February 8 - February 14, 2010
Our first stop this week is at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, where the Grateful Dead were playing their first ever three-night run at the Brendan Byrne Arena. The middle night, 3/31/88, featured a very odd show ending jam, and we're pleased to play it for you here today. The post-Drums sequence of Space>GDTRFB>Miracle>Fantasy>Hey Jude>Watchtower, Knockin' featured a couple of things to note. First of all, check out the gorgeous Space, with Jerry, Phil and Bobby doing all sorts of cool things. The transition into GDTRFB is one of the cleanest I've ever heard, followed by a passionate Miracle into a terrific Dear Mr. Fantasy. At the end of Fantasy, during the Hey Jude coda, Brent and Bobby can be heard doing some outstanding vocal bits. Then one of the strangest bits of late-80s Grateful Dead music arrived: All Along The Watchtower. All I can say is check it out; train wreck narrowly averted, perfectly executed chaos ensues. Also, this encore would end up being the only time the Grateful Dead played two Bob Dylan songs in a row.
Next we have music from the final Grateful Dead show at the Hartford Civic Center on 3/19/90. We have the end of the first set, Picasso Moon, Brown-Eyed Women, All Over Now, Deal. This was the first time I ever saw Picasso Moon live, and although much-maligned, I thought the song kicked butt live, and I was thoroughly impressed hearing it the first time live. A nice, raunchy, rocking end, similar in tone to long-lost closing jams on Passenger. It's a great Deal, too, one of those versions where everyone locks in tightly in the closing jam.
From the same tour, on 3/29/90 at Nassau Coliseum, we have the start of the first set featuring Jack Straw, Bertha, We Can Run, Ramble On Rose, Masterpiece. We've selected this batch of tunes not only because it's really good, but it often gets overlooked due to the presence of Branford Marsalis later in the first set and in the second set.
Finally this week, we have the penultimate (there it is again!) Canadian Grateful Dead concert, held at the current home of the Hamilton Bulldogs (Go Habs!), at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on 3/20/92. I distinctly recall this day being a very cold, crisp, sunny end-of-winter day, and I spent some time in the afternoon visiting the CFL Hall of Fame near the arena. I also remember being in the hotel lobby when the band arrived and checked in, to a huge round of applause by a lobby filled with Dead Heads. From that show, we have Hell In A Bucket, Althea, The Same Thing, Brown-Eyed Women, Mexicali Blues>Maggie's Farm. This latter combination is cool as Mexicali rarely started cold, usually coming out of Mama Tried or Me and My Uncle. These versions of Maggie's Farm with everyone taking a verse were pretty cool, too. Hearing Vince sing his verse in Europe in 1990 was the first time any of us had ever heard Vince's voice on its own.
Be sure to stop by next week when we'll listen to music from 1974 and 1982. Thanks for hanging out, and feel free to send questions or comments to me at the email address below, with the subject “Grateful Dead” to make sure it squeezes through our state-of-the-art spam filters.
If you completely devalue the Dead post 1979, then I believe that your musical tastes are stunted, immature. The coked-out 1977 sound (with all of Jerry's clams and 2-3 string "shreds") has many Deadheads fooled I am afraid. To my ears, Garcia's imagination and palette improved substantially in '78-80, and while maybe some of the hyper-revved energy of the rhythm section had peaked, there were still tons of great sets, moments, and tours left to play. Try some blazing first sets from 1987 (Sept, MSG), some spaced out medleys and second sets from 1980 (5-10), and how about 1990? How about any of about 50 versions of Bird Song (11-30-80)? You shills for 1969-77, did you listen to the music? I would agree that people whose listening tastes are (or were for most of their teen and adult years) 75% or more Dead, they just love '77 Dead as the bomb. They need help, friends.
For me, one of the amazing things about the band was their ability to constantly reinvent themselves, year after year. Much to the disgust of the fans of years previous...
In other words, there are folks who think everything after '69 sucked, others who think it was "downhill" after '73, and others who think that the the last great gasp of the band was fall of '89 thru the end of '91, or roughly around the time when Uncle bobo died.
To my way of thinking, to dismiss the last half of '89 through 1990 as "sad and trash" is *insane*. Are you telling me the entire run of MSG '90 was a tired old band ? What nonsense.
But, then I got mine as well. I had to listen to people who saw their first show in '94 and thought it was the best thing ever....
Ain't It Crazy ? :-)
of 8/13/79. The GD have a sense of soul, purpose, specialness at that time. After 1980 hit, Jerry started to decline. They became slick when they got huge in 1987. So many of us were on the bus it was standing room only. We contributed to their decline by supporting the scene, when perhaps they should have hanged it up to see what tomorrow brought. despite the decline, i was happy happy happy to see them 8/22/93, 6/13/94, 6/19/94, 6/8/90...
the wine is starting to take effect...
the 3/31/88 stuff, but that Watchtower is a blast. Nice not to have it so slick and autopiloted. more stuff like that would have made the later years more interesting.
In the right frame of mind ANY GD is good GD. IMO, anything through the end of 79 is great, and stuff after that I can take or leave listening to, despite the fact that I had magical experiences at 7/18/82 (my first show) and 7/13/84 (and 6/9/90 during Cassidy).
the GD had to evolve somehow, and they couldn't stay the same for 30 years. Cut 'em some slack (I sometimes need to heed my own advice!!!!!!)
I remember listening to the albums in the early 70s and then when I finally made it to a show
in '76, I have to say it was kinda weird. The band's sound had changed so much. I would never love the bands on stage sound and style post '76 the same as the early years. However
I roughly put Jerry's decline at when he turned 40 in '82 (that's about 50 in our years). By 1989
I couldn't continue. It wasn't just Jerry or the band but the crowd too. People had become so territorial and possessive of space.It hadn't been that way before.
I rarely play music from '76-'82 and I pretty much never play anything past that.
I really wish there were more sdbd recordings from the summer and fall of '70. I'd like to see
more road trip stuff from then. That period of the summer when American Beauty was being recorded and the fall when they were in super well rehearsed form yielded some essential and timeless performances. It seems there are no board tapes from the 4 nights at the Capitol in Port Chester in november which is really tragic.
David, are you reading this?
Anyway, while I understand that people enjoy moments from the 90s, whenever I hear Jerry sing from that time I cringe.
Very strongly in agreement with grateful prof as to quality of the playing in later years. Aside from Scarlet/Fire's from the spring of '77, I rarely play much after '74. The inspiration seems absent and not much bears repeated listening for my ears. I definitely enjoyed the shows, but perhaps for the fun and the deep affection we felt for the band more than for what was really happening on-stage. That affection remains strong, however, and if they are still enjoying it, may they play music for many more years to come.
Hey, it goes without saying that David does a great job, and does us all a great service making our Mon. mornings worth waking up for! (and anyone who is a Habs fan is ok in my book!)
Ahhh, Spring '90! Great to hear such fresh, crackling songs from this awesome tour. Agreed, the '90s were hit or miss, but Spring tour '90 was almost always ON FIRE!
I guess that is my point, we move from years when whole shows, hell, whole tours, were powerful and magical to years/tours where there were, well, as you say, "powerful moments". Hardly worth firing up the bus and traveling around the country for (I know, I did it!). Were it not for the bands history, the whole scene, and the ever present, but always unfulfilled hope for greatness, who would spend so much psychic energy and time on a band that, at best, gives ya some powerful moments? I agree "space is the place" during these years, and some of Jerry's newer songs are in a style that comfortably fits into his wonderful sense of Great American Music, but then Bobbie starts to play slide, catatonic drumming kicks in (or not!), static tempos abound, and everything unravels. Of course to each their own, but I sometimes think we heard what we wanted to hear, and not what was actually being played in those last 15 years or so. I try so hard to like the music then, and hell, I was at many a show in the 80's, and I recall if we got one well played song, one 3-5 min jam of interest we were happy. I think we belittle the legacy of a band that was so great for many years if we end up thinking it was always great. As much as I waited for Jerry and Co to "dust off those rusty strings just one more time" and make them shine, well, it happened with increasing rarity as the years past, and, for my ears at least, almost never after the mid 80's. Some of my students try to find a show for me "that rocks" in the later years, I listen and well, usually end up depressed!
Yep, that Watchtower is an interesting display of band dynamics. Everybody sounds like they have their own take on meter and speed, but somehow they all manage to hang together. You had to have a sense of humor to play in this band.