5/13/79
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 11/5/79 Stanley Theater - Pittsburgh, PA

 

Dick's Picks Volume 5 reviewGo To Nassaureview

5/13/79

Reckoning reviewDead Set review

 
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 11/5/79 Stanley Theater - Pittsburgh, PA

The Grateful Dead
Cumberland County Civic Center
Portland, ME

Sugaree [15:04] ; Mama Tried [2:30] > Mexicali Blues [4:19] ; Jack-A-Roe [4:34] ; It's All Over Now [8:24] ; Candyman [6:48] ; El Paso [4:15] ; Row Jimmy [10:48] ; Jack Straw [6:39]
Two Scarlet Begonias [12:09] > Fire On The Mountain [10:12] ; Estimated Prophet [12:11] > He's Gone [11:25] > Truckin' (1) [18:25] > Drums [9:#30] > Space [3:33] > Wharf Rat [10:19] > Around And Around [7:36]
Encore U.S. Blues [5:29]

Comments (1) brief Nobody's Fault jam begins at 8:19
Track list from Deadlists.com

Review
5/13/79 Cumberland Civic (Portland, Maine)

Naturally, the person mostly on our minds here is Brent, being the new guy, but really it should be Jerry: he seems uncertain which mood he means to mine. His singing leans to safely soulful while his playing leans more to introspective & thoughtful; neither seems to be in much hurry to create drama or intensity. Still, the payoffs are there. Let's check 'em out!

This excellent Audience recording puts us right in the middle of the crowd, and a fine mood awaits the opening notes of a long "Sugaree". Brent immediately proves his worth with some organ-grinding -- more safe than assertive, but sounding like it was always needed. Jerry stretches the solos but doesn't really hit gold till the second or third try; this perhaps owed something to the audience crush that Bobby addresses as soon as the song is over. Nothing like a row of blotchy-faced railrats to harsh yer buzz, eh Jer? After competent run-throughs of "Mama > Mexicali" and "Jack-a-roe", it seems time to try something that might equal the buildup we'd gotten in "Sugaree", and this turns out to be "It's All Over Now" -- not tremendous, but definitely very good (barring the flagging outro). No standout moments, but the band certainly gets things rolling.

Jerry follows with "Candyman", more safe than stellar, and Cowboy Bob takes us back to "El Paso", to the somewhat surprising delight of the audience. This rouses the drummers some, naturally triggering Jerry's Emergency Ballad program, and a long slow "Row Jimmy" ensues; the quiet audience suggests that many took this opportunity to buy more beer & explore the venue's rest room facilities. The song does get somewhere by the nine or ten-minute mark, perhaps best enjoyed on a warm sunny afternoon. -- as is the set-closer, "Jack Straw", whose lyrics evoke just such a setting. I'm suspecting this show might have been likewise from the general energy; "Jack Straw" finds the drummers pacing a laid-back feeling reminiscent of the song's earlier countryish genesis than the rock stock it had become in the post-retirement era. All the same, by the end of the solo, the audience is clapping along and cheers the effort. All in all, a rather tame first set, if reasonably well-played.

Set two launches straight into "Scarlet > Fire", with Brent adding falsetto harmonies where Donna sang only three months before. Jerry seems to sense the need for extra effort, and puts it into the end of his solo, to audience delight. Without Donna to wail on the outro, the band simply goes immediately into jam mode. Throughout this show, there has been a sense of 'not-quite': the promise without the arrival. Not surprisingly, we find the real item here -- not tremendous, but certainly sublime. The sound rolls on as ideas are tossed into the musical soup like pollen alighting on the surface of a spring-breeze-driven stream. When the "Fire" riff begins, it seems all too soon -- but Jerry knows what he's doing, and we soon find that "Fire" soon continues in a similar vein. Jerry botches his guitar settings in the final solo but somehow still pulls through.

This is when our friends nearest the microphone begin commenting: "Play 'Dark Star', gawdammit!" and other suggestions. In 1979, that might have seemed like a reasonable request, but [like the memorable protester on 1-20-79] they get "Estimated Prophet" instead, and it's definitely good: Jerry seems unwilling to let go of the middle jam, and interweaves nicely with Brent for the endjam. After a long bout, the band shifts gears, and one of our smartypants narrators miscalls it as "Eyes of the World". Instead, they drift on an easy groove that becomes "He's Gone" (and our other narrator corrects his friend). Now Jerry's soulful side gets full expression, and Brent provides the sweet harmonies that marked his era in the band. The outro is hypnotic; the band so perfectly in sync it's almost a shock when they drift into the intro to "Truckin'". The audience responds with wild enthusiasm, and the band returns the favor.

Now, something weird has been going on with the guitars. I don't know if it is intentional on the part of the guitarists, or if Healy was just trying out a few effects, but occasionally some warped dealy effect erupts out of one guitar or another. After the Truckin crescendo, it comes back in spades, and we can only wonder what it might mean; soon enough, things resolve into a "Nobody's Fault" jam that is strangely uncredited in Deadbase. This somehow leads right back to a *second* Truckin crescendo [!], only to drop back to warbly weirdness, courtesy of Jerry. Even the other band members seems unsure what this is about but soon get on the bandwagon, and a strange journey is begun: ebb & flow, density vs clarity, thought & feeling. Our previously vocal narrators are struck dumb.

This, clearly, is the highlight of the set, despite a harsh reel change that drops us off with Jerry having changed to a dreamier mood & tone -- a vein he explores for several minutes before letting it become "Wharf Rat", which features strong solos (despite a few bad notes). In fact, Jerry seems utterly unafraid to attempt the expression of the ineffable via wood & metal & electricity, resulting in some unique phrasing & a galvanized band -- which then suddenly breaks out "Around & Around", and we know we're in the home stretch.

Not to say things are over yet: A&A was still in its two-tempo arrangement, and Jerry shoots out Chuck Berry licks like the Second Coming. It's hard to imagine a better rendition, as they cover more dynamic range than in the rest of the show combined. Pardon me if I suggest this might be a 'best-ever' candidate :-)

In sum, not a bad set, with at least three standout performances and not a dull moment along the way. Definitely worth waiting through set one for it!
Ramble On Joe

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 5/13/79, at the Cumberland County Civic Center in  Portland, ME.
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 11/5/79 Stanley Theater - Pittsburgh, PA