Today in Grateful Dead History: December 5, 1992 – Compton Terrace Amphitheater, Tempe, AZ

stealieThe Grateful Dead ended up canceling their entire 1992 fall tour in order to once again nurse Jerry Garcia back to health and they didn’t get back on the road until December 2nd, so the band is well rested and Jerry is in good health tonight in Tempe.  It shows during this relatively conservative, minimal-mistake show.

Outside of the usual Drums / Space (which seem to only get better as the Dead get worse), the band plays things close to the vest tonight, but that’s ok.  We’re treated to solid, first-set versions of Hell in a Bucket (lyrics are a bit of a problem here) and Sugaree, Minglewood is a scorcher and Candyman is fun too.  Don’t expect much from the set-ending Music Never Stopped and you won’t be disappointed.

The second set opens with Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain.  You can hear what the boys are trying to do here, it just seems like they’re reaching for something out of range.  The songs don’t fall to pieces, and the transition between them is enjoyable, but transcendence is in short supply.  They fare a little better during Estimated Prophet which, being a tried and true Bob Weir driven song, always seems like a solid tune during the 90’s.  At this point, we get spacey with an almost half hour Drums / Space.  The piece itself is fine, but it definitely destroys the band’s momentum, and when The Wheel arrives, there is no more oomph there.  Ditto the perfunctory All Along The Watchtower and Black Peter that precede One More Saturday Night.  There is a little redemption with The Weight as an encore, but overall the second set is a bit of a letdown after the promising beginning.

Fans of the band had something to be grateful for during this tour – a healthy Jerry Garcia and a relatively engaged band giving it their all on most nights.  It just seems as if the Dead couldn’t really find their true footing here tonight.

The audience recording of this show needs a little work on the high end of the EQ, but once you find the sweet spot, you’ll enjoy it:


Today in Grateful Dead History: June 29, 1992 – Deer Creek Music Center, Noblesville, IN

stealieThis short show recorded on a wonderful sounding audience tape doesn’t have a lot of highlights but it won’t leave you wishing you’d never heard it, either.

I’m not kidding when I say that this is a short one – the first set is only about 50 minutes long and the second set is about an hour and ten minutes including Drums and Space.  This obviously means that there isn’t a lot of jamming today and a quick look at the setlist will show you why – other than Corrina and The Other One, there are really no platforms for extended exploration here.

The first set just kind of rolls on by without any fireworks, although on Desolation Row it’s pleasant to hear Jerry noodling away behind Bob’s impassioned vocals.  However, something kicks in at the very end and everyone boosts it up a notch for the set-ending Deal, which accelerates quickly and doesn’t let up throughout.

The energy dips again at the start of the second set, with a messy Box of Rain opener into Victim or the Crime, which almost never raises the roof and doesn’t here, either, although as far as Victims go, this one isn’t half bad.  You know it’s going to be a quiet night when Ship of Fools follows and then Corrina, which never really takes off.  After Drums/Space, we’re in for The Other One, which is one of those The Other Ones that you can hear coming from the middle of Drums.  Once there, however, the band is pretty sloppy and nothing interesting comes of it.  Then we’re into the second Jerry ballad of the second set, a standard Stella Blue with some slight guitar miscues at the end that mar an otherwise sweet sounding exit solo.  Sugar Magnolia is typical but there’s a nice Brokedown Palace encore to leave everyone satisfied.

The best thing about this show is the recording, even if there are a couple of flips here and there.  This is a very well done taping job, with awesome instrument separation and clear drums and vocals.  It’s worth hearing just to get a sense of what a nice AUD can do.  Check it out here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: May 31, 1992 – Sam Boyd Silver Bowl, Las Vegas, NV

stealieI’ll be honest with you, faithful readers.  I was intrigued by today’s setlist, which features Help On The Way>Slipknot!>Franklin’s Tower, Bird SongScarlet Begonias>Fire On The MountainAttics Of My Life>Spoonful>The Other One>Morning Dew (with Spoonful through Dew featuring Steve Miller, to boot) and a Baba O’Riley>Tomorrow Never Knows encore.  But I was concerned about that ’92 hanging around.  No need to worry – this show delivered the goods.

The post-Drums segment of this show, which is often the dumping ground for a Jerry ballad and some Bob Weir rockin’, is an incredible performance, starting with a lyrically and harmonically adept Attics of My Life (one of only three played in 1992).  Steve Miller then appears on the scene as the band rips into Spoonful, which sets the table for a fascinating, pulsing The Other One and a magnificent Morning Dew.  Although Miller’s contributions here (like many other guitar playing guests during these years) are hard to hear in the mix at times, he definitely charges the band, forcing Jerry to up his game tremendously, especially on Morning Dew.  The Miller-less encores, which, if you know this band’s history with Beatles and Who covers doesn’t bode well, are actually really good – the Dead’s spin on Baba O’Riley in particular is worth hearing.

It’s funny that, given the heat (Vegas at the end of May – seriously?), the boys get better as the show goes on, but that’s definitely the case today.  The beginning of the night is okay, but Jerry is having equipment issues that seriously detract from Help>Slip>Franklin’s.  The quieter trio of It Must Have Been the Roses, Queen Jane Approximately and Bird Song are the best parts of the first set, as if the band is testing the heat and not trying to exert itself too much.  The Bird Song is appropriately exploratory but nothing special.

This leads us to the start of set two (this was a long show), with Scarlet>Fire among other songs, some good, some not so much.  So Many Roads into Saint of Circumstance seems like an odd choice, but Bob makes the most of it and this is the point where you can feel the energy start to shift, leading into a delicate He’s Gone and then Drums/Space.  If you don’t have a lot of time to listen today, start with Saint and go from there to the end and you’ll have a nice 80 – 90 minutes from a pretty darn good 1992 desert show.

Today in Grateful Dead History: May 21, 1992 – Cal Expo Amphitheater, Sacramento, CA

stealieNOTE:  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.

I try to pick shows from the 90’s based on their setlists and this show, from the Cal Expo Amphitheater in 1992, doesn’t have any songs that I dislike. (The same can’t be said for today’s 1993 show from Shoreline featuring Eternity, Liberty AND Way To Go Home. Yikes.)

So, about this show . . . The first set is fine, but nothing to write about. The second set actually has a neat Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain>Estimated Prophet>He’s Gone with a cool transition between Scarlet & Fire and a tinkly little jam into He’s Gone (the actual moment of transition, however, is quite abrupt). Standing on the Moon is one of my favorite Jerry ballads from this era, but he forgets the lyrics of the first verse and never really recovers. The show ends with Lovelight and a Gloria encore to get your feet tapping.

I think that when it comes to the later shows, we’re clearly spoiled by the quality of what came before. If I handed this show to an open minded person who knew nothing of the Dead, I think that they would enjoy it without trying to compare it to the shows from this day in ’74 or ’77 or even ’82 that they were missing. I certainly didn’t want to shut it off.

Here’s the Charlie Miller soundboard transfer:

Today In Grateful Dead History: March 9, 1992 – Capital Center, Landover, MD

terrapinBruce Hornsby’s time as a member of the Grateful Dead was coming to a close when the band pulled into Maryland for this show, and throughout this performance we’re reminded time and again of what an important contribution he made to the Dead’s early 90’s sound.

Bruce is all over this recording and all for the better, as his ideas tonight are incredible.  There are definitely some moments of musical tension when the very-high-in-the-mix Bruce seems to push the lower-in-the-mix Vince out of the way, but these events are fleeting and everyone gets on the same page again pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, despite Bruce’s performance tonight, the show itself is pretty short and uninspired.  The first set, in particular, is devoid of any true highlights, although none of the songs are train wrecks.  The second set has some interesting moments, especially at the end of Corrina when Jerry leaves the stage for a few minutes and the band improvises until he returns and launches into a very sparse Dark StarDrums is a typical version, but Space is long and reaches some pretty interesting places, driven, again, by Bruce, until the band flies into an energetic version of I Need a MiracleMorning Dew comes next, and the first part is seriously marred by forgotten lyrics and some really off tempo playing from Jerry.  Fortunately, the band recovers, and the second portion of the song is decent.  Satisfaction is the encore, and, at least to my ears, it’s one of the better versions I’ve heard, so long as you don’t mind the Bob Weir shrieks (I don’t).

All of you Bruce Hornsby fans should definitely check this show out – the haters should stay far away.  Listen here:

Today In Grateful Dead History: February 23, 1992 – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA

terrapinI haven’t spent a lot of time writing about 1992 and I don’t have a really good excuse, so despite better available shows for this date in history, I chose this show from Oakland.  And you know what?  It’s not that bad.

The first set definitely favors the Bob Weir songs and his guitar is turned up nicely in the mix.  Bob was kicking ass at this show – example A being his incredible fills during Peggy-O and example B being his enthusiastic rendering of Black Throated Wind.

There were two live debuts tonight.  The first, Way to Go Home, was a Vince song that featured Jerry playing guitar like a Smooth-era Carlos Santana, which is all you need to know.  The second premiere was Corrina, a song which on its finer days actually gave the band a decent platform for musical experimentation, and they take full advantage of that here.  Please disregard the out of tune vocals and wait for the second half of the song, with literal Hendrix licks from Jerry and a lot of interesting and well played ideas from the rest of the band.

The second set features a really good setlist, opening with China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider and then moving into Playin’ in the Band>Terrapin Station.  I definitely didn’t expect Terrapin to be the highlight of those four songs, but there is some pretty good playing at the end before an inspired Drums featuring Hamza El-Din.  The remainder of the show is fine, with Stella Blue serving as the emotional anchor before the Throwing Stones>Not Fade Away rave up to end things.

This is not bad stuff and the Corrina is worth noting.  Check it out on a very good audience recording here: