Tonight the Grateful Dead managed to put together a really surprising moment during Uncle John’s Band – a tender, truly unique ten-minute jam that features Jerry, Phil and the drummers gently passing musical ideas back and forth as the basic melody of the song guides things from the background. This comes after a nice Playin’ in the Band that follows a very-close-to-the-edge China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider – Jerry rips through this up-tempo version of the song pairing like it is 1973, but at times the drummers have a hard time keeping the pace consistent. That’s perfectly fine, since there is a strong energy here and some great soloing, despite the tempo issues. That this whole sequence comes in the second set of the show following a lackluster Way to Go Home opener says all that you need to know about the factors in play that make people doubt 1990’s Grateful Dead – if you’re tuning into this show and just start at the beginning of the second set, there’s a good chance you might not get further than the first song and you’ll miss all of the good stuff to come. And if you cash in your chips during Drums/Space, or even the I Need a Miracle that follows it, you’re going to miss out on a subtle Stella Blue, with Jerry playing fast-paced notes of delicate beauty as the song slowly builds to a conclusion.
There’s not a ton of surprises in the first set, but the boys are clearly having a fun night together at this hometown show. For me, the only song worth mentioning here is Deal, which ends the first set. Jerry just keeps going and going on this tune, and the whole things stretches out over almost ten minutes – in other words, it’s like getting two 1985 Deals for the price of one, and the pace is vaguely reminiscent of that fast fast year. So strap in for that one – otherwise, just enjoy the ride.
This is a great audience recording on a pretty interesting night for the Dead. Listen here: https://archive.org/details/gd93-12-18.aud.vernon.7277.sbeok.shnf