• September 27, 2011
    http://www.dead.net/features/blair-jackson/blair%E2%80%99s-golden-road-blog-best-dead-tours
    Blair’s Golden Road Blog - Best Dead Tours?

    Finding a consensus on almost anything in the Grateful Dead world is a daunting proposition. There are as many opinions about the “best” shows or tours as there are Dead Heads. Each of us has his or her own prejudices about songs, tours and eras based on a million different factors, from personal experiences at shows to associations we have with specific songs and myriad other circumstances that affect what we like and dislike.

    What got me thinking about this was writing essays over the past year about a couple of tours that nearly everyone seems to hold in high regard: Europe ’72 and the spring ’77 East, Midwest and South jaunt. The June ’74 Wall of Sound tour has many true believers, as does the short Midwest tour in February ’73. (I’m with ya on both!) Once you get beyond the ’70s, however, there are a certain number of Heads who will automatically tune out any discussion of best tours—they believe that nothing post-Keith and Donna was up to the level of what came before. And jeez, better not even bring up the post-Brent era!

    Personally, I loved every band lineup on some level, and I can find shows and tours I like in every year. OK, it gets a little tougher by ’93, and in ’94 and ’95 we’re talking about the best of a not-that-great lot. By that I mean, I can say that I believe the fall ’94 East Coast tour was the best of the year, but mostly in comparison to the wretchedness of so many shows earlier in the year. (In ’94 I turned down an offer to write a book called 30 Years Dead because I was so depressed after seeing two Madison Square Garden shows on that tour I was just lauding!) But I was never one of those guys worrying that the “Scarlet-Fire” I was seeing in 1991 wasn’t as good as ones I had on tape from ’77. Or the ’92 version of “Here Comes Sunshine” was inherently lame because it wasn’t jammed out the way it had been in ’73. I rarely met a “Scarlet-Fire” that didn’t thrill me to the core, and as for “Here Comes Sunshine”—I was happy any time I could hear that, in any form. (I can say the same thing about both in this post-Dead era.) During my time putting out The Golden Road magazine (1984-1993), I was attacked by some for liking too much and by others for occasionally being too critical. What can I say? I loved this band every step of my own journey with them (’69-’95) and, experientially speaking, never particularly favored one era over another.

    So, getting back to the alleged subject at hand—best Dead tours—I will happily rattle off a few of my favorites from different eras. I will start in 1971, when Dead tours really start looking like organized excursions of a region more than they had previously, and we also have a solid body of tape evidence to evaluate.

    Though my first serious burst of going to clusters of shows was in the winter-spring of ’71 — two Capitol Theatre (Port Chester), two Fillmore East, two Manhattan Center — it’s the fall ’71 tour — Keith’s first outing—that makes this list. (I saw the two Chicago shows.) You can truly hear the excitement and enthusiasm as the group absorbs this new instrumental voice, and the many songs that were introduced earlier in the year (and on the fall tour itself) begin to take on an unexpected richness that will become even more obvious on the Europe ’72 tour.

    I’ll skip over ’73-’77 (pick a tour, almost any tour, and it’s got something to recommend it—yes, even ’76, which some Heads just don’t like), and mention the April ’78 tour of the South and Midwest. The playing is a little more ragged than the best of ’77, and you can feel Keith starting to drift away at times, but there are still many high points in most shows.

    Stanley Mouse created
    this poster for the
    underrated Europe 1981
    tour.

    In 1980, all the attention goes to the three-set September-October shows at the Warfield in San Francisco, Saenger Performing Arts Center in New Orleans and Radio City in New York, but for my money some of the best shows of that year are the August-early September ’80 Midwest and East Coast shows. The Uptown (Chicago) run is my favorite and the Lewiston, Maine, concert is chock full o’ good stuff. A lot of the Warfield/Radio City material sounds pretty tame and tentative by comparison.

    The September-October ’81 Europe tour doesn’t get the props it should in part because the tapes aren’t that great—the Rainbow (London) series sounds dry and oddly balanced and Bob’s guitar barely registers on many of the other shows (c’mon, Healy!). But the playing is frequently quite electrifying, and of course there are the three Melk Weg oddities from Amsterdam in the middle.

    Maybe because I traveled to the late August, early September ’83 shows in Eugene, Boise and Santa Fe, I’ve always been partial to that Western tour, Portland through Manor Downs (Austin).

    The Summer ’83 Western tour was a hot one.

    Summer ’85, beginning with the Berkeley Greek 20th anniversary concerts in mid-June through Pittsburgh in early July, boasts several outstanding shows, as does the late August to mid-September tour that hit Red Rocks, Kaiser in Oakland and Chula Vista. All in all, ’85 is one of my favorite years.

    So is 1988, and there I have to go with the mid-June to early July shows, incorporating fine outings at Alpine Valley, Saratoga and ending at Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine. (Surely 7/2 is release-worthy, no?)

    Moving up a couple of years, the March/early April 1990 tour—particularly the stretch including Copps Coliseum in Ontario, Knickerbocker Arena in Albany (some of which became Dozin’ at the Knick) and Nassau Coliseum (Branford!)—is mostly killer (and was all multitracked. I’d buy a Nassau box!). And though the Europe ’90 tour was not universally great, there’s lots of good stuff in there.

    I could see a box set featuring the best of the September 1991 Madison Square Garden and Boston Garden shows (that’s right, a compilation!), but the real gold in ’91 — with the Bruce Hornsby-Jerry dynamic in full bloom—is the June ’91 tour, which includes several favorites, including both Deer Creek concerts, the two Giants Stadium shows, Soldier Field (tops on my list) and Sandstone in Kansas. I luv me my ’91 Dead!

    So, those are a few of my choices. What tours do you want to turn us onto?

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Finding a consensus on almost anything in the Grateful Dead world is a daunting proposition. There are as many opinions about the “best” shows or tours as there are Dead Heads. Each of us has his or her own prejudices about songs, tours and eras based on a million different factors, from personal experiences at shows to associations we have with specific songs and myriad other circumstances that affect what we like and dislike.

What got me thinking about this was writing essays over the past year about a couple of tours that nearly everyone seems to hold in high regard: Europe ’72 and the spring ’77 East, Midwest and South jaunt. The June ’74 Wall of Sound tour has many true believers, as does the short Midwest tour in February ’73. (I’m with ya on both!) Once you get beyond the ’70s, however, there are a certain number of Heads who will automatically tune out any discussion of best tours—they believe that nothing post-Keith and Donna was up to the level of what came before. And jeez, better not even bring up the post-Brent era!

Personally, I loved every band lineup on some level, and I can find shows and tours I like in every year. OK, it gets a little tougher by ’93, and in ’94 and ’95 we’re talking about the best of a not-that-great lot. By that I mean, I can say that I believe the fall ’94 East Coast tour was the best of the year, but mostly in comparison to the wretchedness of so many shows earlier in the year. (In ’94 I turned down an offer to write a book called 30 Years Dead because I was so depressed after seeing two Madison Square Garden shows on that tour I was just lauding!) But I was never one of those guys worrying that the “Scarlet-Fire” I was seeing in 1991 wasn’t as good as ones I had on tape from ’77. Or the ’92 version of “Here Comes Sunshine” was inherently lame because it wasn’t jammed out the way it had been in ’73. I rarely met a “Scarlet-Fire” that didn’t thrill me to the core, and as for “Here Comes Sunshine”—I was happy any time I could hear that, in any form. (I can say the same thing about both in this post-Dead era.) During my time putting out The Golden Road magazine (1984-1993), I was attacked by some for liking too much and by others for occasionally being too critical. What can I say? I loved this band every step of my own journey with them (’69-’95) and, experientially speaking, never particularly favored one era over another.

So, getting back to the alleged subject at hand—best Dead tours—I will happily rattle off a few of my favorites from different eras. I will start in 1971, when Dead tours really start looking like organized excursions of a region more than they had previously, and we also have a solid body of tape evidence to evaluate.

Though my first serious burst of going to clusters of shows was in the winter-spring of ’71 — two Capitol Theatre (Port Chester), two Fillmore East, two Manhattan Center — it’s the fall ’71 tour — Keith’s first outing—that makes this list. (I saw the two Chicago shows.) You can truly hear the excitement and enthusiasm as the group absorbs this new instrumental voice, and the many songs that were introduced earlier in the year (and on the fall tour itself) begin to take on an unexpected richness that will become even more obvious on the Europe ’72 tour.

I’ll skip over ’73-’77 (pick a tour, almost any tour, and it’s got something to recommend it—yes, even ’76, which some Heads just don’t like), and mention the April ’78 tour of the South and Midwest. The playing is a little more ragged than the best of ’77, and you can feel Keith starting to drift away at times, but there are still many high points in most shows.

Stanley Mouse created
this poster for the
underrated Europe 1981
tour.

In 1980, all the attention goes to the three-set September-October shows at the Warfield in San Francisco, Saenger Performing Arts Center in New Orleans and Radio City in New York, but for my money some of the best shows of that year are the August-early September ’80 Midwest and East Coast shows. The Uptown (Chicago) run is my favorite and the Lewiston, Maine, concert is chock full o’ good stuff. A lot of the Warfield/Radio City material sounds pretty tame and tentative by comparison.

The September-October ’81 Europe tour doesn’t get the props it should in part because the tapes aren’t that great—the Rainbow (London) series sounds dry and oddly balanced and Bob’s guitar barely registers on many of the other shows (c’mon, Healy!). But the playing is frequently quite electrifying, and of course there are the three Melk Weg oddities from Amsterdam in the middle.

Maybe because I traveled to the late August, early September ’83 shows in Eugene, Boise and Santa Fe, I’ve always been partial to that Western tour, Portland through Manor Downs (Austin).

The Summer ’83 Western tour was a hot one.

Summer ’85, beginning with the Berkeley Greek 20th anniversary concerts in mid-June through Pittsburgh in early July, boasts several outstanding shows, as does the late August to mid-September tour that hit Red Rocks, Kaiser in Oakland and Chula Vista. All in all, ’85 is one of my favorite years.

So is 1988, and there I have to go with the mid-June to early July shows, incorporating fine outings at Alpine Valley, Saratoga and ending at Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine. (Surely 7/2 is release-worthy, no?)

Moving up a couple of years, the March/early April 1990 tour—particularly the stretch including Copps Coliseum in Ontario, Knickerbocker Arena in Albany (some of which became Dozin’ at the Knick) and Nassau Coliseum (Branford!)—is mostly killer (and was all multitracked. I’d buy a Nassau box!). And though the Europe ’90 tour was not universally great, there’s lots of good stuff in there.

I could see a box set featuring the best of the September 1991 Madison Square Garden and Boston Garden shows (that’s right, a compilation!), but the real gold in ’91 — with the Bruce Hornsby-Jerry dynamic in full bloom—is the June ’91 tour, which includes several favorites, including both Deer Creek concerts, the two Giants Stadium shows, Soldier Field (tops on my list) and Sandstone in Kansas. I luv me my ’91 Dead!

So, those are a few of my choices. What tours do you want to turn us onto?

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Finding a consensus on almost anything in the Grateful Dead world is a daunting proposition. There are as many opinions about the “best” shows or tours as there are Dead Heads. Each of us has his or her own prejudices about songs, tours and eras based on a million different factors, from personal experiences at shows to associations we have with specific songs and myriad other circumstances that affect what we like and dislike.

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As one of those folks you talk about who thought they lost a lot when Keith and Donna made tracks, I still saw the bulk of my shows in the early 80's. I have to say the Fall '83 tour was pretty spectacular. With the breakout of St. Stephen and wonderful shows like Lake Placid and Hartford and Worcester... It was a pretty exciting tour. And summer '84 with the breakout of Lovelight (sandwiched between Not Fade), Casey Jones, Dancin' in the Streets and finally the Greek Dark Star encore. And then those great Ventura shows... Oddly enough, I'm not the biggest fan of '85. Despite some great set lists (the Greek 20th anniversary shows), I found the quality of playing very sketchy. That's It For The Other One is one of my all-time faves, but I never thought they played it well when they finally broke it out in '85. I guess that was the year I really started to notice just how much they were slipping. Funny how two people can have such completely different experiences of shows/tours/years. And I was also at those '88 Oxford Plains shows and, while I had a blast and loved the set lists (particularly 7/2), I thought the playing was sloppy, though certainly energetic. But even listening to that show now, the boys are just all over the place. It's kind of a mess to my ears. But alas, this is exactly what you're talking about. We all have our personal favorites and least favorites. And the lenses through which we view/experience the music. But when all is said and done, I've still never loved a band like the Dead. Warts and all.
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...about the "Cryptical"/"That's It for the Other One"s in '85, but it was still a thrill to hear and a couple of the later partial versions were pretty cool. I wasn't surprised when Jerry stopped doing it, though--he never seemed that comfortable with it...
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the November Kaiser run was outstanding.11/20 Jack Straw Peggy-O C.C. Rider Stagger Lee My Brother Esau High Time Beat it on Down the Line Promised Land Don't Ease Me In Iko Iko Lost Sailor Saint of Circumstance Terrapin Station Don't Need Love drums Stella Blue Sugar Magnolia U.S. Blues 11/21 Big Boy Pete Dire Wolf Little Red Rooster Brown Eyed Women Me and My Uncle Mexicali Blues Ramble on Rose Looks Like Rain Might As Well Shakedown Street Crazy Fingers Playin' in the Band She Belongs to Me drums The Other One Wharf Rat Playin' in the Band Gimme Some Lovin' Midnight Hour Walkin' the Dog 11/22 Hell in a Bucket Sugaree New Minglewood Blues Althea Cassidy Dupree's Diamond Blues Let it Grow Touch of Grey Estimated Prophet Eyes of the World drums Morning Dew Throwin' Stones Turn on Your Love Light Brokedown Palace the September were not to shabby either 9/10 Jack Straw Peggy-O Little Red Rooster Stagger Lee Me and My Uncle Mexicali Blues Ramble on Rose Cassidy Don't Ease Me In China Cat Sunflower I Know You Rider Estimated Prophet Eyes of the World Good Time Blues drums China Doll Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad Around and Around Sugar Magnolia Day Job 9/11 Mississippi Half-Step New Minglewood Blues Friend of the Devil Beat it on Down the Line Promised Land Tennessee Jed Let it Grow Deal Touch of Grey Hell in a Bucket Terrapin Station Man Smart/Woman Smarter drums Gimme Some Lovin' Stella Blue Good Lovin' U.S. Blues 9/12 Greatest Story Ever Told Bertha It's All Over Now Row Jimmy My Brother Esau Big Railroad Blues Looks Like Rain Might As Well Help on the Way Slipknot! Franklin's Tower Playin' in the Band drums The Other One Black Peter Throwin' Stones Not Fade Away drums Not Fade Away Brokedown Palace then there was also Feb 2/18 Iko Iko C.C. Rider Dire Wolf Cassidy Ramble on Rose Me and My Uncle Mexicali Blues China Cat Sunflower I Know You Rider Samson and Delilah He's Gone Spoonful Eyes of the World Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad drums China Doll Baby What You Want Me to Do Sugar Magnolia Day Job 2/19 Jack Straw Dupree's Diamond Blues New Minglewood Blues Brown Eyed Women My Brother Esau Bird Song Hell in a Bucket Might As Well Truckin' Terrapin Station Man Smart/Woman Smarter drums Throwin' Stones Touch of Grey Johnny B. Goode 2/20 Cold Rain and Snow Day Tripper West L.A. Fadeaway Mama Tried Big River Tennessee Jed Looks Like Rain Don't Ease Me In Scarlet Begonias Fire on the Mountain Playin' in the Band drums The Wheel Black Peter Turn on Your Love Light U.S. Blues Now that's a box
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Maybe it was because I was on these tours, but I thought there were many fine moments - Berlin, Paris, Halloween London then onto Cap Center, Greensboro (longest Eyes ever!), and Orlando. Even the 90 New Years run in between seemed pretty sweet at the time. I guess that's the thing - it was all pretty awesome while it was happening. And even though you knew it might not compare to what had been played in the 60's or 70's, hearing it again now, it actually WAS pretty hot!!!
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Dear Blair, Your blog post is making me miss the Road Trips series. Highlights from each of the tours you mentioned would make splendid releases. And to silence the 'knuckleheads', Rhino could get the Band to recant the policy of taking shows of archive.org when one song from the show is released commercially. Just sayin'. That being said, the next full tour box should be Fall '73. Otherwise, let's get to work on the 'Grateful Dead Movie Super Deluxe Edition' and release the full run from Oct '74 in Blu-Ray/5.1 with all the video. D
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i know we're talking about tours but my fave stand-alone, one-off show still has to be englishtown, nj 9/3/77!!!!!
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With the combination of "new" tunes, SOTM and Take You Home, Etc. New songs and old favorites make for a great recipe. The return of Dark Star, Death Don't and Attics. I also think; Jerry and Bob, had really started to get a handle on the MIDI system. So the communication between band members seemed really fresh with the chance to engage each other with new toys. The shows from Shoreline through Oakland's New Years should not to be overlooked.
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I never did the tour thing and after the '70's only I saw them occasionally in the '80's , the Earthquake benefit in Oakland '89 being the last, which is why I really appreciate this blog. You've listed a bunch of years and dates that are apparently worthy of attention. Beyond the aforementioned "consensus" years, I've never explored the 80's or '90's with much interest. Thanks.
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Spring 71, stalking 16 year old girls in the Scranton Catholic Youth Center with Pig wailing "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" 4/4.5,6/ Manhattan Center 4/7,8/ Boston Music Hall 4/10 Franklin & Marshall 4/12 Pitt Civic Arena 4/13 Catholic Youth Center 4/14 Bucknell 4/15 Aleghaney 4/17 Princeton 4/18 SUCNY Cortland 4/21 RI Auditorium (Best of the tour) 4/22 Bangor Auditorium 4/24 Duke 4/25.26.27.28.29. Closing of thge Fillmore East (Ladies & Gentleman) Charlie Miller, can you make me a box for a price? ( & ) = }
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Apr. '71 would make one schweet box! And Blair's mention of the beginning of Keith's tenure being really exciting ... 10/19 thru December (lots of shows) would be another I'd throw money at in the same way I did for Europe '72. One day we'll be treated to more post-Europe '72 - what an enormous wealth of material from which to choose - since the time I acquired it from our Vinemaster, Sunshine Daydream, my Summers and Falls have become absolute Dead Solid Perfect bliss while driving about with a smile on my face. This project, of course, would dwarf the Europe '72 trunk - ay! bring it!!!
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"Summer '87" I'm surprised more people aren't raving about this particular tour. There are many significant reasons why it's so under rated including the Deads unexpected jump in commercial popularity mid-tour with the release of "In The Dark", Jerry's first post-coma Summer tour and many other points that make this tour unique. Starting from Alpine Valley (boy I sure wish I had soundboard recording of these three dates), Ontario, the Dylan and the Dead stadium run and ending with the County Fairgrounds shows with Carlos Santana sitting in. 6/26-28 Alpine Valley 6/30 Ontario 7/2 Silver Stadium 7/4 Foxboro w/ Dylan 7/6 Pittsburg w/ members of The Neville Brothers 7/7-8 Roanoke 7/10 JFK w/ Dylan 7/12 Giants w/Dylan 7/19 Autzen w/ Dylan 7/24 Oakland w/ Dylan 7/26 Anaheim w/ Dylan 8/11-13 Red Rocks (last time) 8/15-16 Telluride 8/18 Compton Terrace 8/20 Park West Utah 8/22-23 Angel's Camp w/ Santana sitting in A uniformly strong tour all the way through.
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A vote for Fall '72. Exciting, almost torrid playing. Band on fire type playing. There's an s-load from mid to late '70 I'd almost give my right pinky to hear in sbd form (I said almost).
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I'm a little limited here because I was never a TourHead, but I like Blair's idea of venue boxed sets. My pics are easy because I only attended shows at three venues. How about a boxed set from either Alpine Valley, Soldier Field, or the World Music Theatre in Chicago? That '81 Alpine Valley show was hot enough to make me Deadicated.
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My first gig was Watkins Glen...I was tripping for 3 days so I don't remember much...but fall 73 San Diego sports aroma with the wall of sound was fantastic....after all these years being able to hear it on the archive justifies my belief in being present for a celestial event.... I never got on the bus but all the shows from that tour sound great on tape (and my analog reel to reel) Also remember seeing Mickey get back on the bus at the 77 Swing Auditorium show in San Berdo, again the tapes tell the tale.. ( but am I the only one who thinks most of the 77 Winterland run sounds sluggish?) I lost track of the band through the 80's but now have several favorite shows and tour runs.( Thank you again Archives) After moving north to Carmel in 91, I was there for the BG tribute at the polo grounds...I still get chicken skin every time I here the tapes... So I guess that makes me a dead head who loves the shows of his youth, and is old enough to REALLY love anything with pig pen...but after mellowing with age finally re-connecting with his beloved Dead after drifting through the 80's listening to nothing but Jazz and Punk... I now love it all.... 60's, 70's ,80's, 90's from the shit to the brillance...We never signed on for perfection folks!
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My favorite tour is Europe 72 or Spring of 77. Picking third place is not so easy. I'd say May or June of 74, though these tours are relatively short-6 or 8 shows. Does 8 shows count as a tour? Perhaps the January/February 78 California-Midwest run, though the absence of high quality recordings makes it tough for this to be a finalist. Since I wasn't there, the recordings are what comprise the criterion collection, so to speak. I'm with Blair on April of 78. And to confuse the matter, 2 of the finest 78 shows I've heard, 7/7 and 7/8, aren't on a tour. Like for instance, the 8 shows from 10/28 to 11/6/77- is that a tour? I would love a release of one of the 7 shows between 10/19 and 11/9/73. How about more fall of '89- The Warlocks Box and Nightfall of Diamonds sure wet my appetite for more from this tour. Multi-track! June of 91, MSG or Boston 91 compilations- Bring it on! Vegas April 91, April of 71, October/November of 72. The September 89 Shoreline run-December of 71, and on and on. A couple last notes-Shows that contain stellar performances but also have train wreck moments should be prime compilation candidates. And here's to the time I thought the words to I Know You Rider were I'd shine my light through a blue collar ride in the rain. Cheers everyone!
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Fall 89Spring 90 Fall 73 Fall 77 (far above Spring 77 if for no other reason than Let It Grow)
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cant stop laughing god bless ya wish i was there
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I would pay good money for a Spring 90 box set - I can tell you that much. The appeal of having (another) whole tour with multi-track source is too much to pass up, especially when factoring how amazing all of those shows are. I'm still blown away by how good the E72 sound is and I can only imagine what a Spring 90 tour release would be like.
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Late Summer Tour.... Red Rocks....9/7//85.....Remember "The Frozen Logger"? Chula Vista 9/15/85....The WHOLE show....jeez!!!
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I agree with an earlier post, a comp of meaty tour highlights was a good idea while it lasted. I really, REALLY like Fall of '79. I wouldn't call it the best tour ever, but there was some brilliant playing there, check out 12.1.79 (Pitts, PA) if you haven't heard it. The best all time He's Gone is from that show.
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Good points, Blair. I try to like 76. Some shows (Orpheum, Oakland) have a spark but the Travis Bean and the arrangements give it a sleepy quality that is hard to escape. The Rochester show is good however. Agree with 78. Can be a bad show, but that same raggedness gives it an edge 77 sometimes lacks. Uptown 11/16 and 11/18 are surprisingly good and I love the Jack Straw of the 21st. Also the late 77, Broome County and Tornto in particular are good and nasty.
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I haven't seen this one listed yet. 7/18 (my first show) Red Rocks 7/31 8/1 8/3 8/6 (a DP, right?) 8/10 etc. etc. etc. (yul brenner voice from the king and I)
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yes, release worthy for sure. This from a guy who doesn't get off on 88 very much at all. I still think it, along with 7/3/88, would have made a GREAT Road Trips, perhaps THE most logical choice, since 98% of the attendees would have had to come from somewhere else. If you listen to fools, the mob rules.
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i loved some 85 shows. i did that summer tour, and my fav show was hershey park (but weird how my favs seem to never be everyone else's favs!) i don't "study" shows and tours, so maybe 85 was sloppy at times, but i interpret that to be taking more chances. sometimes when the band is "on" they just follow the groove. i like it when the search is on, and you never know what may happen, and sometimes the surprise hits. sometimes they hit it, sometimes not, but i love the search. red rocks 85 hey jude for example. the other 85 show that i loved was maine, the day tripper to end it. that one song may have knocked my socks off more than any other moment. and when i asked my seat neighbor what they thought of the show.."well, they repeated don't ease from last night..." really, that's your critique of a show? oh well, to each... personally, i needed phil to be killing for me to put a show on the top. the only saving grace to some of the outdoor stadium shows was phil could just turn himself up to 11 and not worry. the 86 akron show (when dylan came out in the first set) wasn't that great, but phil killed!!! hershey he was insane. i was at and loved both 88 maine shows too. i loved it when i was standing on my tip toes in anticipation of whats next!
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Any tours where you were lucky enough to attend one or more shows are the best. Period.
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I also like that Hershey show (6/28/85) a lot. How can you go wrong with a first set that ends with "Bird Song" > "Comes a Time" > "Deal"? Love that "Tom Thumb's" and "Morning Dew" in the second set, too! We'll even give the "Day Job" encore a pass... ;-) I wasn't there but heard it was a cool scene. Rained a lot, I gather... I'm also a fan of the SPAC show the night before with the "Stranger" > "Eyes" > "GDTRFB" to start the second set... They definitely shook it up a bit on that tour...
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The Hershey Park show was always one of my favorite recordings from '85. Another favorite is 3/31/85 Cumberland County Civic Center, Portland, Me. Greek and Alpine are other favorite runs of mine from '85. ...while I'm able to post again ... In regards to Fall '91, I think the Richfield run, 9/4-6/91, is every bit as strong as MSG and Boston. Despite a fairly orthodox setlist for this particular tour, I believe 9/4 is every bit as good as 9/10 and 9/26. The first set from 9/4 is performed to perfection from start to finish and the Scarlet>Fire is one of my personal favorites. Spring '89 is also great. Pittsburg (as released in the download series), Ann Arbor, Rosemont and The Mecca are more of my personal favorites.
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Please any box set from 1990 through 1995 would be super
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I haven't checked out 6/22/91 or 9/4/91 in a long time...This sounds like a great plan for this evening- Thanks!
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And you left out the solstice shows at the Greek! Might have been that I was standing in front of Jerry when they did the Watchtower break out but my GoodOlDead! I'm sure it was just me but there was a psychic growl through the universe. I'll take your word on the rest of the tour! The three at the Greek were amazing on every level. (Barlow sitting on stage looking like he was hearing some of his songs for the first time, Kesey wandering around...fine stuff)....Healy not fritzing with the sound too much but too much of every thing is just enough. Harley being revved behind Mickey and Billy in the Hell in a Bucket... perfect.
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I've rarely listened to much '87 through the years. Really enjoyed it at the time, of course, but '88 always seemed stronger to me. the Great Inundation of '87 after "Touch of Grey" has probably colored my memories a little, too. But yeah, that Greek "Watchtower"--one of my all-time favorite GD moments, for sure
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I found generally that short tours, mini-tours and occasional one-off shows were better than weeks-long tours. (I got my start on 9/3/77.) Post-'77 and after Terrapin, I think there was too little focus on composition, no notable achievement in the studio worthy of comparison to their best. (These are my snotty opinions, and ok, Althea is a GREAT track.) Too much touring to support overhead, that is what exhausted Garcia's spirit, in addition to his addictions. I always hoped for the band to slow it down and re-reach the consistent heights of Blues For Allah.
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My favorite tour was anyone in which I was able to attend a show. I was a "local" deadhead (imagine that! I waited for them to come to me instead of the other way around!), so I was only able to see them a handful of times. However, anything from 71' through 78' was good. I really enjoy the sound of the Wall of Sound shows, so I guess 74' would be my favorite era.
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10 years 11 months
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This discussion of best Grateful Dead tours has me wondering about Furthur tours as well, and this past east coast tour just concluded was arguably their best yet. Creative and surprising setlists, long shows, very high caliber of playing night to night - Furthur has never sounded better.
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I also loved that show - one of my all time favorites. The moment at the end of the first set when Birdsong magically mutated into Comes A Time was mind bending. Second set Music > Tom Thumb's opener, with a Terrapin and a Dew - what could be bad? I also remember it was POURING rain, so much so that when Mickey and Billy would hit their cymbals water would literally fly off - great night of mid-80s Dead.
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8 years 9 months
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I have to agree with danc about the mini tours. There was one such tour sometime in the mid 80's where they did not repeat a single tune. Can anyone name that tour? Or reprising Playing in the Band days after the show where it originated. How about the 3 shows they did prior to leaving for Europe in the fall of '81. I was fortunate enough to have been in attendance for the 9-26-81 show in Buffalo. Then again 1981 was one heck of a year for great shows.
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Since my attended shows are only late late 79 through 87 I would put those '80 Uptown Theatre shows from Chicago as the best run musically. Fave moment was getting to front row with waay too many people for the seats and acting like crazed puppies. Some youngster aisle clerk came by and stared....and asked if we all had a seat. We stared back, laughed out loud and all said, "YES!" Beautifully, he smiled back and left. I had the best time at the Greek shows in '84. THAT was simply magical. Primarily being outside the venue made the experience all about the fans and they/we were having a marvelous time. Only saw one show from a inside seat and that was most certainly a Dead highlight. However, as a listener, the 1973 and 1974 shows, particularly fall>spring were some of the shows I listen to the most. Many thanks to Archive. Meanwhile...if I had a way-back machine it would most certainly be 1971 fall tour.Keep up the chatter, I'll keep lisnin. Peace ya'll!
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...i'd have to throw the spring of 1970 "an evening with the grateful dead" tour on this list too. the acoustic sets are incredible, and the electric sets are raw, gritty, nasty old school grateful dead music. see 5/2/70, dick's picks 8 (i think) harpur college, or 5/15/70 from the fillmore east as well for examples of how good the music could get during these shows. add a star to this tour if you're a fan of the new riders too. blair, you said to pick any tour from the '72-'77 period, so i will. '72 is my favorite year, so i'll start there. i have to go with the fall of '72. every show, every night, every note. it's the tour where the band solidified it's post pigpen sound, and the sound of what the band would be for the next few years. three shows from the east coast september run alone were released as dick's picks, and the fun just continued on through october and november, all the way through the killer new year's eve show. see 9/17, 9/21, 9/23, 9/24, 9/26, 9/27, 9/28, 10/18, 10/19, and 12/31/72. got to love the shows from the fall of '73 when donna was off tour being pregnant and giving birth, and i'm not a donna hater. the music is just so fluid, adventurous, and exploratory. 11/14, 11/17, 11/20, 11/21, 11/30, 12/1, 12/2, 12/6, 12/18, 12/19. someone mentioned the fall of '77 before in a blog response, and i have to agree with them. although the spring of '77 is chock full of magic, the fall tour offers a return of some songs that the spring missed out on...let it grow being my favorite, but dupree's diamond blues, casey jones, it must have been the roses, and black peter are all given the smoking '77 dead treatment. 10/2, 10/11, 10/29, 11/4, 11/6, 12/29, 12/30 i'm a huge fan of the fall of '79. the band is playing with energy and invigoration of the excitement injected by playing with the "new guy," mr. mydland. sure there are setlists that start to look similar, but the playing is smoking...especially the playin' in the bands from this tour - they all seem to end up sounding like an air raid. 10/25, 10/27, 10/28, 11/5, 11/6, 11/24, 12/10, 12/11, 12/26, 12/28. finally, the spring of '81. i feel like there magic in these shows. lively playing showing a mastery of the "new," (at the time, and in grateful dead time - that a two year old album could still be considered new material) "go to heaven" material, and the band fully gelled with brent at the helm of the keyboards. 3/7, 3/9, 3/10, 3/12, 3/13, 5/1, 5/6, 5/8, 5/9, 5/12 thanks for taking the time to read this post-jerry head's thoughts. in this weekend of thanksgiving, i am thankful for my family, and friends, and the tapers who recorded all of this wonderful music that i was able to discover.
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The box set i would love to see the most is the 10-27-91- 10-31-91 shows or a set from 2-24-95-2-26-95 please!
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I'm (almost) always wrong when I try to guess the releases. I will predict however the first Dave's Picks to be 5/25/77, so there. That said, I think the next box set, if we're lucky enough to get one, will be the Spring of 90. I don't imagine the next box will be from the 70's- After this year's Europe 72, 4 of the 5 Box Sets are before 1980 (and rightfully so). And the Spring of 90 has some similarities to Europe 72. True there are 6 fewer shows on the 90 tour- 16 compared to 22. But only one show is released in it's entirety, 3/15/90. Dozin At The Knick is a compilation release, much like Steppin' Out is. Most importantly, the music on this tour is consistently magnificent, and is entirely recorded on multi-track. All of which adds up to a Box Set of exceptional magnitude (Thanks to DL for this descriptive phrase). Though I've been often wrong before...
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9 years 4 months
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Try 06/30/85 for one of the hottest Shakedown Street performances you will ever hear. 8/19/80 has a great China>Rider. Thanks for pointing me to some new 80s shows. I was always a big fan of '80-'85, much to the chagrin of many 70s heads.
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Two of my favorite Dead tours were very short, but sweet. The February 77 shows at the Swing auditorium and the next night in Santa Barbara, and the 79 Golden Hall shows followed by a show at Pauley Pavillion. The Swing Auditorium show is still my favorite show of all time. It is the show that made me a Dead Head. I had seen 3 or 4 shops in 76, but the Swing did it. Unfortunately I did not go to the next night in Santa Barbara, and have not heard a SBD from that night. The audience tape is fantastic! The Swing had the first Terrapin and Estimated and ended the firstset with a monster Playin->Wheel->Playin. We thought the show was over. But no, a searing second set with one of Phil Leshs best Bass solos ever!The 79 shows were just damn fun. Brent was new to the band and although the set lists may seem good but not overwhelming to the average onlooker, the playing was stellar. Phil Leshs playing on Jack Straw, the opener to the Sunday Pauley show was mind blowing and he was in fact doing things to my body that weekend that were unnatural. OK I am a huge Phil fan. The rest of the band was great too! That's my 2 cents.
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1985 was great year all around. The East Coast summer tour was fantastic. SPAC and Hershey were great. Nice comfortable light rain at Hershey. Merriwhether Post was another great venue, loved all songs both shows and, you are correct, that Shakedown is absolutely one of the best!!! Tried to demonstrate to a non-believer how great the Dead are and to not underestimate them by playing them that Shakedown. Unfortunately the beginning had a rough start but man I tell ya that was a smoker!!
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Yeah, little bit of rain at Heshey. They ended 1st set and Bobby said "we're going to take a short break but we'll be right back to continue our..uhhh...'singing in the rain', then Brent and Drummers chimed in with a little piano riff and drums.
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So, so many tours - cant list, discuss review them all. You really cant compare them to each other, all so unique. That being said..1983, 1985, 1987 all great, great years. 1987 felt like it was channeling 1977. Jerry out of the coma with a new life. The first East Coast Post-coma shows being in Hampton, VA. Three unbelievable shows. I say - now please, remain calm- that the Scarlet-Fire from Hampton 87 was better than Cornell 77! Not only that, but it was A LOT better. Cornell was quiet, groovy, and smooth whereas Hampton blew the roof off. So, they are different, at least. Give it a good listen, the whole show, through and through, uninterrupted, at high volume with a good sound system. You'll agree.
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Cumberland County Arena on Portland Maine. Great town and one of the best a places to see a show. Day Tripperwas awesome. the crowd was awesome. Synchronous clapping through drums was transcendent!!!
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5 years 10 months
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Nice article. I've always had a hard time listening to any full shows from late summer 72- spring 1979. Donna just ruins 90% of the live material she appears on. You take her out of the picture and I'd have a lot more dead to listen to. Here's how I see the eras of the dead best to worst. 1. 1970-end of spring 1972 (I understand Donna started in March with them, but I can't pick out her voice on the europe 72 discs), that was their absolute peak as far as I'm concerned. Skullfuck, Europe 72, Workingmans, American beauty. That's the stuff I show to people who say they're "not into" the dead and it generally changes their attitude. 2.1979-1982, The early Mydland years were fantastic, the band seemed to have a new energy and things were "new" again. Reckoning and Dead set are absolutely incredible (especially reckoning). And through 82 they brought new "juice" to classics such as brown eyed women. 3.1966-1969, They hadn't achieved the great level of song writing they soon would but their musicianship (especially in 1969) was incredible, and the psychedelic dead era was real fun and an important part of their growth (PLAY ST STEPHEN! haha) 4. 1975 Blues for allah, One from the vault. That is all. 5.1987-1990, I know the tours from a fans point of view turned into a shit show when they attainted their mega stardom, but after years of financial struggle maybe not having to worry about dough made them relax a bit more? I dunno I just know they were generally tight and on point during a lot of these years, especially the 89 tour. 6. 1990-94, sorry.... There was some slop here and well Vince is vince, but Jerry had some hauntingly beautiful solos and So Many Roads is one of my favorite songs, also collabs with hornsby and marsalis heated things up. 7. 73-74 & 76-77, there was some killer stuff from these years, you take out Donna and this era gets moved to second place.... to bad she doesn't know what the words "on key" and "Appropriate" mean.... 8. 83-86 The years leading up to and the year of the coma... 9. 1978 & 1995. fuck.
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1.'89-'91. Hyper-trippy jams, Jerry's best tone and solos, can't miss!2.'72-'74. On fire! 1973 really stands as the ultimate dead year. 3.'68-'70. Listening to the Dead grow exponentially is a great hobby of mine! 4.'76-'77 (plus the few '75ers) Intro'ed and refined many classics in these great years! 5. EVERYTHING ELSE! There is great stuff to be mined in every dead year!
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    Thin
    8 months 3 weeks ago
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  • Mr.Dc
    4 years 1 month ago
    TOURS
    If I had a time machine, id be at the winter/spring 1969 shows. Everything after that is a plateau of greatness with some drops and peaks until about 91. Id love to see the 1970 spring/fall acoustic shows, and the crazy long sets and jams from 73. Here Comes Sunshine should have been played more imo, I love that song.
  • A Flip
    4 years 4 months ago
    In terms of TOURS....
    For tours, It's1. Fall '89 2. Fall '73 3. Spring '90 4. Summer '90 5. Fall '94 6. Europe '72 7. Spring '73 8. Summer '89 9. Fall '91 10.Summer '94 (the best time I ever had...)
  • A Flip
    4 years 4 months ago
    Best Dead years
    1.'89-'91. Hyper-trippy jams, Jerry's best tone and solos, can't miss!2.'72-'74. On fire! 1973 really stands as the ultimate dead year. 3.'68-'70. Listening to the Dead grow exponentially is a great hobby of mine! 4.'76-'77 (plus the few '75ers) Intro'ed and refined many classics in these great years! 5. EVERYTHING ELSE! There is great stuff to be mined in every dead year!
  • A Flip
    1 year 11 months ago
    Best Dead years
    woops.