• June 8, 2012
    http://www.dead.net/features/blair-jackson/blairs-golden-road-blog-bruuuuuuuce
    Blair's Golden Road Blog - Bruuuuuuuce!

    Last time, we talked mostly about the post-Brent era as it related to Vince and to Jerry’s sad decline. But I made scant mention of the period from September ’90 through the spring of ’92, when Vince and Bruce Hornsby were both in the band (for most shows; Bruce missed a few here and there because of other commitments). This marked a fairly radical shift in the group’s sound, as there was now assertive grand piano back in the mix—yay! I never cared much for Brent’s thin, tinkling electronic piano tone—along with the faux organ and synth textures Vince was struggling to fit in. It was a lot to take in as a fan, but some very exciting music came out of that transitional period, which includes what I would label the last great Dead tour, the summer of 1991.

    What prompted me to write about this was watching the bonus tracks on the recently released Shout! Factory DVD box set, All the Years Combine, last night, none of which I had seen before. The first few had that familiar late ’80s look we’re accustomed to from various View From the Vault and other releases: a rockin’ “China Cat” > “I Know You Rider” and a really superb “Man Smart, Woman Smarter” from an ’87 Shoreline Amphitheatre show I attended, and a lovely, extended “Friend of the Devil” from Foxboro ’89. Nice!

    However, the final two numbers were the ones that made me sit up and take notice. First came a hot version of “Hey Pocky Way” from what was then known as the World Amphitheatre, outside of Chicago, on July 22, 1990, Brent’s second-to-last show, just four days before his tragic death. The performance is good, but I must admit I was shocked at how bad Brent looked, especially compared with how he appeared in the previous track from a year earlier. His eyes glazed, his hair and beard long and unkempt, he has a sort of feral, mountain man vibe. Brent had occasionally seemed out of it and sort of removed from the rest of the band, but I don’t recall his physical presence being quite so alarming (much as Jerry’s sallow ’95 look was surely a warning sign).

    But the last clip of the nearly hour-long unreleased footage was as exciting as the July ’90 one was disturbing: “Shakedown Street” from the band’s June 22, 1991 show at Soldier Field in Chicago. This was my favorite show of the summer ’91 tour, and I’d never seen a second of it. I know that 6/14 at RFK Stadium (VFTV II), 6/17 at Giants Stadium and 6/25 from Sandstone are more universally admired. I love all those, too, but there’s something about the cohesiveness of the 6/22 show, and the way Bruce and Jerry seem to be conversing musically on such a high level for the entire show, that has always knocked me out. And you can see that intimate communication in the long, adventurous “Shakedown,” as they share smiles and riffs and what looks at one point like a Vulcan mind lock! Hornsby had a certain fearless quality that allowed him to dive right in the Dead’s deep end immediately, and I believe that confidence rubbed off on Jerry (and the others in the band) at a time when they were no doubt still feeling deep hurt in the wake of Brent’s death and nervous about what lay ahead.

    Bruce brought a playfulness and levity to the band at the same time he was obviously a monster player with serious rock, pop and jazz chops. The way he would quote from “Shenandoah” or some bebop riff or “Dark Star” at the drop of hat never felt like showing off to me; rather, it made overt connections to some of the roots of the Dead’s songs and approach. Some Heads were frustrated by his many forays into “Dark Star” territory (playing around the riff while tuning up, or during “Truckin’”!) but I thought it was charming and fun. Others felt Jerry sometimes deferred to Bruce at the expense of his own solos. There’s some truth to that, but more often than not Bruce added something interesting to most songs and jams, and his gung-ho spirit certainly pushed Jerry and the others to be more creative at times. Unlike some fans, I enjoyed his accordion work, too.

    We learned later that Jerry was battling serious addiction during that summer ’91 tour (and started a rehab regimen following the last show in Denver). But I have no doubt that Bruce’s lively, puckish presence and his ability to keep Garcia interested and engaged helped make the tour such a grand success musically. There were several great shows that fall, too, at Madison Square Garden and Boston Garden, though most were not quite at the level of the best of summer ’91. (Alas, Jerry’s rehab didn’t stick.)

    Despite what Bruce brought to the band, I remember having mixed emotions when he departed at the end of the group’s March ’92 tour. When that septet wasn’t firing on all cylinders, the sound could become cluttered and sludgy, and you could see in Bruce’s demeanor the frustration he felt when Jerry would periodically zone out and become distant onstage. Also, there was always a sense that Bruce was a placeholder—we knew he wasn’t in it for the long haul (that was stated from the outset). So when was Vince, the anointed one, going to become the guy? Imagine the adjustments he had to make and the pressures he must have felt once Bruce departed. (Or perhaps he felt liberated, as some fans did, when Bruce left.)

    We’ll never know what course the band’s music would have taken had Bruce stuck around longer. I think he could have brought interesting arrangement ideas to the new songs the band introduced in 1992 and ’93, and I always hoped he would bring more of his own songs into the Dead’s repertoire (“Across the River”? “Talk of the Town”?). What if he and Garcia had written something together with Hunter?

    What we’re left with is a curious interlude in the Dead’s 30-year journey—a side trip well worth taking that left a lot of us with very happy memories.

    And here’s one vote for more audio and video releases from the summer of ’91. Starting with the rest of that Chicago show!

    What’s your take on the Bruce years?

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Last time, we talked mostly about the post-Brent era as it related to Vince and to Jerry’s sad decline. But I made scant mention of the period from September ’90 through the spring of ’92, when Vince and Bruce Hornsby were both in the band (for most shows; Bruce missed a few here and there because of other commitments). This marked a fairly radical shift in the group’s sound, as there was now assertive grand piano back in the mix—yay! I never cared much for Brent’s thin, tinkling electronic piano tone—along with the faux organ and synth textures Vince was struggling to fit in. It was a lot to take in as a fan, but some very exciting music came out of that transitional period, which includes what I would label the last great Dead tour, the summer of 1991.

What prompted me to write about this was watching the bonus tracks on the recently released Shout! Factory DVD box set, All the Years Combine, last night, none of which I had seen before. The first few had that familiar late ’80s look we’re accustomed to from various View From the Vault and other releases: a rockin’ “China Cat” > “I Know You Rider” and a really superb “Man Smart, Woman Smarter” from an ’87 Shoreline Amphitheatre show I attended, and a lovely, extended “Friend of the Devil” from Foxboro ’89. Nice!

However, the final two numbers were the ones that made me sit up and take notice. First came a hot version of “Hey Pocky Way” from what was then known as the World Amphitheatre, outside of Chicago, on July 22, 1990, Brent’s second-to-last show, just four days before his tragic death. The performance is good, but I must admit I was shocked at how bad Brent looked, especially compared with how he appeared in the previous track from a year earlier. His eyes glazed, his hair and beard long and unkempt, he has a sort of feral, mountain man vibe. Brent had occasionally seemed out of it and sort of removed from the rest of the band, but I don’t recall his physical presence being quite so alarming (much as Jerry’s sallow ’95 look was surely a warning sign).

But the last clip of the nearly hour-long unreleased footage was as exciting as the July ’90 one was disturbing: “Shakedown Street” from the band’s June 22, 1991 show at Soldier Field in Chicago. This was my favorite show of the summer ’91 tour, and I’d never seen a second of it. I know that 6/14 at RFK Stadium (VFTV II), 6/17 at Giants Stadium and 6/25 from Sandstone are more universally admired. I love all those, too, but there’s something about the cohesiveness of the 6/22 show, and the way Bruce and Jerry seem to be conversing musically on such a high level for the entire show, that has always knocked me out. And you can see that intimate communication in the long, adventurous “Shakedown,” as they share smiles and riffs and what looks at one point like a Vulcan mind lock! Hornsby had a certain fearless quality that allowed him to dive right in the Dead’s deep end immediately, and I believe that confidence rubbed off on Jerry (and the others in the band) at a time when they were no doubt still feeling deep hurt in the wake of Brent’s death and nervous about what lay ahead.

Bruce brought a playfulness and levity to the band at the same time he was obviously a monster player with serious rock, pop and jazz chops. The way he would quote from “Shenandoah” or some bebop riff or “Dark Star” at the drop of hat never felt like showing off to me; rather, it made overt connections to some of the roots of the Dead’s songs and approach. Some Heads were frustrated by his many forays into “Dark Star” territory (playing around the riff while tuning up, or during “Truckin’”!) but I thought it was charming and fun. Others felt Jerry sometimes deferred to Bruce at the expense of his own solos. There’s some truth to that, but more often than not Bruce added something interesting to most songs and jams, and his gung-ho spirit certainly pushed Jerry and the others to be more creative at times. Unlike some fans, I enjoyed his accordion work, too.

We learned later that Jerry was battling serious addiction during that summer ’91 tour (and started a rehab regimen following the last show in Denver). But I have no doubt that Bruce’s lively, puckish presence and his ability to keep Garcia interested and engaged helped make the tour such a grand success musically. There were several great shows that fall, too, at Madison Square Garden and Boston Garden, though most were not quite at the level of the best of summer ’91. (Alas, Jerry’s rehab didn’t stick.)

Despite what Bruce brought to the band, I remember having mixed emotions when he departed at the end of the group’s March ’92 tour. When that septet wasn’t firing on all cylinders, the sound could become cluttered and sludgy, and you could see in Bruce’s demeanor the frustration he felt when Jerry would periodically zone out and become distant onstage. Also, there was always a sense that Bruce was a placeholder—we knew he wasn’t in it for the long haul (that was stated from the outset). So when was Vince, the anointed one, going to become the guy? Imagine the adjustments he had to make and the pressures he must have felt once Bruce departed. (Or perhaps he felt liberated, as some fans did, when Bruce left.)

We’ll never know what course the band’s music would have taken had Bruce stuck around longer. I think he could have brought interesting arrangement ideas to the new songs the band introduced in 1992 and ’93, and I always hoped he would bring more of his own songs into the Dead’s repertoire (“Across the River”? “Talk of the Town”?). What if he and Garcia had written something together with Hunter?

What we’re left with is a curious interlude in the Dead’s 30-year journey—a side trip well worth taking that left a lot of us with very happy memories.

And here’s one vote for more audio and video releases from the summer of ’91. Starting with the rest of that Chicago show!

What’s your take on the Bruce years?

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Last time, we talked mostly about the post-Brent era as it related to Vince and Jerry’s sad decline. But I made scant mention of the period from September ’90 through the spring of ’92, when Vince and Bruce Hornsby were both in the band (for most shows; Bruce missed a few here and there because of other commitments). This marked a fairly radical shift in the group’s sound, as there was now assertive grand piano back in the mix—yay! I never cared much for Brent’s thin, tinkling electronic piano tone—along with the faux organ and synth textures Vince was struggling to fit in. It was a lot to take in as a fan, but some very exciting music came out of that transitional period, which includes what I would label the last great Dead tour, the summer of 1991.

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Bruce wasn't offered the position to fully replace Brett...was it money?...was it time?....was it that Bruce saw a disaster in the making? or was the whole scene at the time not to his liking???....Musically it worked and for myself was being more recharged about the shows....... As Bobby and Jerry had there solo acts one would think that Bruce could have worked his solo career around the needs of the band.....with that said .......releasing more material from the Bruce/Vince duo.....why not ??......I might get a lot flack for this comment but another Brett-era release is not needed.....though who am I say??.......some of us were glad to see the new input to the music......one wonders were it would have gone if Bruce had stayed on???.......Release the stuff as some of us are not getting any younger.....and new fans might just get on the bus!!!!
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"Brent." Not "Brett." A little respect for the departed, please! ;-) Bruce had a seriously flourishing solo career at the time, and though playing with the Dead unquestionably brought him many new fans--some of whom have stuck with him--he actually sacrificed a lot of time he could have been promoting his solo albums, to go on tour with the GD. Still, I think the Dead loosened him up a bit musically, and as I said, he added a lot to their sound during his brief tenure (which was actually around the same length as T.C. being in the band, if I'm not mistaken.)
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there was a show quite early there where both Bruce and Branford played, and that was about as close to heaven as it got. Maybe I dreamed it though!
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Branford and his group opened for the Dead, and Bruce joined them for "White Wheeled Limousine" (and maybe something else?). Then Branford joined the GD for much of the night--great stuff! In what is sure to be a memorable set, Branford, Bruce and Bobby are doing a trio set at the Gathering of the Vibes in Connecticut in late July. Boy, I'd love to see that, but alas, cannot...
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that's sure to be great...
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When it was initially announced that Bruce would be joining the GD, I was skeptical to say the very least. While Bruce was certainly and undeniably a skilled pianist, I couldn't see how the guy whose main claim to fame was The Way It Is could fit into the GD. Additionally, my first shows after the death of Brent were the Philly Spectrum shows of 9/10-12, before Bruce showed up the second night at MSG. I thought this Vince guy seemed pretty good for just having showed up, and figured that, in addition to being a poor fit, a second keyboardist would be superfluous. My first show with Bruce on board was 9/20/90 MSG (I kept saying throughout the first and second sets that it was "Dark Star night", and was proved correct!). I was a full convert to the Bruce camp by the end of his solo on Brown Eyed Women! The sound was big without too much of players stepping on one another's lines, and it was clear from the outset that Bruce got IT! This concert remains the best show that I have ever attended by any artist, period.
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Blairj writes: For years, I thought I was the *ONLY* one who enjoyed Bruce's accordion playing. Almost everybody called me weird for that comment. At least I know I'm not *THAT* weird. Blair, (A) do I join your group, or (B) do you join my group? Let's go with A. ;-) What Bruce gave to the Dead's sound was very good, but what the Grateful Dead did to Bruce was much better. Great topic after the Vince topic, going with the flow.. Thank you!
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Blairj writes:Unlike some fans, I enjoyed his accordion work, too.
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...from Flaco Jimenez's amazing work with Ry Cooder to all the French cafe music I love so dearly to Clifton Chenier to David Hidalgo... what's not to like? (OK, maybe not Myron Floren with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra...) "Baby Blue," "Uncle John's Band"... Bruce's accordion brought some nice new textures to those songs. And if the accordion was occasionally mixed too high, that's not Bruce's fault (same with when Vince was mixed too "hot"--HE wasn't controlling the mix at the front-of-house; that was Healy until '94, when Cutler took over...) I did kind of like that old bumpersticker, though: USE AN ACCORDION, GO TO JAIL!
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I gotta say that I loved Bruce's keyboard contribution to the band anytime as guest or occupying the keyboardist seat fulltime. Sorry Blair, his accordion not so much, but hey.....Bruce often did challenge and stretch us Deadheads a bit. Hornsby's playing IS virtuosity, his mastery of his instrument and adventurous spirit was contagious, obviously for Garcia, but also for the Dead as a band, and I believe his presence helped Vince's transition more than we could imagine. Mary and I went to a Hornsby & the Noisemaker's show in KC last summer, and I had the time of my life. To hear Hornsby’s treatment of Standing on the Moon or Lady with a Fan or Black Muddy River any of the other GD tunes he is so prone to segue into (with his originals such as Halcyon Days) are a transcendent concert experience. Bruce’s tune Sunflower Cat pays tribute to another (China)Cat Sunflower with such playful spirit. His live shows always contain great jams and the Noisemaker’s romp and run in the vein of some other bands that you and I love. I didn't see enough of the GD shows with Bruce aboard but treasure the KC Sandstone show and I love the DP shows from his 'era'. I believe to my soul what Blair said above, that Hornsby played an essential role with Garcia and the interplay between the two was much similar to the synergistic (1+1 = 7, the total is greater than sum of the parts) relationship displayed with Jerry and Brent. Most of my shows were during the Keith era so I must make the disclaimer how that era tugs at my heart/soul. Bruce is a master, there is no doubt. Catch him if you can. ‘I wouldn’t have seen it, if I hadn’t believed it’ M. Twain.
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Was already a great performing artist in his own right. He didn't need the Grateful Dead, the Grateful Dead needed him. He delivered. Perhaps his accordion was intrusive at times and other times misplaced but he challenged Jerry to rise above his lethargy. He brought a whole new energy to the band and, to me, they blossomed one final time before the long decline. They, and we, were lucky to have Bruce along for the trip a couple of years. Thanks Bruce!
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My last show attended was in '89 and my interest in the band had pretty much drifted away and I'm generally uninterested in the final years. However, the addition of Bruce added a much needed spark of creativity and professionalism. The first set of 4-1-91 is spectacular. So much intensity and everyone sounds "engaged". The Dark Star (blaspheming again) just doesn't click for me. Whatever, Hornsby brought alot of energy and was a really good fit. Not many people could spar with Garcia. One of these days I'll try to check out some more of that era. And the accordion is just fine. It's unfortunate that he left but I understand. Wow, just imagine Myron Floren jamming with the Dead. It would've brought the house down!
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Call me late on the bus if you will but I never got into the dead until the summer of '90 when my best childhood friend got me into them. I was about to be a senior in high school. That September my friend and I took a train from D.C. to NYC and saw the band. Little did I know but it was also Bruce Hornsby's first show. That show made me fall in love with the deads live sound, so I really appreciate what he brought to the table. Before that the only live dead I had heard was the Reckoning album. After many years of extensive listening to GD I can't say the 90's are my favorite period but I’ll always have a special place for 9/15/90 and Bruce. Seeing him on stage that night with the boys forever changed the way I approach live music and listening to music in general.

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Brent & Bruce did share the piano (the same piano!) for a little good-natured keys dual at RFK Stadium, DC, 7-12-89. It was early in the 2nd set, probably Women Are Smarter (now that I look at the set list). It was a moment ~ and one that, of course, came back with a bit of poignancy once Brent was gone and Bruce was aboard. And if it happened there, I'd bet it happened at other shows, too. As for the accordian ~ my first response was "ugh!" at Buckeye Lake in '88 when he guested on Sugaree....and deprived us of a Jerry solo. Some years later, it fit a lot better on Iko. And now that I've had the pleasure to play in a band with a smokin' accordian player, I now have love & appreciation for the instrument. So I'd certainly have liked it better now ~ but still not better than a Jerry solo on Sugaree ; ) Loved Bruce's piano. And his might've been my favorite of the round-robin verses on Maggie's Farm (Summer '91). What fun...five guys taking verses!
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...of folks that LIKE the accordion - - especially the Sandstone '91 Sugaree. If that show (6-25-91) were ever released I'd be one happy camper. It's one of my absolute faves. What'd make it even sweeter is if they included some filler from the night before. P.S. Someone I know had a bumper sticker that read 'I march to the beat of a different accordion'. He's since gotten a new ride so it's gone, but I remember it.
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I've always really liked the "Scarlet-Fire" from 6/25...
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Bruce always added a nice vocal contribution (as well as piano) to Jack Straw making it much more powerful for me. Oroboros description of the Hornsby and the Noisemakers show is intriguing and makes me wonder if he'll come around here soon. Sounds like something I'd like to check out.
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I love the Jack Straw from 6/16/91....a great little jam from Bruce and Jerry trading licks. Also He really could lay into Promised Land, at which times use of foot was optional, on the ivories. 9/14/91 MSG Promised Land is a good example..nice Jack Straw too However, I wonder if Garcia falling off the wagon, was influenced by Bruce's presence. Or maybe vice-versa. It seemed like he would use alot of laundry detergent some nights...Maybe he really likes clean clothes?
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Scarlet victim fire. Listen to Bruce lead the boys to water and ... bam. Great jam in the 2nd set
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Definitely agree that Soldier Field show is stellar. One of my favorites of the final five years. One thing I loved about this period were the great jams out of "Terrapin" ...to the point where the 80s versions that led straight into drums were now a letdown to listen to! (The RFK that was released on video ... overrated to me). I would offer that the Bruce period may have peaked with Shoreline, August 1991.A real definitive statement of what he gave them as a piano player across three nights. For instance, playing the outro riff of "Scarlet" using the melody/chords/key? from "Victim" as the first song goes into the latter. You've got to be kidding! Just incredible, creative musicianship. Or from that same show, he's leading "Space" all the way right into the "Playin'" reprise. Outstanding! I never liked the accordian. There isn't one song that I like. Maybe a guest appearance in Raleigh NC 1990. That's it. But I agree with Blair in that I wished he would have sang lead more, brought more of his songs in, and wrote songs with them. But as he said, then it starts to become his show. "We tried to do some of my songs but Garcia said 'We don't rehearse' so those things kind of drifted away." I recall a quote to that effect. Too bad. He was so talented I think it was hard for him to not just naturally dominate. He didn't want to do that. I think he should have though. It could have made the final couple of tours he was on much better. That fall 1991 tour for instance to me has definitely not held up ... I would have even liked to hear him sing some of Garcia's songs for the hell of it. Sing "Tennessee Jed" or some those first set tunes now and again. Or take some verses of them like Brent was starting to take verses of "Man Smart" and "Good Lovin." Just those little tweaks sent the crowd into a frenzy. Just having him be a piano player at that point seemed like kind of a "been there done that" deal. But it's great stuff. That summer of 1991 was something else. Good time to be alive and having a ball.
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I just saw a bumper sticker last night that said, "I'm pro accordian and I vote".
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Have to mention the two Vegas April shows, some fantastic music in this mini-run. A Bird Song that is one of the finest I've heard. Something about the Fall tour, although I agree it's not of the quality of Summer, Bruce plays some of his greatest at MSG and Boston. Sometimes I listen to 9/22 for example, and it seems like Bruce wants to tear it up as much as he possibly can. Spider-fingered piano mania. Just like the pre-drums jam of 9/21. Perhaps not until Charlotte 95 would such piano mastery be demonstrated again on the GD stage.
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What a run they had in the Fall of '91 at the (other) east coast Garden. Five or six shows of wicked awesome-ness. I say release one of those instead of anything from the summer!
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Blair - Since I am curious whether compensation issues or complexities (for Ned Lagin) was an issue in leaving off the Seastones interlude from the last vault release, may I also ask whether Bruce Hornsby's stake in the music he created with the Dead is or is not a factor in deciding around that material? Or did he sell his rights when Rhino licensed the vault? Thank you.
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The periods when the band broke in their newest keyboard player proved interesting and exciting each time around. I had the good fortune to have invested heavily time-wise during both Brent and Bruce’s Honeymoon runs, knowing full well that things would balance out soon enough. My first few shows were with Keith & Donna, so when Brent came on board the change in the musical palate was emense. By the fall tour of ’79 the band was starting to really click. Starting with Springfield each show, and each leg of the tour seemed to top or at least match the others - Philly, The Cap Centre, Buffalo - back to the West Coast, then Cleveland and Pittsburg all the way to New Years. Talk about a potential Box Set. I am in the minority as I prefer the “bells” that Brent was playing and his line of attack from this tour as opposed to later years when he had that Fender Rhodes type sound and all of his solos were in the circular rave-up format. In essence what he was playing in the fall of ’79 was in some ways more sophisticated than what he was serving up 11 years later. Oddly my last show seeing Brent was Raleigh, where Bruce was the opener and sat in on the squeeze box. Almost a transition show if you will ... Now Bruce is by far the most talented keyboard player to take the stage with them. He was so good he even knew when NOT to play - an amazing ability when you stop and think about it. He had far too much going on to join the Dead flat-out in the wake of Brent’s demise, but also could not resist the temptation to rescue his old heroes. At first it was like Christmas morning all over again as each song seemed to get a little something special or different from Bruce. The shows at MSG and Europe that fall were extraordinary. They did a couple of Bruce’s songs, however when they reassembled in December for the little tour that went to Phoenix, Denver and Oakland the band, or Jerry had forgotten the arrangements to Bruce’s songs so I know he decided then that his solo stuff would no longer be attempted at GD shows. That would have been interesting had he felt confident enough to have worked several of songs into the repertoire. Nevertheless his playing inspired Jerry and so most of 1991 was a very good year! Check out 06/11/91 - off the beaten path, hard to top. And the accordion - I didn’t much care for it but one night during Queen Jane Approximately they sounded like the house band at the Bavarian Cellar (a German restaurant in Asheville long since history). Anybody who can pull that off is alright. Ultimately the fact that the leading creative figure for the group was a hopeless junkie was too much for Bruce. He had other issues as well - such as no meaningful rehearsals and other perceived lack of professionalism (Jerry’s hygiene) etc. Being a realist I don’t think he figured anybody was going to change for him so he politely moved on. And yes as Zuckfun mentioned earlier, the show he played in Charlotte in March of 1995 was the real deal. That show should be released in it’s entirety.
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In answer to your questions: I believe the "Seastones" portion of the DP2 show was left off for a couple of reasons--it would have forced a fourth disc (and screwed up timings on the other ones), and it's NOT the Grateful Dead. (Nobody asks my opinion on these things, but I will add I think that particular 20 minutes of Ned and Phil is some of the most unpleasant and unlistenable music I've ever heard; just ghastly! I had trouble listening through it once! You can hear the hostility of the crowd at several points. But, of course, YMMV. And I've heard other Seastones excursions that are considerably more palatable to my conservative tastes in squonking noise.) I don't know anything about payment arrangements with Bruce. Since they've already put out a couple of audio releases on which he's featured (plus VFTV II), I don't suspect there's a royalty issue or whatever, but I don't honestly know.
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I guess I've never really understood why Bruce was able to play a grand piano when Brent never played one, and even Keith pretty much stopped using grand pianos in the last year + of his tenure. And then of course Vince never played one. Was it a band decision as we've heard about some of Vince's constraints and they relaxed the rules for Bruce, or what? I would have liked to hear Bruce by himself without Vince. Now that would have been interesting. I really think the Grateful Dead's sound lent itself so well to having a grand piano, as reflected in their most sophisticated and creative period when Keith was mostly playing piano from 71-77. I last made it to a show on 8/16/91 and I actually never got into to the show but did the parking lot scene at Shoreline all night while waiting for my brother who was inside but you could hear the music pretty clearly out there, I distinctly remember that Scarlet>Victim transition. Victim is an interesting song but I think Bob played it too much and it's generally kind of oppressive and not very fun. The Grateful Dead are kind of about what was, and also what could have been. There were many missed opportunities over the years and the lack of rehearsal coupled with apathy and burnout were starting to take their toll by the time Bruce came on board, but there were still moments of brilliance and I agree that 1991 was the last good year, there's nothing I've heard after that year to convince me otherwise. But I am really curious about the whole piano thing, what's the deal?
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to Road Trips Vol. 2, Numbers 1 and 4- MSG 1990 and Cal Expo 1993 respectively. Great music on both of them. Brought back my memories of Fall in boston garden-1991-some tremendous shows-very jazzy and creative. I would be pleased to see release of that run or parts of it( once again-go listen to 10/1/94 at the Garden also-my last show of the Grateful Dead).
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11 years 5 months
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...and listen to 10/1/94. Amazing show! Definitely one of the best of that era.
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10 years 1 month
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Loved Bruce, to echo a previous post, Bruce had hits and was kind of a media darling at the time that he joined the band. This, along with his great playing, brought a new, different crowd of people to the shows that, without Bruce, would have never came, they didn't come to see the Dead, they came to see Bruce and his new band. I was fortunate enough to catch a three night run in spring of 91 and Bruce was the uplifting spirit that the band needed in a time that their spirits needed an unlift. IMHO it felt like everyone liked Bruce, liked his upbeat playing and his other skills, which included, but was not utilized nearly enough, his singing ability, he sings like a bird. I have seen him cover several Garcia/Hunter tunes including a tearjearking reading of Loser back in 98/99. When I look back on those days, 20 years ago now, it was like stepping back into time those three nights, back into the sixties, and thinking about it now, those were some great times. I'd give just about anything to go to one of those shows again. Thanks Bruce.
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8 years 7 months
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The Boston Garden show from 9/22/91 is featured the next few weeks on The Grateful Dead Hour. As always, a big Thanks to David Gans for choosing this excellent performance!
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What a run they had in the Fall of '91 at the (other) east coast Garden. Five or six shows of wicked awesome-ness. I say release one of those instead of anything from the summer!
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11 years
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While it's true that the Dead certainly had good shows with Bruce, for me his style didn't actually mesh that well with the Dead. His "new age jazz" style tended to sometimes bog the band down while also making them sound soft. His playing is made up mostly of trills and not really all that deep. I actually like the ON show with Vince more but there are great shows with Bruce too. RIP Bob Welch
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10 years 9 months
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As said in earlier post-this show was my personal last Grateful Dead show. We were in first risers on the Jerry side of the stage-great view of the show. Show was a ripper right out of the box with strong tempos, eastern flavored Jerry leads with exotic tinges. Later on when Jerry sang Stella Blue we saw him in the dim spots with his back to us-he looked fragile from that angle but he sounded anything but fragile. The Scarlet-Fire was mind-blowing in the Garden that night and everyone was going nuts-they were, I am sure, caught up in the excellence of the spontaneous creation which was occuring in front of us as was I. In retrospect, I wish we still had the privilege to be with the big man and the boys in real time today. Thank God for the recorded legacy and the memories. Release all periods-it may have been someone's first show as it was my last show.
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11 years 5 months
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If you are a keyboards play who won't play the piano - you can't rock 'n roll. Full stop. One reason why Jeff C works so will with Ratdog & Furthur. I'm with Blair. Brent's keyboards never did it for me, and often got in the way. Jangly and tinkly. His voice always sounded to me as tho' someone was squeezing his balls. S fellow deadhead told me once he was "a soul man", to which I could only reply, "Sorry. Otis was a soul man, not Brent". I know others loved him - but he put me off the Dead for nigh on a decade. Bless him. "Nil nisi mortuos bonum", and all that, and may his soul rest in true peace.
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My comment on Brent was about his electronic piano tone only. I thought he was a great organist, and I think in the MIDI era he did a lot of really tasteful blending of sounds, and I always dug a good "fiddle" break from him on a country tune.
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Better on organ, yes - but it was still a stopping point for me. Loved Pig on the organ. Mind you, as far as I was concerned, in mid-80s UK, I could have been the only UK deadhead left. I think there's a few of us older UK deadheads who thought that at the time. No internet. A void, to all intents and purposes, with the occasional anodyne studio album. That said, it was a very fine thing to re-discover them; the Wembley shows in 1990, especially Halloween, were fine shows with passages of magnificence. And I did see them with Brent in 1981, when they came over twice in a year. Rainbow shows were nice, floor was open and not too crowded. Mushrooms acquired thanks to the agency of Serendipity. Mickey hit The Beam in one show, and my younger brother's knees went, and we lowered him to the ground for ten minutes :-) Every time they came over to the UK I realised how much I missed them. And still do. Bottom line for me is that of the boys were happy with Brent - which clearly they were - then I guess its my loss! And I listen to lots of eighties shows.
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They ALL brought a bright edge to the music, no matter what instrument they played. Each new player came in at the time when the band needed a boost. Pig helped the band take off, Keith brought legitimacy to the band, Brent took the band into the digital age, Bruce brought the band back to a more rock n roll roots sound and Vince took the band into places that they normally wouldn't have gone without someone of his ability. Not one of them was right or wrong, they just brought the sound moving forward. Personally, I liked them all for many reasons.
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...was fun. I did the first 3 shows and had a blast at all 3. Bob Weir's guitar was LOUD and I'm a huge fan of his guitar playing (even though he's not aggressive as he used to be...love ya, Chief), so this was tailor made for me. I was a huge Brent fan and, say what you will, he was incredible all around. Piano, B3, synth...he was built for this band in my opinion as he understood the musical goal. Jerry sure enjoyed playing with Brent. That much was obvious. Bruce & Jerry were seriously locking in throughout 91 for sure. There were plenty of moments where I felt there was too much going on musically by too many people and it would get muddy. But mostly, it was really hot. I remember being 3rd row, right in between Jer & Bruce for Richfield 91. They opened with LTGTR > Jack-squared (Jack Straw, Jack-A-Roe). There was a Tennessee Jed played toward the end of the set and, during the jam after the verses were done, Jerry & Bruce didn't take their eyes off of each other. Throwing riffs back & forth, having this wonderfully exciting conversation and I was a (albeit one of about 17,000) fly on the wall. Blew me away.
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I am a 1985 guy and before. To me the dead are or were a guitar driven band. They played at times without a keyboard player or much of one in the early 70s until keith joined the band. The Grateful Dead were at their best when Jerry, Bob and Phil were at their best. The keyboards were more adding to the colour then drawing the picture. After Jerry's coma Brent's keyboards began to push the guitars to the back.They were took over territory that had belonged to the guitars and the music to me was less than it had been. All of Brent's songs were awful. One was worse than the other. I will take you home is not sweet just creepy. He was a good player but did not fit well with the dead. The releases from 87 to 90 are my least favorite. Even when Bruce Hornsby played with the dead too much musical territory was ceded to the keyboards. What I hear on Dicks picks 27 view from the vault 2 and the road trips from 93 was the guitars taking back the territory ceded to the keyboards . I don't know if vince was better player than brent but I think he was a better fit for the band as Keith was a good fit. They allowed the guitars to be where they belonged at the forefront.
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I respect your opinion but have to also respectfully disagree about Brent. Hey Pocky Way (a cover, I know, but he put his own signature on it) and Blow Away were a couple of my favorite Brent tunes. Starting around 1983 Brent began to take over more and more of the show. He was a damned fine musician and pushed Jerry. I resented it a bit also but soon felt it was for the better. They could have done way worse with a replacement than Brent. Don't know what to think about Vince since he was limited to the casio keyboards. I don't think Bruce was pushy, he just floated to his own level. The guitars never ceded to the keyboards. I do agree with you that the keyboards were something to round out the sound. Would you say the same thing about the drums also?
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bambini. I mostly agree with your post. Except- the more I listen to the E72 box, the more I feel Keith was an equal contributor to that great period of music. I used to argue that there were only 4 real essential "Core" members of the Dead, but now I'd argue that should be expanded to 5, especially during the 72-74 period. His playing during E72 was just stunning, night after night. Right up there with Jerry, Phil, Bob, and Billy, IMO.I liked Brent's playing well enough in the early 80's. I really like his playing on "Reckoning". And I enjoy live "Far from Me" and "Easy to Love You". They weren't great songs, but I think the live versions are fun to listen to. I'm with you on "I Will Take You Home". I don't know if its "creepy" but I do hate the song. It sucks. For some reason, that song makes me angry- it's the only Dead song that makes me angry. I loathe "I Will Take you Home"! My favorite Brent tune is "Don't Need Love", but I guess I am in a minority (I saw a great version in Hampton 84). I remember absolutely loving Brent's playing at the concerts I saw in the early 80's, but it just hasn't seemed to hold up over time very well. Or it doesn't come through well in the recordings, somehow. To my ears, anyways. I certainly agree Vince was a better fit for the Dead than late 80's Brent....
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Reading that "Don't Need Love" is a favorite Brent tune, is maybe the most surprising post since the revelation that "Wave to the Wind" is Phil's most satisfying song. In the words of John Lennon- Love is all you need. Or perhaps- Without love in a dream it will never come true.
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The song is about his little girls! How is that creepy in any way? I saw a few really sweet versions of that one (though I'll be the first to admit it was NEVER what I wanted to hear out of "space," which was its frequent placement). I really dug "Tons of Steel" and "Just a Little Light," saw some good versions of "Far from Me," and really did not care for "Blow Away." "Easy to Love You" was a little bland-Michael McDonald-Doobie Brothers' for my taste. "Don't Need Love"... now THAT was creepy.
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"Don't Need Love"- Am I the only one who loves this song?! What's not to love about it? Dark, brooding lyrics. A perfect-fitting "walking-groove". Honestly- its always been my favorite Brent tune. Weir always played beautifully on it, too. Hampton 4/14/84 is a perfect example.
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11 years 4 months
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Bruce didn't make it to the first post-Mydland shows in Richfield; however, I did enjoy him and the Range at Buckeye Lake on that sweltering day, 6/25/88, when Bruce did play accordion, on Sugaree and Stuck Inside Mobile during the Dead's 1st set. In Louisville, KY on 7/6/90, he and the Range again opened the show. Great hearing the Dead play Standing on the Moon under an open Cardinal Stadium sky. That December, I drove to Denver and caught 2 shows at McNichols: 12/13/90 was notable for the terrific Jack Straw, possibly the best I've seen. When the GD returned to KC in June 0f 1991: Both shows rocked!
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I don't think the tune is bad. I'll recommend the version from Augusta, Me in '84. I guess Jerry often vacated the stage for the tune, but on this one he stayed on to good results. On the 'creepy' description for 'Take You Home', I'd probably go with cheesy or schmaltzy instead. A sentimental tune maybe, but not a great way to come out of the space jam so often.
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Unless you have been living alone under a rock, we all get burned or hurt in love, friendships, etc. I think we've all thought at one time or another "this ain't worth the time that it takes..." and so forth. Not sure what is creepy about that. That is just honest reflection on the human condition.
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I did NOT want to hear the sentiment "I don't need love and I don't need you" at a Grateful Dead show. And it was not a good song IMO... Guy needed anger management...
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48 years 10 months
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these last few posts have been classic!absolutely loved your one blair! throwing a little strop are we, ha ha ha???!!! so, you do NOT want to hear such a sentiment at a Dead show, eh? i suppose murder ballads and a girl who's just fourteen are ok then? mmm... i remember a post of yours from last year where you said you liked songs that had an emotional weight to them. regardless of whether the actual songs themselves appeal or Brent's delivery suited the ears, you know full well that the emotion was always heartfelt. maybe painfully so. that's the kind of sentiment i DO want to hear at a Dead show. anger management? maybe he could've dragged Phil, Billy and Mickey in tow too. or do a variety of chokeholds, punchings and stranglings not count? before i comment on Bruce, one last thing regarding Brent, Vince etc. always makes me laugh when people loudly proclaim that Brent ruined it, or Vince spoiled it; like the other five members weren't complicit in some way!!! Many a show was royally fucked by Jerry (and to a much lesser extent Phil, in his "Heineken & Cocaine" years). They are always painted as "suffering" in some way, while Brent and Vince get lambasted. Quite unbelievable. One look at the joy in Jerry's face when interacting with Brent tells you all you need to know. (including that fantastic, rocking smile as Brent rips his way through Blow Away from Philadelphia 7/7/89). Brent managed to get some great sounds out of his synthesizers, not an easy thing to do. true, some were cheesy but thats the '80's in general i'm afraid. no worse than some of the absolutely hideous tones that Jerry sometimes sprung from his guitar synth (that quite ludicrously lame trumpet/saxophone/horn monstrosity!!). but i do agree with you about Bruce. there's some lovely music from that period. and Jerry's obvious pleasure at playing with him is infectious. i too, as someone pointed out earlier, would've been interested to hear Bruce as the sole keyboardist. (and thats no disrespect to Vince). but then i also enjoyed that "muddied" sound sometimes too. being no stranger, in fact a close friend with a bit of dissonance, i liked that clash that could occur. felt like two or three bands trying to play the same song at once, each with a different purpose! made for some interesting collisions. wouldn't want to hear that all the time, but..... personally, being into the more jazz, improvised, experimental side of music, i absolutely love those '68, '69 recordings. those beautiful heights of '73 and '74 too. but sometimes on a hot summer's day, a bottle of The Kernel Brewery's INDIA PALE ALE, Galaxy in one hand, a delightful offering of Amnesiac Haze bud in the other with my wife and my best friend at my sides, i want to hear Easy To Love You roll it's sweet way across my mind. thanks for some great music too Bruce. wish you could've stayed (again, no disrespect Vince - you were shafted good and proper). here's to all the eras of the Dead. we have one helluva menu to choose from.
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    Anonymous (not verified)
    6 years 4 months ago
    join the Army, meet interesting people, kill them.
    ha ha! good answer Syracuse78!come on fluffanutter, save the endless political guff for the Trouble Ahead... topic, eh?
  • Syracuse78
    6 years 5 months ago
    Re - scalping.
    I was referring to buying tickets outside before a show. Hope that is (was) ok with you.
  • estimated-eyes
    6 years 5 months ago
    Soldier Field 91
    I may have to give the Soldier Field 91 a listen at the archive, Blair. As I wrote, the swirling winds in the stadium really muddied the sound and a soundboard listen may change my mind. Syracuse78, after skipping 92 and 93, I got talked into going to one of the 94 shows and had a fine time, good enough to go to 7/8/95, after which we all said that may be the end of the line-- the largely instrumental US Blues was a trainwreck. Unfortunately, it was the end of it all.
  • fluffanutter
    6 years 5 months ago
    uncool to scalp
    tickets to a grateful dead show. so many people couldn't get in to even a Soldier Field stadium show. better to sell them at cost or miracle a couple of people. that was then, this is now. sigh.......
  • Syracuse78
    6 years 5 months ago
    6/22/91 Soldier Field
    I too was there, but have a pretty vague recollection of it. I do know that in the '90s, whenever the Dead would come around to Chicago, I wouldn't buy tickets in advance. The idea of seeing them in a football stadium was really unappealing (first show was Syracuse '78 for me). Then about a day or two before they would land in Chicago, I would start to see the VW vans and get The Fever. Inevitably, I'd go down to the stadium and try to scalp two tickets and call me wife. Anyway, it seems like after every Soldier Field show, I'd think to myself, "That was fun, but maybe enough is enough." Then they would come around the next year and I would rinse and repeat. Bottom line, I guess I have to listen to 6/22/91 and see if it's better than I recall.