Today in Grateful Dead History: April 2, 1993 – Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York

dancing-bearI missed last week and will surely miss more – sorry about that.

We’re back today with a show from 1993, a year that I don’t seem to find myself thinking about very often – it’s kind of the black hole of the 90s where things aren’t usually that great but they also aren’t remarkably bad.

Today’s show is a classic of the genre – it starts with a pretty fair version of Help on the Way>Slipknot!>Franklin’s Tower and the second set is highlighted by an entertaining Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain.  But before and after those pairings, you’ve got a lot of pedestrian stuff like a half-hearted Corrina (which can be a good song under the right conditions) and a shambling Picasso Moon that ends the first set.  Using this song as a set closer seemed pretty strange to me, and I thought that it could be a fairly unusual setlist position, but a glance through DeadBase only confirms what most of you daily readers already know – I often don’t have a clue.  It seems that the Dead frequently closed the first set with this song.  I still think it’s a crummy choice.

I’ve spoken about the mid-90’s drudgery before, so I’ll repeat myself quickly here.  Until the very end in 1995, when Jerry was almost completely gone, most of the problems with these shows weren’t related to the band’s execution of the songs, per se.  It’s more a lack of enthusiasm and ideas.  Take a listen to The Last Time from today’s show and you’ll understand.  You’ve got Bob Weir howling away while the rest of the band sits back like a casino band rehearsing for that night’s lounge show, plodding along. Ditto the Wharf Rat that follows.  Most of the show is like this.

So you’ve got nothing too shabby here, and a couple of worthwhile songs.  The rest is take it or leave it.



Today in Grateful Dead History: December 18, 1993 – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA

dancing-bearTonight 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:

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:

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:

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:

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: