Today’s show from the Fabulous Forum is pretty standard 1989 fare – the shorter songs tend to be nicely played and the jams can get a little disjointed, but when the band is on, they’re cooking.
The first set, which is incredibly short, opens with Let The Good Times Roll. Forgive me, but I’ve never heard the Grateful Dead play a version of this song that makes me feel like the good times are actually about to roll – if any of you have, please let me know. Thank God this one is followed by a pretty dank Feel Like a Stranger, which would have made a much better opener. Everything else in the first set hovers around par until we get to Blow Away.
Blow Away doesn’t sound like any other Dead tune out there, since it’s basically just the band droning away on the same chords while Brent improvises over them both vocally and on the organ. In form, at least, Blow Away is vaguely reminiscent of Pigpen era Lovelights, and, frankly, Brent tearing his heart out on this tune is much closer to where Pigpen was vocally then where Bob Weir is when he consistently ruins the revived Pigpen tunes in the 80’s and 90’s. Of course, whereas Pigpen was typically talking about love, in one form or another, in a positive light, Brent is more of a heartbreak guy, and tonight’s performance of Blow Away is loaded with that. It’s also the longest song in the entire show, depending on where He’s Gone ends and Drums begins, so, if you don’t like this kind of a thing, you’d better shut it off quick cause it’s gonna keep going. I enjoyed it tremendously. Clearly, the band feels like they’re not going to top it, and after a quick pause, they head offstage for the setbreak.
The band returns for what looks like a promising Help on the Way>Slipknot!>Franklin’s Tower. Unfortunately, the band could never quite manage Help on the Way and Slipknot during these later years and the playing is barely interesting. Franklin’s Tower is another story, with everyone engaged and Jerry charging ahead as if he’s glad to forget the faux intricacies of the first couple of tunes and just jam. Looks Like Rain follows and doesn’t really do much for me – the same goes for He’s Gone. After Drums / Space, Brent gets another shot and he brings tears to the eyes (in a good way) with I Will Take You Home. This transitions into a very nice The Other One that sounds like it comes from a different show entirely – the band is pulsating with energy here and the level of playing really rises into a good Wharf Rat. The rest, as usual, is going to rock and roll, but nothing truly interesting takes place.
If you’re a Brent guy or gal, you’re going to really love this show. There’s enough here for the rest of you to find something nice, too. Listen here: https://archive.org/details/gd1989-12-08.sbd.walker-scotton-miller.88398.sbeok.flac16