After some really interesting listening over the past few weeks, we’ve arrived at the opening run of the Grateful Dead’s 1995 spring tour, which began with three shows in Salt Lake City. Tonight’s show is also 1995’s contribution to 30 Trips Around the Sun, and it seems to have always been held in fairly high regard as far as 1995 shows go. Like I said in my review of opening night, the playing here is not bad, although it tends to avoid risks. I’m guessing here, but I think that part of the interest in this show stems from the rarities in the set list, because a bunch of the “normal” songs aren’t really anything special.
Rarities, you say? Such as?
Well, for starters, the Dead’s first and only performance of Salt Lake City. This song, off of Bob Weir’s solo effort Heaven Help the Fool, was played by other Bob Weir bands over the years, but only this once by the Grateful Dead. It’s not a spectacular performance by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s an “only time played” so it’s worth hearing. And Jerry, as if to cash in on the venue specific references, follows it with Friend of the Devil, so he can sing about Utah too.
The rest of the first set moves along just fine (Broken Arrow, despite Phil’s vocals, sounds great instrumentally) until a really high quality version of Black Throated Wind ups the stakes. Jerry follows with a lyrically problematic So Many Roads that hits the right musical marks. See a trend? The set closes with a very good 1995 Music Never Stopped.
The second set opens with a fantastic version of Foolish Heart. I’ve listened to it twice and enjoyed it both times through. There is some really nuanced jamming towards the end and the vocals aren’t bad either. It’s a good start to the second set that even Samba in the Rain can’t completely ruin. Truckin’ is still Truckin’ and it slides right into our second unusual song of the night, the first I Just Want To Make Love To You since 1984. This is the fourth and last time that the Dead would play this song, and Jerry takes it deep into the blues swamp. There’s something about Jerry’s voice and these blues songs that clicks here at the end of the line. Life experience, I suppose. This transitions into That Would Be Something, given a very open, sparse reading here, before Drums and Space.
When Space winds down we’re treated to the third and final rarity of the evening, the first Visions of Johanna since 1986. Although the Dead would play this Bob Dylan masterpiece a few more times in 1995, tonight’s version is held out by commentators as the best one. Now, I’ll say this about this song – it’s one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs of all time, and while, in general, I think the Dead play Bob Dylan covers better than almost any other band, I’m not going to give this one the automatic thumbs up. It’s fine. I’m sure Jerry screwed up a bunch of the words (who wouldn’t), but the song is so long, I didn’t have time to check. It doesn’t matter, in the end. The feeling is there, and that’s what counts. But don’t expect a classic, that’s all I’m saying.
The night winds down with a Sugar Magnolia marred by sound problems and then a very spirited version of Liberty that I’m still humming an hour later. I know that song gets maligned, but Jerry seemed to like it, and I do too.
Well, there you have it – a pretty good show in 1995. The best? I don’t know. But you’re probably not going to get a better Foolish Heart during this year, and the surprise songs make for an interesting listen. Which you can do, here: https://archive.org/details/gd1995-02-21.sbd.miller.114144.flac16