December 15, 1986
first "Push" - first "Black Muddy River"
Set List:Touch of Grey
When Push Comes to Shove
Beat it on Down the Line
Greatest Story Ever Told
My Brother Esau
Let it Grow
Looks Like Rain
Black Muddy River
Playin' in the Band
Playin' in the Band
Johnny B. Goode
Attendees of this show
First show since Jer's meltdown.
I was shocked at how different Jerry looked. Something had definitely shifted, and not one deadhead saw it coming. The spring of 1986 made you think the band was in decline, uneven shows, Jerry resting his head on the mic stand. His vocals often cracked and the energy was just tired. I have never seen a band bounce back like the Dead did leading into the summer of 1987. This night was the begining of a big shift in this band. The next couple of months would be a bit clunky with a few really bad shows, but you could tell that this was a band working to evolve its sound and focus. I will never foget this period after Jerry's coma where this band picked itself up and really began to kick ass on the road the summer of 1987, defying all expectations and really putting themselves as the one of the greatest touring bands of all time. We may never see such a run again. Thank you guys!
With Jerry going down, there was real uncertainty about whether the band would even play again, so there was much anticipation when the run of three mid-December shows at the Oakland Coliseum was announced. I don't think anyone was disappointed. My clearest recollection of the first night was the jubilation in crowd as the band opened with "Touch of Grey" and Jerry sang "I will survive!" I'll never forget the triumph over tragedy we all felt. Truly one of the finest moments I ever experienced in my journeys on the Grateful Dead bus.
I must echo the sentiment of my brethren before me in that this was one of the finest Grateful Dead moments of my trip!
Triumph over Tragedy indeed!
Most thunderous applause/crowd noise I have ever experienced. As they came on stage everyone was screaming and it lasted quite awhile into Touch of Grey.
On the eve of our Ventura 86 weekend, word came down that the shows were canceled due to Jerry's diabetic coma. So great was the momentum of those weekends that hundreds of us still decended on Ventura, buzzed all night around the empty dark arena, had a few BBQ's, then wandered off to the uncertain future.
Fast forward to December and pal Joe grabs tickets and taping equipment and we're off to Oakland. I looked forward to the inevitable Black Peter.
Yes, Touch Of Grey was poignant and thunderously received. There were new tunes, the jaunty Push Comes To Shove and very moving Black Muddy River (Styx?). But something was still wrong. Jerry's lead lines were weak and somewhat simple; he wasn't digging in and under and driving the band. Weir was doing most of the work with his guitar on full ringing sustain and echo to compensate.
Back at the hotel I sez "I'm worried. Jerry may have lost it." Joe looked me straight in the eye and sez "What's a clunker among friends?". He was right, you know. The next night was a bit better and WillieHandjive/Iko was a treat. (By next July it was very clear that the Great Helmsman was indeed playing powerfully and masterfully.)
I missed the third night and the teary Black Peter as I had to fly back at the crack of dawn back to work. I shouldn't have bothered though as I came down with a monster flu. In fact, a Bay Area news service reported that a huge Taiwan flu outbreak had been spread in the wake of this run of shows!
Missing these shows was defenitely not an option. I mail ordered, but didn't really have cash for a place to stay. Lucky for me, my buddy put me up at the Airport Hyatt, close to the coliseum. Once we're in, we were pretty dosed, setting up my taping gear, and all the rest, I get this idea that I want to record the crowd when Jerry takes the stage, so I start my deck rolling right at the announced starting time. After 2 or 3 minutes, I rewound the tape and started again. Went through this a few times, and they're playing the Nevilles over the PA before the show. Soon enough, the lights go down and the screaming begins!! You can hear all kinds of stomping from people jumping over railings, landing on the bleachers, trying to reach their seats. Then, here come the boys!! Out of taping about 65 shows or so, this is the coolest moment I ever recorded. The roar when Jerry comes out is SOOOOO intense, and definitely identifiable. The funniest thing is as they started into "Touch of Grey", I was looking at my levels to adjust them accordingly, AND THEY WERE PERFECT!! I never had to adjust them the entire show. Big surprise, huh?? Anyway, the boys were back and regardless of the performances, the bus was rolling again. I'd say this was the best of the three shows and it was a good one.
Truly one of the most intense moments in my life, the crowd was so loud as the Dead took the stage, just screaming at the top of thier lungs, it swelled three times to the point at where it drowned the music out. The moments before that were filled with the stomping of "You know our love will not fade away..." The drummers echoed the beat, but then Jerry launched into Touch of Grey, and the crowd went balistico. I'd love to get my hands/ears on a recording of this show, on cd. I'd even settle for just the openning moments. I used to have a recording of it, and my hair on my arms would raise whenever I heard the audience scream. I only remember sparse moments of that night after that, the acid I took was some of the strongest I ever took, I surivived the road, and now it lives inside of me, in memory.
I was just looking up at the Welcome Back Grateful Dead button they handed out at those shows (which were every bit as intense as described). It's right above my desk.
Along the same lines, Jerry's comeback with the Jerry Band at the Stone in SF a few weeks earlier. First song was How Sweet It Is, and boy was it.
I remember when Jerry sang out "I will survive" at the top of his lungs and ....and we all joined in on "We will survive! We will get by!" Such an affirmation! I was filled with elation and joy shared with thousands of others. A sublime moment, I still get goosebumps. Was blessed to be there. It was all an act of love.