March 27, 1983
Set List:Shakedown Street
New Minglewood Blues
They Love Each Other
My Brother Esau
China Cat Sunflower
I Know You Rider
Samson and Delilah
Not Fade Away
Attendees of this show
At that time I worked for Avalon Attractions, a new subsidiary of Facilities Merchandising Incorporated, owner of Irvine Meadows Amphitheater. Ho hum, it was a whole season of sagging ticket sales, but not for these hippies. I don't believe I listened to the show that night backstage, gnashing, gonzo.
The Dead at a new venue was always a bit special. Subsequent runs here would be remembered for parking lot parties, kids barfing on the concrete, and jets, but tonight all was pristine and cool.
Irvine Meadows was just off the highway, opposite from El Toro Marine airbase, and adjacent to a large wildlife park. The first thing one saw was the huge Lion Country Safari letters on the side of a long hill. It was a one nighter, but the car park was still full and we had to walk a ways both to the parking lot, and down and up a path through a wooded area to the concrete amphitheater with large grass lawn behind it. The little bits of paper had pyramids on them, and I believe it was in the vicinity of Palm Sunday. Pal Joe and new girlfriend, future wife & mother Lynne had just come back from Arizona with tales of a couple new tunes. It had been overcast and threatening to rain, but right at showtime the clouds rolled back away from the stage revealing a starry night.
Shakedown opened proceedings; the sound and playing were very clean. I remember some concerts by lighting colors, and this night was mostly turquoise and light blue, with tinges of red or yellow. A kid jumped up onstage to do a quick jig during Minglewood and Bob interrupted a verse to tell him to "be careful, you're gonna get hurt". A few tunes later they reached the new tune Esau. This was the original early version; there was no "police*" lick (*a lick played in unison by the band periodically to synch and tighten up the playing), just a long loping, almost reggae riffing, with distinct slide sculpting over the top. The lyrics were clear, even on first listening, as a biblical/VietNam vet allegory (my roommate was a vet, so I was quite moved by the metaphor). Finally, after the "shadowboxing the apocalypse" coda, the tune stopped, only to kick start back to life with a long instrumental tail. It is by far my favourite version and I can only hope I hear a SBD someday. A crisp Deal finished that set.
Chinacat kicked off the second set, still in turquoise and light blues. Nothing too crazy tonight, just beautifully played music.
Finally out of Drums, a solitary opening riff and into a pondering of the blue ball we call Earth and the greedy human powers that control it. The verses borrowed some guitar bits from Althea (which disappeared in later versions). Then that heart-stopping "kids", "bones", and "Ashes To Ashes, All Fall Down" (presumably the title, as recorded on tape covers for years). Real "sermon on the mount" stuff, I was thinkin'. They reached the "on own own.." bit and fell, then charged, into a free-form whitewater jam. This was a dizzying and thrilling idea (I really lamented later versions that solidified into the Samson & Delilah riff), and back into a lyrical challenge, and Ashes To Ashes. I barely remember NFA, but felt the theme immediately picked up again in Wharf Rat, which was now post-apocalyptic (like CSNY's Wooden Ships), and Good Lovin'ed to a close and US Blues. The clouds rolled BACK IN from the direction they rolled out, on cue just like an overhead curtain, and this little beauty of a show was over.
Coming down off the mountain (I mean hill), an increasing rumble near the gate; an impromptu drum circle on about 20 trash barrels.
The clouds suggest that this was probably the night we were spared calamity just minutes away on the highway. We were in pal Cat & Kathy's VW bus, and through the rain ahead of us we saw a vehicle spin and face us. Their driver accelerated into our opposing traffic, attempting to do a U-turn AROUND us as we passed seemingly in slow motion, just lightly clipping a car's fender behind us as they all resumed the forward direction. Talk about a wide-eyed but relieved bunch!
Lastly, this one nighter also confirms that this was the same weekend that KISS played the same venue. TV news on Monday afternoon reported that an elephant at the wildlife park had attacked his trainer, then made a charge for the freeway before being forcibly stopped. Must've been the KISS that pissed him off, of course.
Thanks for the above memoir. I'm glad somebody remembers most of this concert. I recall the Safariland signs, and the moving Esau. We were on the grass above the seats and it seemed like we were always about to roll downhill. I think my brother and I got a flat in the rental Datsun 210 on the 405 and that was err--challenging. We were relieved to get the little Japanese spare on an beat it on down the line. A nice show and I have some pics if I can find 'em I'll post 'em.
I love all the comments!!!!!Just going through and marking all my birthday shows! Love to get a copy of this!!
if you listen carefully, in They Love Each Other, Bob sings 'and your gonna get married'. That was for my wife and I who got married that day. Don't recall the show being that great otherwise, but it was sort of anticlimactic.
This was a memorable show for me. Don't remember the pyramids but I had some doves that were lovely so it was a wonderful evening with the Dead at that amphitheatre. It was memorable in that I had to deal with somebody else's bad karma, both before and after the show. I was 24 at the time and had hitch-hiked down down the 405 from LAX. I actually did that. I got a ride from some heads after the show and they dropped me in downtown LA. Didn't have much money so I walked up skid row and found a transient hotel for $20. If you don't know any better you can always fly by the seat of your pants!