After three years off, the Grateful Dead returned to the Hampton Coliseum for two shows on March 5th and 6th that would serve as the band’s curtain call at this fan favorite arena.
At lot had changed since the Dead played two well-received, under the radar shows as “Formerly The Warlocks” in the fall of 1989. (You can read about them here and here). Brent Mydland died in 1990 and Bruce Hornsby and Vince Welnick shared keyboard duties ever since. That was about to change, as Bruce left the Grateful Dead at the end of this month, leaving Vince alone behind the keys until the bitter end.
The two-keyboard version of the Grateful Dead opened up a lot of wonderful musical options for the group, but it also tended to bog down the playing in layers and layers of sound, which is certainly the case here in Hampton. Most of the overplaying tonight can be traced to Vince, who is turned up in the mix, but when Hornsby joins in, things get really muddy on stage. (If you want a good example of this problem, please advance all the way to the show-closing Sugar Magnolia. Truckin’, which has the perfect spirit, is also larded with keys). The Dead’s sound isn’t helped by the on again, off again mixing of Bob Weir, an almost non-existent Phil Lesh and serious over saturation on the vocals. When Jerry is engaged, he sounds fine.
The start of the second set is a nice sequence of songs that the Dead play well tonight: New Speedway Boogie>Truckin’>Crazy Fingers>Corinna. The fans seems really excited to hear New Speedway Boogie and the boys don’t disappoint, with Jerry’s laid-back delivery fitting right in with the leisurely pace of the tune. Truckin’, despite the piano issues, is more fast-paced, and is one of the only places where you can hear Phil play – in this case, he engages in a game of cat and mouse with Jerry until Crazy Fingers begins. This is a minimalist version, and the outro solo isn’t overwhelming, but it’s still a fine version. Corinna is in its infancy here, having debuted on February 23rd, and it shows – the band is a little hesitant, especially during the instrumental parts. But you can sense where the Dead are going to take it in the coming months.
The first set is a typical, short, 1992 Grateful Dead first set with few surprises and not a lot of mistakes, either. If you’re looking for the highlights, I would take Maggie’s Farm and Bird Song, but the latter really doesn’t fly as high as some other versions from this era. If you’re looking to skip tunes, there is no reason to listen from Drums through the end of the show – the band loses momentum quickly tonight and they play out the clock during the final quarter.
This is a fairly representative 1992 show – it’s listenable and somewhat engaging, but it’s not going anywhere you haven’t been before.
Listen here: https://archive.org/details/gd1992-03-06.131577.sbd.healy.wise.flac1648/s1t006.flac