Bob and the set-closing Deal burns the place down.  And that’s just the first set.

The second set of this soggy night’s performance opens with an appropriate Box of Rain followed by Foolish Heart and Looks Like Rain as Bob’s contribution to the weather themed material.  This is a good version for fans of the song .  Terrapin Station comes next and flies high, with a great jam.  After Drums/Space, The Other One>The Wheel is an awesome combo, but it’s just the warmup for a stellar Morning Dew.  Jerry puts everything into it for the brave folks in the summer rain, and the ending sequence of solos stretches on and on for what seems like endless, pleasurable ages.  This is a really good Morning Dew – add it to the roster of heavy hitters.  The party ends with a fired-up Turn on Your Lovelight, one of only six times this tune pops up as an encore, and the Dead make it a good one, stretching things out for over 10 minutes.

None of these recordings is perfect, so I’m going Matrix.  You need to hear it:  https://archive.org/details/gd1989-07-19.mat.tobin.125861.flac16

Today in Grateful Dead History: October 12, 1989 – Brendan Byrne Arena, East Rutherford, NJ

dancing-bearI’ll be honest with you, fellow travelers.  Today’s show from the Meadowlands just kind of glided right by.

Blow Away caught my attention, but I think that’s just due to the driving thrust of the music and Brent’s cursing.  There was nothing unique about this particular performance of the tune.  Bird Song was fairly long, but, again, not really very interesting.  A funny moment came during Cumberland Blues, when Bob hopped on Jerry’s line “A lot of poor men got the Cumberland Blues”.  There’s a pause, and then Jerry takes over the lyric, signing it a second time.  But that’s about it for the interesting stuff here.  Looks Like Rain>He’s Gone>Drums>Space>The Other One>Wharf Rat has potential, and nothing is wrong with the sequence, but we’re not achieving liftoff here, either.  Oh well.

This matrix recording sounds pretty good, though:  https://archive.org/details/gd1989-10-12.mtx.hansokolow.96790.flac16

Today in Grateful Dead History: August 17, 1989 – Greek Theater, Berkeley, CA

dancing-bearThe setlist for today’s show at the Greek Theater does not inspire confidence, but the Dead deliver a punchy, fun show at one of their favorite venues none the less.

The first few songs of the first set get off to a slippery start with the drummers feeling their way blindly through an otherwise fun Sugaree.  The band sorts itself out with Jack-A-Roe and Queen Jane Approximately, and they really ramp up during The Music Never Stopped>Don’t Ease Me In.  The force of the jam in The Music Never Stopped builds until Bob and Brent are basically drowning out Jerry with wave after wave of sound, but it’s a great roller coaster ride while it lasts.

Now here comes the second set:  Touch Of Grey>Man Smart (Woman Smarter), Ship Of Fools, Estimated Prophet>Eyes Of The World>Drums>Space>The Wheel>Gimme Some Lovin’>Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad>Good Lovin’.  Hmm.  Not a great platform for sonic exploration, huh?  The good news is that these songs are all well played and the transition from Space into The Wheel is sweet.  If you like Ship of Fools (and who doesn’t?) then you’ll like this one, too.  Beyond that, I think it was probably great to be sitting outdoors at the Greek on a summer’s night in 1989, listening to the Dead rock out without excuses.  But if you came for the jamming, you came to the wrong place.

Here’s the Charlie Miller soundboard:  https://archive.org/details/gd1989-08-17.sbd.walker-scotton.miller.83773.sbeok.flac16

Today in Grateful Dead History: May 27, 1989 – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Stadium, Oakland, CA

stealie NOTE: This material was originally published in 2015 on my previous site. It has been updated and edited, sometimes heavily, and was posted in several batches in September, 2016.

On this day in 1989, the Dead headlined an AIDS benefit at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Stadium that also featured Tower of Power, Joe Satriani, Los Lobos, Tracy Chapman and John Fogerty.

I first discovered this show because Jerry and Bob played guitar for the John Fogerty set along with future American Idol judge Randy Jackson on bass, Steve Jordan on drums and Clarence Clemons on sax for Susie Q and Long Tall Sally. Although the Dead members just play backup for Fogerty, he’s in great voice and everyone is having a really good time.

The Dead’s show, which is actually two full sets, is a little bit of a comedown, energy wise, but what wouldn’t be compared to Fogerty? Clarence Clemons joins the band for a significant portion of this show, and while it’s interesting stuff, Clemons doesn’t come close to what Branford Marsalis pulled off the following year. Still, as a long-time Springsteen fan, it’s awesome to hear the Big Man, and this collaboration is made all the better since Bill Kreutzmann revealed that Jerry, Bob and Clemons considered buying a place together around this time. To be a fly on the wall . . .

The second set of the show is made notable by a Fire on the Mountain sans Scarlet Begonias, a good version of I Will Take You Home and a sentimental Brokedown Palace encore. Listening to the band here, you get the feeling that they are getting ready to explode, but they’re not quite there yet. It will come soon enough as spring turns to summer.

UPDATE: I was distracted the first time through the end of this show, so here are some additional thoughts upon further review. The Wharf Rat, while sloppy, is a forceful version with the whole band really getting after it prior to the final verse. It’s a pretty cool take on the song. In addition, the Lovelight with Clarence is fun too, and his solo in place of Jerry on Brokedown Palace adds another layer of emotion to the song.

You can hear the Dead’s complete show here: https://archive.org/details/gd1989-05-27.sbd.walker-scotton.miller.87604.sbeok.flac16

Today In Grateful Dead History: October 26, 1989 – Miami Arena, Miami, FL

dancing-bearI’ve been away for a few days – it’s nice to come back with this classic 1989 show that was selected to be a part of the 30 Trips Around the Sun box set.

If you read the comments on the Archive, you’ll find out very quickly that this show was considered a “spooky” show with a really menacing vibe in the arena that apparently freaked a lot of people out.  It’s hard to pick up on that vibe on the recording of the first set (it starts with Foolish Heart, a relentlessly upbeat – at least musically – song and ends with Don’t Ease Me In), but the second set certainly has a dissonant feeling, due in large part to the very spacey 28 minute Dark Star.  This song meanders along for a while before exploding into a very atonal experiment, with sound effects galore and several incredibly heavy passages with screeching feedback, crazy piano thumpings and drum fills.  Add to this stew Jerry’s slurred, tired-sounding vocal delivery and you have a very dangerous Dark Star indeed.  The last fifteen minutes could very easily be called Space because we’ve lost all semblance of the Dark Star melody, but whatever you choose to call it, it’s an intense piece of music, and probably my favorite Dark Star of the year.

The second set has several other “freaky” sounding bits.  Before we even arrive at Dark Star, we hear a pulsating Estimated Prophet that leads into a super pissed off version of Blow Away, with Brent swearing at the world and the whole band smashing along behind him.  Fortunately, after Drums/Space >The Wheel>All Along the Watchtower (also kind of creepy sounding)>Stella Blue, we get a thrilling Not Fade Away that brings everyone back to earth before And We Bid You Goodnight as an encore.

So there it is – an intense South Florida show that deserves repeated listening, if you’re in the mood for something a little angrier than your typical Grateful Dead concert.

Here is a matrix version, which I think picks up a little more of the vibe than the soundboard:  https://archive.org/details/gd1989-10-26.125695.mtx.dusborne.flac16

Today In Grateful Dead History: October 9, 1989 – Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA

dancing-bearToday’s show is a legendary 1989 Grateful Dead performance from the Hampton Coliseum that signaled the return of Dark Star to the band’s touring repertoire after a fifteen year absence.  (The band played Dark Star five times between 1975 and 1988, but from here on out it was frequently performed).  On the basis of Dark Star alone, Hampton ’89 holds a special place in many hearts.  But there is a lot more to this show than just that resurrection.

As I described yesterday, the October 8th and 9th shows in Hampton were performed under the name The Warlocks and are widely regarded as some of the best gigs of the 80’s.  While I don’t think that either show quite fits the bill as a once-in-a-decade performance (especially not the 8th), tonight’s concert does stand out as one of the best of the late 80’s.  The band is much tighter than yesterday, and the jams have some legitimate heft behind them.

For instance, the second set begins with Playin’ in the Band>Uncle John’s Band>Playin’ in the Band>Dark Star and this entire sequence is soaked in wonderful passages and intricate moments of genuine musicianship, especially during the transition from Playin’ to Uncle John’s Band and at the height of Dark Star, which stretches for almost 20 minutes, something that didn’t always happen in the years to come.  But even if you discount the jammier portions of the show, the rest holds up as a very high caliber outing, in contrast to yesterday’s mistake-filled romp.  You hear this from the first notes of Feel Like a Stranger – everyone is tight and ready to go.  Little Red Rooster features several great solos and Row Jimmy is a slow simmering beast.

But the best “short” song of the night, in my estimation, is Death Don’t Have No Mercy, a song that got a fair amount of play in the late 60’s, only to be retired in early 1970 before resurfacing nineteen years later at the September 29th show at the Shoreline Amphitheater.  In the pre-internet days, it’s likely that a lot of the folks at this show wouldn’t have had any idea that this song was played in California, and you can hear the excitement ripple through the crowd when they first figure out that they aren’t hearing Morning Dew. They’re rewarded with a smoking, swampy version of the tune, with Brent just killing it on organ and vocals.

After all of this, we get the icing on the cake – the first Attics of My Life since 1972, with the Coliseum going bonkers.  I’m not going to pretend that the harmonies are just exactly perfect, but they are damn close given the circumstances, and it’s an incredible way to end a monster show.

There are lots of ways to enjoy this performance.  For instance, you could actually purchase the official release.  But barring that, here’s the Charlie Miller soundboard:  https://archive.org/details/gd1989-10-09.sbd.miller.32902.sbeok.flac16