Blair’s Golden Road Blog — The 10-Show Plunge
By Blair Jackson
Recently, I’ve been on a kick of listening to big chunks of certain Grateful Dead tours in chronological order. It started after I lauded the summer 1991 tour in this space a few weeks ago. I decided to check out the last 10 shows of that jaunt—from Charlotte through Sandstone (Kansas), to see if they were as good as I remembered. I realized I hadn’t actually heard half of them since I listened to them for my 1991 year-in-review article in Issue 26 of The Golden Road 20 years ago, and none of the others in the last several years. The ones I remembered best and most fondly—RFK 6/14, Giants Stadium 6/16-17, Soldier Field 6/22 and Sandstone 6/25—all held up amazingly well. The 6/25 show, which I’d remembered mostly just for the “Scarlet” > “Fire,” really knocked my socks off from beginning to end. Well, almost to the end. After a near-perfect show, Jerry forgets to sing the critical last verse of the “Baby Blue” encore! Aaaugh!
The previous night’s concert at Sandstone (6/24) was probably the greatest revelation, with its explosive “Help-Slip-Frank,” China-Rider,” “Supplication” jam and “Other One” > “Morning Dew.” Definitely the Bruce era at its best! But all the shows had bountiful exploratory passages and much adventurous playing.
OK, that was some great late-era GD. But what really got me jazzed recently was my 10-show plunge into the summer of 1982, from Ventura (7/17-18) through the Starlight in Kansas City (8/4). Wow! I’d forgotten how consistently fantastic the band sounded that year, and a number of the shows in this batch were ones I don’t recall ever hearing before, so I was like a kid on Christmas opening presents.
I’ll always have a sentimental attachment to the Ventura shows. It was Regan’s and my first Grateful Dead road trip (about a year into our marriage) and we had more fun than I believed was humanly possible—outstanding shows, nice room at the Holiday Inn on the beach, partying with friends into the wee hours. I thought: “We should do this whenever we can.” And we did! (I later used descriptions of these Ventura shows as the opening of my first book about the Dead, The Music Never Stopped, which came out in 1983.)
Day Two is known primarily for being the show at which “Crazy Fingers” was played for the first time in six years (and it’s a killer version), but there’s lots to love in both shows, including the only “Samson” > “Franklin’s” combo the band ever played (to open the second set of 7/18), a surprise “Truckin’” to end the first set of 7/17, and plenty more. If you don’t know these shows, check ’em out on Archive.org.
After Ventura, some of our friends went on to Red Rocks (skipping Compton Terrace in Tempe—by far the weakest of the 10 in my view; Jerry has serious lyric amnesia), and then hitting Texas and Oklahoma. But the Ventura shows were our last until the band’s maiden voyage at Frost Amphitheatre on the Stanford campus in October ’82 (more on that in a few months).
All three ’82 Red Rocks shows are solid, with many high points. The first night (7/27) features a superb “Sugaree,” “China Cat-Rider” (always special in Colorado) and an expansive second set that opens and closes with “Playing in the Band” and stuffs a whole bunch of tasty treats in between: “Terrapin,” a second “Playing” jam, “The Other One” and a “Stella Blue” that is a thing of pure beauty. Bob unleashes some unique vocal adlibs before the first “Playing” jam, repeating the word “Playing” over and over, sometimes in falsetto, and inspiring Brent to join in at one point; pretty cool. This is my kind of show.
Night Two gets off to a roaring start with “Shakedown,” followed by the extremely rare Weir duo of “Beat It On Down the Line” > “Greatest Story Ever Told” (played together just once previously), and has a powerful mid-second-set sequence with “Let It Grow” > “He’s Gone” (lovely post-song jam!) > “Truckin’.” The final night at the Rocks, in a driving rain, the band acknowledges the inclement weather with “Looks Like Rain” in the first set and “Cold Rain” to open the second. “Crazy Fingers” isn’t quite up to the standard established in Ventura, but the backside of the second set is fantastic, with a propulsive “Other One” followed by “Goin’ Down the Road,” “Wharf Rat” and “Around and Around” > “Good Lovin’” to close.
But two of the strongest shows of the tour are still to come. The 7/31 concert at Manor Down in Austin is one of those beginning-to-end romps where the band can seemingly do no wrong. There’s nothing at all unusual about the set list, but everything is so alive and well-played, from first-set choices such as “Candyman,” “Bird Song,” “All Over Now” and “The Music Never Stopped” to the second-set “Scarlet-Fire” and “Estimated-Eyes” pre-“drums,” and the four that come out of “space”: “Uncle John’s” > “Truckin’” > “Morning Dew” > “Saturday Night.” And although “Don’t Ease Me In” was a too-common encore in this era, it was never more geographically appropriate—it’s a Texas blues from the ’20s.
The other show that blew me away was 8/3 Starlight Amphitheatre (Kansas City), which I would deem release-worthy (if solid masters exist). The 11-song first set is positively smokin’—it includes “Half-Step” > “Franklin’s” as the opening pair, a lilting “Peggy-O,” “Cumberland,” “Cassidy,” “Man Smart, Woman Smarter” and “Might As Well.” The awesome second set has a couple of wrinkles, including “To Lay Me Down” > “Let It Grow,” “He’s Gone” out of “space” (very unusual placement) and one of just two versions of “Casey Jones” in ’82 (and the last until ’84). Another rippin’ “Other One” leads into one of the best-sung versions of “Stella Blue” you’ll ever hear, and I must note the two jams on each side of “drums” and “space.” The first is a jazzy foray by Bob and Brent; the second is an inventive, one-of-a-kind, full-band excursion that goes in many directions before arriving at “He’s Gone.”
Part of the fun of the 10-shows-in-order immersion is you really get a feel for what the tour was like—you experience it as it unfolds show to show and savor the nuances that make each one special (or not). You also get to experience the Tour Rat’s occasional frustration—yes, there really were four versions of “Black Peter” in 10 shows (at least they were all really good!). Why did Weir cut off that jam at its peak? No, Jerry, that’s the second verse, not the first. The picky Dead Head’s lament.
But overall, it’s an impressive run of shows, and there were another four I didn’t get to—in St. Paul, Alpine Valley (two) and the University of Iowa. As I like to say: so many shows, so little time. And listening to these 10 reinforced my long-held opinion that the early ’80s are grossly underrated by many Dead Heads. I’m not trying to compare them in any way to the best of the late ’60s or the ’70s; merely suggesting it’s another strong era with its own personality and many exciting peaks.
Let’s hear what you have to say about the early ’80s. Should there be more official releases from that period? Any suggestions for my next 10-show plunge (from any year, except ’77, which I already know is epic start to finish)?
I just had one of THOSE moments with this show's Fire, Playin'.
10 shows from one GD83 tour? I can't do THAT, but I can suggest:
Of these, MUST-HAVES are 6/18, 6/20, 9/10, 10/11, and 10/15.
Took Julie to her first dead show for her birthday July 13, 81 at McNichols Aud. in Denver. She has been a lifelong deadhead ever since. Hadn't thought much about that show until I stumbled across a soundboard copy I had a while back and it blew my socks off. Scarlet Fire Estimated Terrapin was epic and the show surely deserved of a release. It was the Man Smart/Woman Smarter that sold Julie on the boys. Give it a listen and see what you think!! Listening to it now and it still is a get up and dancer........
All early 1980’s Dead is underrepresented with official releases when comparing to what has been released from the 70’s. The Summer ’82 shows are definitely worth a listen and possible release. I was on the end of the tour, driving from Vermont to St. Paul, (“Meet Her Accidently in St. Paul Minnesota”, did bong hits with Mississippi River water) and then on to Alpine Valley I actually like the 8/8 Alpine show over 8/7 released as Dick’s Pick’s 32. The tour ending 8/10 Iowa City show, (which we did not make) with the great Iko Iko> Truckin’> Stella Blue> Sugar Magnolia, (with major Phil Bombs) should be released and well as 8/3 Kansas City. I have also started to listen to complete tour or at least big chunks of consecutive shows; Winter ’79- MSG through New Haven, Spring ’79- Lafayette College through Portland, Maine and Spring ’83- Hampton through Philly choosing these mainly because I was on these tours, know how they were playing and have a grasp on the quality of what is out there. Sure would like some addition info on tours / three night runs where I don’t know “what’s up”. The first part of the Summer ’82 would fall into that “not knowing” category, so I will give it a listen, (I am missing the Ventura show and the first 4 shows of the tour, through Red Rocks, will have to scan archive.org to see what is there), but I have the remainder of the tour starting in Manor Downs. There seems to be a lot of interest in an early 80’s box set or at least a Dave Pick’s from this era, hopefully soon, until then, thanks for the insight.
Fall 1980 4 show mini tour, London and East Coast Spring '81, Fall '81 3-show mini tour, Europe Fall '81, New Year's Eve '81. Some (much?) of this was pretty special, even by highest post retirement standards, this music came after the tame and famous Warfield, Saenger, and Radio City shows. I saw good shows from '82 to '84, but not like '80 and '81 when Jerry seemed much sharper and lively.
Good stuff indeed (jam out of truckin' into drums)
rich full sound.
...but I'm gonna check 'em out!
1980 was a great year and those shows thru the south in the fall were all excellent. This is the only year I was fortunate enough to catch both the spring tour (April, Fox Theatre, Atlanta) and the fall tour (Lakeland in Nov) We had seen a great show in april and were surprised when the band came back in the fall for more great shows. It's a fuzzy memory but I recall the ride to gainesville for the show, we had no tickets, we were still out there from the night before and drove up to catch the gators play and wanted to see the dead too. Never did make the show, but the lot was crazy. Would love to see those shows released, what a great time had by all, if I remember right, the gators lost and it was a homecoming game too with a huge party planed by student council, those were the days when you could book the band for your homecoming party. And what a party it was :)
Last three nights of the 9 night run @ MSG kill this and get pretty damn close to killing Boston. In the end it is all subject to opinion. Thanks I will check it out again.
I would love a box set that had those Hult shows in it. That was really an amazing time.
bravo fred garvin.
good call on all those. gotta listen to 11/29/80.
NM 9/10 & 11/83.
I would LOVE to hear a pristine 6/18/83 sometime.