Today in Grateful Dead History: August 25, 1993 – Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA

dancing-bearI’m one of those people who actually likes Jerry Garcia’s late-era guitar tone, a haunting, processed, pseudo-acoustic vibration that cuts right to the bone.  (Critics will rightly point to the “pseudo” as their ultimate reason for hating this sound).  But for me, it works.  Unfortunately, the rest of the 1993 Grateful Dead played instruments that didn’t sound anything like this, which makes Jerry sound like the guy playing a very loud classical guitar while Metallica grinds in the background.  And on a night when Jerry isn’t perfectly in-sync with his bandmates (like tonight and many other nights to come), the tonal differences within the band create tension and ultimately make everything sound even sloppier than it probably should.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I didn’t really enjoy this show.  The first set is pretty short (not unusual in 1993 land) and the only tune I found even faintly compelling was So Many Roads, which Jerry truly steps into, like he often did in these later years.  The rest is a jumble.

The second set begins with a 24 minute Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain.  No one in the band seems to be listening to each other, and while there is plenty of soloing, I think that it falls on the linguine side of the noodling spectrum.  Estimated Prophet is another one of those 90’s cool-jazz versions, again with lots of noodling, mostly from Vince.  Following this, we’ve got an 18 minute Terrapin Station.  If you thought that the first three songs of the set were repetitive, wait until you get to this one . . . 18 minutes of Terrapin . . . In 1993 . . . 18 minutes of Terrapin . . . In 1993 . . . Out of Drums/Space, All Along the Watchtower sounds like it might turn into something good, with a neat little Jerry riff leading into the main body of the song, but when the band comes in, yeesh.

Yup, it’s one of those nights . . . Listen here: https://archive.org/details/gd1993-08-25.mtx.hansokolow.106287.flac16

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Today in Grateful Dead History: June 5, 1993 – Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ

giantsstealieI went out on a limb and chose a hometown show from 1993 over what looked to be better options from 1980, 1970 and most definitely 1969 and was rewarded with the live debut of Easy Answers.

I’m only half kidding.  Easy Answers is pretty terrible, both here in its first incarnation and in each of the subsequent 43 versions.   To make things worse, the band drops this premiere right in the middle of what sounds like an OK version of The Music Never Stopped.  As in, as soon as Bob Weir sings “The music never stopped”, the band plays the three note bump, bump, bah, and then we’re treated to the opening notes of a new and almost universally loathed tune. So . . . strike two.  But after the boys work their way through this ragged performance, they transition very smoothly back into The Music Never Stopped, where Jerry gets to let his frustrations out with a ripping solo as if nothing had ever happened, which is a pretty cool way of dealing with things and makes for a interesting and unique listen.

As most devoted listeners know, the Dead really began slipping in 1993 and the success of the shows seemed to depend almost entirely upon which Jerry showed up – strung out Jerry or engaged and enthused Jerry.  Well, tonight’s Jerry came to shred, which he does with unfettered abandon for almost all of the 11 minutes and 45 seconds of Fire of the Mountain, a scorching bit of playing that stacks up very nicely against a lot of the fast moving earl 80’s Fires that we all love.  But that’s not all.  Tonight’s show also boasts an above-average-for-any-era Sugaree (clocking in at over 14 minutes) and a nicely done Candy Man.   There is also an Estimated Prophet that appears with a thud after a good Crazy Fingers.  This Estimated features some good keyboard atmospherics and a mid-song, full-band crescendo of sound that wells up out of nowhere and disappears a little while later having induced a double-take.  Near the end, the band even displays some beautiful jamming out of Space and into a chugging The Other One.

In fact, as far as 1993 shows go, this one seems to be pretty darn cool, which is surprising if you read most of the comments on the Archive, which focus on the rain and one particular guy who apparently jumped off the upper deck (and survived).  Someone purporting to be the jumper actually comments on the show – he’s still all about the music!  Unfortunately, none of the audience recordings are any good and the soundboard appears to be the monitor mix, with Vince turned up really high throughout.  Still, if you’re looking for ’93 Dead, this will satisfy and more.

Listen here:  https://archive.org/details/gd93-06-05.sbd.wiley.8328.sbeok.shnf

Today in Grateful Dead History: September 13, 1993 – The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA

dancing-bearScarlet Begonias>Fire On The Mountain>Playing In The Band>Dark Star>Terrapin Station>Drums>Space.  That’s the first hour and ten minutes of the second set of this show from the Spectrum in 1993.  Do you really need to know much more?

OK, fine, since it’s 1993 and the Dead’s performances during this year were somewhat, shall we say, nuanced, I’ll give you a couple of additional details.

The Scarlet>Fire is fine but not mind-bending.  It’s a great way to get things moving and Jerry does some nice playing here and there.  The Playin’>Dark Star is really nice, especially the transition.  The Dark Star itself is only five and a half minutes long, but it’s a good five and a half minutes, with Vince’s organ work at the beginning making it sound more like a Pigpen Dark Star.  Then we get Terrapin Station, one of only two times that the Grateful Dead ever played Terrapin out of Dark Star.  This too is a neat transition, and the crowd goes pretty wild with glee.  Terrapin is above average for 1993, but Drums / Space is tremendous, with Vince and Jerry riffing on the Tubular Bells theme for a while during Space.

Now because it’s 1993, you all know what’s coming after Space, right?  Easy Answers>Days Between>Good Lovin’ with an I Fought the Law encore.  How on earth do you start a set with Scarlet>Fire>Playin’>Dark Star>Terrapin and then end it with this?  Because you’re 1993 Grateful Dead, that’s why.

First set: average in every way.  If you like Hell In A Bucket, Jack-A-Roe, The Same Thing, Stagger Lee, Black Throated Wind, Dire Wolf and/or Let It Grow, then these versions aren’t going to bother you.  If you don’t like these songs (really the only clunker, setlist-wise, is The Same Thing), then don’t listen to the first set because this show isn’t going to make you change your opinion.  Jerry’s guitar tone, as it is throughout this tour, is, in my opinion, fantastic.

At the end of the day, we’ve got an hour of pretty epic Grateful Dead music here, and, given the year, that makes this show (at the least the first part of the second set) a keeper.

Listen here:  https://archive.org/details/gd1993-09-13.sbd.miller.34030.flac16

Today in Grateful Dead History: May 22, 1993 – Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA

stealie NOTE: 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.

After saying yesterday that I usually pick 90’s shows based on their setlists, I go and choose this 1993 performance, with a very strange second set, as my next show.

Honestly, I got sidetracked by the first Supplication since 1984 and I didn’t notice what was or wasn’t happening later on. Check this out: Foolish Heart, Women Are Smarter, Ship of Fools, Corinna>Drums>Jam>The Last Time, Stella Blue, One More Saturday Night, E: I Fought The Law. I don’t know if I’ve listened to a full show with so little opportunity for extended playing. There’s a little noodling at the end of Foolish Heart and again after the heart of Corinna (this is the only “jammy” part of the whole show), but otherwise the second set just breezes by. Even the Mississippi Half Step that opens the show is truncated.

When this happens, I would hope that the songs would be well played, but there are lyrical flubs all over. Musically, things aren’t horrible here, and the strange bongo/toms intro to Foolish Heart made me take notice, but there’s nothing else of note going on.

Get the soundboard here: https://archive.org/details/gd1993-05-22.127320.nak300.bowen.flac16

Today In Grateful Dead History: March 11, 1993 – Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, IL

dancing-bearThis is one massively uneven show.  It starts with a very well executed Help on the Way>Slipknot!>Franklin’s Tower, but it also features a train wreck of The Music Never StoppedIko Iko is a great, up-tempo second set opener, followed by Wave to the Wind, an impossibly bland song that begins with a stolen Peter Gabriel riff and devolves from there.

The capstone to the whole affair is the second set sequence of Truckin’>Spoonful>He’s Gone>Drums>Space>The Other One.  The transitions between these pieces are all good, and there is some nice playing at the end of Truckin’ into Spoonful and again at the end of He’s Gone.  The band is joined by poet Ken Nordine during Space, and his unique voice works really well with the music here.  Once this segment is complete, the band plays Days Between, which you’ll either love or hate, depending on your relationship to that song.  The Liberty encore is fun, too.

This is a take it or leave it performance, but the beginning works really well and the poetry is a welcome twist in the second set.  Listen to the pretty muddy soundboard here:  https://archive.org/details/gd93-03-11.sbd.wharfrat.10383.sbeok.shnf

Today In Grateful Dead History: December 9, 1993 – Los Angeles Sports Arena, Los Angeles, CA

dancing-bearTonight was a night for guest stars, with legendary free jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman joining the Dead for half of the second set and jazz vocalist Flora Purim and legendary fusion drummer Airto Moreira sitting in with the band on Drums and Space.

Even without the guests, this show is far superior to last night’s performance at the same venue, with an in-sync and clearly “on” Grateful Dead.  The first set crackles with energy, so even though there are a bunch of missed lyrics, we’re still able to enjoy up-tempo songs like Touch of Grey and Loose LucyDon’t Ease Me In closes out the set with a bang.

The second set is where the real deal goes down, opening with a really funky version of China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider.  Jerry solos all over the place on these tunes, and, unlike yesterday, his playing is focused and true.  This is good 1993 stuff.  Estimated Prophet follows and achieves peak 1977 haziness sixteen years later.  Vince pulls out all the stops here and his contribution is better than decent.

Drums / Space with Purim and Moreira is fine.  As with some of their other appearances with the band, it’s hard to hear Moreira’s contributions due to the sound quality of the recording, but Purim adds some truly haunting vocals to SpaceSpace is also where Coleman pops up, and it’s the best sound we’re going to get out of him because he frustratingly falls back into the muddy mix once the rest of the band arrives for the transition into The Other One, which is nicely done.  You’ll pick up hints of Coleman during Wharf Rat and Turn on Your Lovelight, all of it very cool.  In all fairness, The Other One (the 1993 version), Wharf Rat and Lovelight (the 1993 version) don’t seem like they’re exactly Ornette’s bread and butter tunes since these songs don’t really go out into the “free-er” realms very often in these later years.  But, on the other hand, these songs must have done something for Coleman, because he also played The Other One and Lovelight at the 2/23/93 show at Oakland Coliseum. (Ornette played on Space in Oakland too – that’s a no-brainer Ornette Coleman scenario).

This is a good 1993 show, and I’m somewhat surprised that there aren’t more reviews of the performance on the Archive, especially given the guests.  No worries, it can be your secret favorite 1993 show.  Here it is:  https://archive.org/details/gd1993-12-09.sbd.miller.91958.sbeok.flac16

Today In Grateful Dead History: December 8, 1993 – Los Angeles Sports Arena, Los Angeles, CA

dancing-bearPlease forget that the Grateful Dead played Rain (the Beatles song, not Looks Like Rain, the Grateful Dead song) into Let The Good Times Roll to start this show at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, former home of the Clippers.  Just skip over that sequence completely and act like it’s not there.

In our alternate universe, this concert begins with the breakout of I’m a King Bee, a Pigpen song that hadn’t seen the light of day since 1971.  It’s nice to hear I’m a King Bee again.  What a way to start a show!

We’re going to breeze over the next few tunes until we arrive at Lazy River Road, one of those late Jerry tunes, like Standing on the Moon, that seems purposefully built for his 90’s voice (and probably was).  Lazy River Road comes off well here, as does When I Paint My Masterpiece.  Those are your first half highlights.

Can Iko Iko be a highlight?  Doesn’t it deserve a chance to be a highlight after all this time consigned to the end of the bench?  Well tonight, Iko Iko, is YOUR night, because you are the top player of the second half of this show, even though you’re on the floor with stars like Playin’ in the Band and Uncle John’s Band and even Morning Dew.  Tonight, Iko Iko, you shined (and the starters played like crap).

Drums / Space was pretty good too.

Listen here:  https://archive.org/details/gd1993-12-08.sbd.miller.83399.flac16