For me it has to be Dick's Picks 8, disc 2. My first show was December '73 so I never got to see this version of The Dead live. In my opinion this is by far their peak. Pig was still a vibrant part of the band, Jerry's guitar is alive and powerful, and the jams are incredibly tight. I typically play my music in "shuffle" mode, so now The Dead is only chance listen. However, when I sit back by myself with the headphones on, Dick's Pick 8 is most often my choice.
The China Cat/I know you rider on without a net, Ive never heard a version that was so upbeat and powerfull. Also The Dark Star from RFK 6-10-73 is my own personal favorite.
"You know the one thing we need is a left handed monkey wrench....."
I have never been blown away like I was listening to a Scary version of Dark Star in Miami, FLA on 10/26/89....u have to take about 37 minutes, close ur eyes and dream!
stay safe and feel good!
Dark Star- 11/11/73- Winterland- Simply out of this world, takes the listener through so many emotions and modes. Incredible!
Eyes Of The World- 6/18/74 Louisville- My 2nd live tape ever. Still my all time fave for mellowness and good vibes
Uncle John's Band- 4/10/83 Morgantown- It was a pretty average show until this point, then Jerry took over. I still don't know how Jerry can play so many notes in such a short span. Everyone there noticed.
Lazy Lightnin--> Supplication- 2/17/79 Oakland- For the same reasons I like the Morgantown Uncle John's. Jerry rips it up!
Other One- 11/29/80 Gainesville- Brent plays the best jams on this one ever. Super tight!
Shakedown Street- 4/6/82 Spectrum- Jerry and Brent's interplay on the jam is out of this world!
Most probably you were listening to a version from the spring of 1972.
Very possibly April 14th.
I'm still leaving my options open on this one, but I have a few that stand out, probably b/c I've listened to them the most:
-the China Doll off of Reckoning - when they nail that harmony on "just a little nervous" I get chills
-Friend of the Devil off Dead set - even though when i tracked down the original I didn't like Brent's solo as much, it's still one the tightest well played solos I've heard
-Sugaree - 5/5/77 (just heard this one and I'm still in shock)
-Scarlet/Fire - 5/8/77 - call me mainstream
-Mountains of the moon -> dark -> etc - 2/11/69 - this has been one of my favorite jams for awhile, but I'm wrestling with some other recently procured copies from the Fillmore West that may end up winning out. . .
-LL Rain - just heard this ridiculous version on Sirius, they didn't tell me where it's from. Bobby says something like "now for a sad song" at the beginning and Jerry is playing slide on the whole thing . . . I'm hoping someone with a little more experience might know where this came from.
I agree with many comments I've read that it's hard to pick all time favorites. My opinions change from day to day. However, here are 2 all time favorite versions, both for very personal reasons.
My all time favorite version of Iko Iko is fron the Hampton Coliseum March 23, 1987. This was my first ever Dead show which I attended with two friends who had spent the last year introducing me to the music. My 8 year old son was also with us. He loved the song Iko Iko and was very attached to a dog one of my Dead Head buddies owned named Iko. In the parking lot before the show my son kept saying he couldn't wait to here Iko. We were all afraid he would be disappointed. I'll never forget my sense of wonder when during a break between songs in the first set the crowd started clapping out the rhythm to Iko and the band picked up on it and played the song!!! That's when my son and I realized this was not just a rock and roll concert! Can anyone tell me where I could get a good quality recording of this show (preferably with the audience participation)?
My all time favorite version of Looks Like Rain was performed by Bob and Rob Wasserman in Richmond, VA shortly after Jerry's death (I think this was their first show after Jerry passed). Enough said.
Dark Star on Dick's Picks 4 is certainly up there - that incredible dissonant crescendo in the middle! Pure Dead. So were Casey Jones and Dancin'... those nights definitely deserve their long-standing reputation. I always loved Feel Like a Stranger on Without a Net and 04/01/80 the most (though I'm trying to re-find a keyboard-solo performance from the mid-'80s - that was amazing.) Shakedown on 01/10/79! Just heard it. Too many songs to mention now, though - but my all-time favorite concert so far might be 06-14-1968 :)
Greatest Story Ever Told- 11/11/73... oh my god this version is so insane
The Music Never Stopped- 5/3/77.. I really wish I was alive cause I would be going nuts, the band is having a great night and you could hear it. Donna's vocals are crisp and smoking hot. The jam is sick.
Playing In The Band- 10-15-83.. This is one of my all time favorite shows. mickey and bill are so tight the whole second set. Jerry's playing reaches a new level on the jam. its unreal and goes into one of my favorite china dolls
5/19/66 Midnight Hour
and from the ticket stub collection:
10/27/79 Dancin > Franklin's
4/1/80 Promised Land (on different instruments); US Blues (Belushi cart wheels)
6/21/80 Playin' > Brent's Alaska jam
12/26/81 The Eleven jam
12/31/81 Dark Star
6/14/85 Keep on Growin'
10/9/89 Dark Star