Oakland Auditorium Arena - Oakland, CA
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
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
Ramble On Joe ©
the Grateful Dead's concert performance on
12/31/79, at the Oakland Auditorium Arena - Oakland, CA