12/31/79
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 11/5/79 Stanley Theater - Pittsburgh, PA

 

Dick's Picks Volume 5 reviewGo To Nassaureview

12/31/79

Reckoning reviewDead Set review

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

The Grateful Dead
Oakland Auditorium Arena - Oakland, CA
12/31/79

Set 1: Jack Straw > Franklin's Tower, Mama Tried > Mexicali Blues, Tennessee Jed, Looks Like Rain > Alabama Getaway > Promised Land

Set 2: Sugar Magnolia > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Samson & Delilah, Ship of Fools, Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance > Deal

Set 3: Althea > Minglewood Blues, Uncle John's Band > Drums > Not Fade Away* > Stella Blue* > Sunshine Daydream*, E: Good Lovin'

Last of the three-set NYE shows

It's a little different than what we're used to: the material suggests a show split over three sets instead of two (and rather short on jams). So it seems we have a rock show on our hands -- almost as if to say 'The Godchaux era is over, but our new guy rocks!'

As it happens, this was my first exposure to live Dead, so for my ears this is just how Jack Straws should open a show: strong harmonies, passionate singing, stretched-out jam peaking with furious fanning, and launching immediately into a long & energetic 'Franklin's Tower'.

Skipping over the polka medley and 'Tennessee Jed' (I didn't, but you might as well) finds Bobby strumming up a fine 'Looks Like Rain' which Jerry soon hijacks into a romping segue of 'Alabama Getaway' > 'Promised Land'. Great playing, and more to come!

Set 2 naturally begins with a great Sugar Mags, and quickly launches into a solidly jammed China>Rider. Then they shift up into 'Samson', and down into 'Ship of Fools'. Both are well-played but ---? shouldn't we be hearing some jams by this point? But we get the last 'Sailor > Saint' of 1979. Not the most jammin' out tunes, but there is room for atmosphere, and the boys make it. A very nice pair, closed out with a set-ending 'Deal'.

OK, all good music so far, but it's a bit like they began set two, and switched back to ending set one. And there's more: Set three begins with two songs sounding left over from set one -- and tired ones at that. Finally, they launch into Uncle John's Band, and we get what we've regarded as the domain of the Grateful Dead since 1968: some time spent exploring, inquiring, thinking. It's not the hottest of jams, but a nice exploration all the same -- UJB plus jam run 16 minutes, so they don't take it very far, but still a nice rumination.

There is no real segue into Drums; the UJB jam runs out, and the drums come quietly after -- one of the nicer quietjam-to-Drums transitions I've heard, preserving & honoring the mood of the jam.

Drums runs less than seven minutes before it stops, to audience applause, and we suddenly find ourselves cut into the slow NFA groove -- hard to say how much is missing without having been there, and I wasn't. But there's no complaints: this is Rock Show Dead, and detours into Space rarely fit that mood -- the UJB jam seems detour enough. Especially since this doesn't sound like a band ready for a long third set. They get some high-octane help from John Cipollina, but it has no noticeable effect on the rest of the band, as they make it sound more cool to be relaxed and groovy than hot & rockin'. Did I say this was a Rock Band? Dammit, they fooled me again ;-) When the vocals come back in, they sound tired again, and the ensuing tape splice seems like it might be merciful.

Jerry's guitar fiddles a bit before resolving into 'Stella Blue', and I can't help thinking that this is not the band in full sail -- this is a band doing its best but running low on steam. Jerry sings & plays this with his usual soul, though, and it seems to rally the rest. It's a sad (and rare) Stella that doesn't get somewhere by the final guitar solo, and this is a nice one -- marred only by their fall-apart 'transition' to 'Sunshine Daydream', itself marred by Bobby's shredded vocals -- this time clearly cut short by Bobby himself, no doubt realizing he simply couldn't do it justice.

The jam is soon brought to a suitably thunderous crescendo, but the band seems clearly convinced by this that their three-set New Years Eve shows were over. An adequate encore of Good Lovin no doubt finds them happy to be done, and Bobby mostly stays in his middle vocal range.

In sum, good open & closing medleys to sets one & two; nothing really essential in set three, although a few tracks would make decent filler. If you had a disc of set 2 augmented with the UJB>jam, you might think you'd missed some spectacular jamming that followed later, but that was pretty much as far as it got that night. One of those shows where there's more heat in the beginning than at the end. Still, can't forget that UJB jam, the NFA groove, and that last solo in Stella -- mighty sweet!

Noteworthy lyric: in his rap during 'Good Lovin', Bobby significantly adds 'Turn on your light'
Ramble On Joe

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 12/31/79, at the Oakland Auditorium Arena - Oakland, CA
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 11/5/79 Stanley Theater - Pittsburgh, PA