Tonight’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