They've always said that with The Dead, it's not about performing the song perfectly, but rather the energy and emotion ... whether measuring in terms of a song, a show, a run, or even a tour. If I were writing this ten years ago, I'd probably have 100 songs on this list. But where Dick says the preference changes daily, I would say my list dwindles daily. That's not to say the ones that fall to the wayside aren't still great ... But I'm eternally searching for the perfect list to hand to a newcomer, and be able to confidently say "THIS is why people love The Dead." I believe there are a handful of songs that not only have great energy and emotion, but are also note perfect. (Or damn near) Here, I humbly submit my top 20 favorite performances, in no particular order. Thanks for reading....
Oh, PS- I hope this doesn't come off as pretentious. I got a TON of great suggestions from this forum, and I just wanted to return the favor. Thank you!
DARK STAR 11/08/69 (dp 16)
Packs all of the punch of a 30 minute jam into about 15 ... Very distinctive version for '69
LOVELIGHT 04/27/71 (ladies & gents....)
Pigpen in all of his glory....
LOOKS LIKE RAIN 04/08/72 (europe '72 remaster bonus track)
Jerry on pedal steel. Prettiest version I've ever heard. (Just look the other way when Jerry flubs a chord at the end of the solo....)
ONE MORE SATURDAY NIGHT 04/08/72 (steppin' out)
I've never heard them rock quite like this, except for this one other time.... (See GDTRFB)
CHINA CAT / RIDER 06/26/74 (dp 12)
I'm baffled as to why no one ever talks about this one. It's 20+ minutes of lazy and in-the-pocket groove. Great harmonies, too.
GDTRFB 10/18/74 (gd movie/soundtrack)
Explosive! I have never heard this much pure intensity in straight rock terms. A must hear!
BROWN-EYED WOMEN 05/08/77
Yeah, I know ... Cornell, blah blah blah. :) But I have yet to hear a funkier version. 12/26/79 (dp 5) is pretty damn close, though....
MISSISSIPPI HALF-STEP 09/03/77
Another show that gets accused of being overrated. Although I mostly agree, there has never been another Half-Step that I've heard that reaches these heights. Make sure you listen to the build in the middle.
LET IT GROW 10/11/77 (road trips vol. 1, no. 2)
I felt like I got run over by a train the first time I heard this. Hopefully you will, too. :)
LOSER 12/29/77 (dp10)
I read somewhere that Jerry played a different guitar this night. I don't know if the rumor is true, but the solo is STINGING. A very unique sounding solo for this song, and it's full of passion.
ESTIMATED PROPHET 08/12/79 (so many roads box)
Perfect transitions, Brent's solo ... 'Nuff said!
HE'S GONE -> CAUTION JAM 05/06/81 (dp 13)
This is a very dark and murky version of He's Gone, and comes off even more heartfelt than other versions I've heard. As far as the Caution Jam is concerned, all I can say is "WTF???"
LOST SAILOR 06/15/85
I've always had a soft spot for this song. Bob sings beautifully, and the music is flawless.
COMES A TIME 11/01/85 (dp 21)
So, you think the song's over and drifting off into "Space," then BAM!, they all fall back into it perfectly. I've listened to that section 100 times, and I STILL can't figure out how the hell they did that! You have to hear this performance.
MORNING DEW 09/18/87
Ok, it is very important that you hear this. Easily the most emotional Jerry performance I've ever heard. Just listen the way he pours his soul into his vocals, and later, the guitar solo. There's this one note ... this ONE note he hammers near the very end ... Man, my hair stands up just thinking about it. If this list were only a "top three," this would be in it.
PLAYING IN THE BAND 07/29/88 (so many roads box)
A pretty rare, un-separated version. The middle, "main ten" jam builds and builds until it sounds like the world is coming to an end! Once the damage has been done, you hear them quietly crawling out of the rubble before they hit the last chorus.
BOX OF RAIN 07/19/89 (phil zone)
Perfect. The definitive live version.
STUCK INSIDE OF MOBILE WITH THE MEMPHIS BLUES AGAIN 10/09/89
Bob really hams it up on this one, and it sounds like the rest of the band is supporting him 100%. Sooooo much power and energy coming across here, and the guys seem to be having a great time.
SCARLET / FIRE 03/22/90 (so many roads box)
This is the hardest tune(s) for me to find an absolute favorite performance of, but I think most of you will agree that this is a great one. Pretty economical for a s/f, clocking in at only 20 minutes or so. It's virtually flawless though, and that's why I chose it.
STELLA BLUE 08/01/94
I dare you to get a copy of this and not tear up when you hear Jerry sing at the end. I prefer SBs to audience tapes, but this one you almost need the audience recording to hear the fans' reactions, and to get the full effect. I cried when I heard this for the fist time.
that would be the Dark Star from 12-6-73 show at the Cleveland Convention Center that clocks in at over 40 minutes (and then segues>Eyes of the World>Stella Blue>Sugar Magnolia!) but I don't have that one. Good luck in your search, dhk!
I heard there was a fourty minute dark star cut. Any one know where i could get my paws on it? I love darkstar. my cousin's tribute band did some awesome jams based off of it recently and i would love to hear some originals.
I like picasso moon. I memorized the whole song lyrics. I used them at last during "the Glow".
I was there, too, mom.
you see? we HAVE danced together!
From about December of ’73 through the “retirement” shows, Phil would sometimes (maybe half of the time or a little less), at the end of the second “Well the sun will shine in my back door some day” line in IKYR, include a little vocal embellishment on the word “day”. He would sing it kind of like “day-YEAH”. I loved this the first time I heard it – Phil’s obvious enthusiasm at those moments is just super-great to hear - and thereafter sought out shows where he did it. To date my favorite example is 6/20/74 Atlanta.
I plan to check out the ’77 Peggy-O’s that have been mentioned in this thread, but I don’t really expect them to surpass, for my ears at least, the sublimely melancholy Peggy-O of 8/4/74, that appears on DP31.
Finally there’s that haunting Ship of Fools from 6/23/74, with the beautiful instrumental intro, that opens Set 2.
I was there with my sister( Miss u Patty!!) and a bunch of friends. I was pregnat with my twin girls ( now tuning 18 this month) WOW!! Awesome Scarlet Begonias!!
if you have some time, give this one a listen:
Went thru this thread and saw some real interesting comments. I don't know if it's possible to choose which is the best version of songs but I'll go with three. First, the Sugaree from 9-2-80? It's a boot I used to own and have lost it transit. There was also a real good FOTD on that one , too. That Sugaree was real intense.
Second, Jack Straw from Syracuse 1984. I think the actual date was 10-20-84. Hell, that whole Carrier Dome show was intenese. "The fire marshall is gonna shut down the show. Step, take step back." Hot Smokestack and Lovelight. Drove up from Baltimore on blotter. Guy driving was nursing a hangover and had no aspirin so he dropped. The rest of us did too. Enjoy the ride.
Third, Morning Dew 1986 at the Spectrum in Philly. Came out of space with the one song that defined Jerry. After he finished, the boys walked off the stage. Place was going crazy. You can see this one on youtube. This band always brought out emotions of joy--this song the tears flowed so freely. The year before Jerry did this and his voice was gone, the jam real short, and Bobby carried the day. You just had to have seen the Dew in '85 to understand the '86 Dew. I remember holding my then girlfriend, both of us just crying as the song ended. Still sends chills right up my spine. watched it on youtube the other day and I still had tears flowing freely.
Help/Slip/Frank 5/9/77 War Memorial Buffalo
Jack Straw DP 7
Morning Dew 12/27/89
Truckin' DP 34 (Toronto)
Viola Lee Blues DP 22
Disc 4 of Steppin' Out England Europe 72 is sublime
Dancin'/Frank on the new Road Trips '79 is KILLER