9/4/80
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 9/4/80 - Providence, RI

 

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9/4/80

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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 9/4/80 - Providence, RI

The Grateful Dead
Providence Civic Center - Providence, RI
9/4/1980

Set 1: Feel Like A Stranger, Peggy-O, Cassidy, Dire Wolf, Minglewood Blues, Althea, Looks Like Rain, Far From Me, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider

Set 2: Samson & Delilah, Ramble On Rose, Supplication > Estimated Prophet > Eyes Of The World > Drums > The Other One > Wharf Rat > Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad > Good Lovin', E: U.S. Blues

Review
Three weeks before the marathon three-set shows were committed to video & tape, the Dead closed out their 1980 Summer tour with three highly-regarded shows in the Northeast, all circulating in good AUDs -- the kind that give meaning to the term "quality AUD" -- very out- in-the-seats and you-are-there. Why would anyone want a soundboard when an AUD can sound like this?!

Well, you might wish you could hear Phil better. And that would be understandable; even when he slams down some bass chords (as on the final chorus of 'I Know You Rider'), he isn't very loud. Overall, though, the sound is well-balanced, with even justice to both band & fans. And therein lies the fun.

Let's check one out, shall we?

9-4-80 Providence, Rhode Island. The surging sea of audience anticipation swells in as preface to the first act; we hear sounds of preparation amid the buzz. Bobby makes a couple comments to the audience (one an apparent dig-in-the-ribs to Brent), and we finally get under way with a still-nascent but supple 'Stranger'. Brent is quick to harmonize Jerry's final guitar riff with a synthesizer, a touch we would lose as this song's ending developed into longer jams. Confident ground established, Jerry immediately launches 'Peggy-o', a touch faster than it was in the Godchaux era. Yep, this is the 80s; things are faster, more to the point; on a good day, this fuels immediately high-energy shows. On a lesser day, it just gets it over with faster. Gone are the days of the four-disc shows!

So this version of 'Peggy-o' can't be very good, right? Hmmmm ... it might be a touch faster than I'm used to, but damn! does Jerry soar on the solo or what? And his singing is still searching more shades of meaning out of the lyric. A sweet, sweet rendition.

This semi-hectic pace continues through 'Cassidy' -- strong performance, decent jam -- I wish it would go a little longer, but can't complain about what's there. After all, we've only just started, and Jerry is showing us his top form. In fact, his guitar seems almost to be ahead of him; pouring out banjo-fury phrases in 'Dire Wolf', he ends up on a wrong note that almost derails him for the rest of the solo -- as if he hadn't even been thinking about what his fingers were doing, then suddenly had to pay attention. Hate it when that happens!

Next up is the four millionth performance of 'Minglewood' -- no, wait; this is only 1980. Two millionth, then. No reason for anyone to believe me, but to my ears this version doesn't really kick in until Bobby's slide solo -- you read that right; BOBBY'S SLIDE SOLO is a high point of this performance. Yes, it's the same licks we always hear him play, but somehow they sound exactly right on here, and the audience knows it. Rock on, Bobby!

Naturally, Jerry chooses to slow things down, and a nice 'Althea' fills the bill. Bobby jumps on the final 'E' chord to strum up 'Looks Like Rain', which Jerry chooses to charge up with an intense guitar solo. Whoa, there, Jerry; it's a ballad! By this point, we feel confident that it's going to be a good show.

Brent chimes in with 'Far From Me', which sounds fine until Jerry seems to lose all inspiration during his solo. Not surprisingly, after one more performance, Brent let this song languish for a few years; no need to push what seems unwanted. Too bad; he sings it nicely here, and when Jerry bothers to pay attention it comes off as a decent tune.

Almost sheepish after that, Jerry struts up the 'China Cat' intro, much to the audience's delight. Except that it's becoming clear that his lackluster nonparticipation had nothing to do with song selection; he's not doing very well on his own choice either. What's up, Jer? Or rather, as we now know, what's going down: a certain guitarist has lost the momentum, and even the usually exciting 'China > Rider' interjam finds him unable to really connect with the rest of the band. Is this their fault or his? Hard to tell. They finally resort to the familiar riffs with the sense that nothing else was working: lots ventured, but nothing gained. No matter to the audience, who cheer these signs of progress with an appreciation honed by five years of deprivation. Better a mediocre 'China Cat' than none at all!

Well, time to cut losses -- salvage the song & get off-stage. And they largely do -- mostly on the very last chord, dragged out extra long into a Big Finale while Jerry repeats a blazingly fast arpeggio as if miraculously recovered of all focus & dexterity. Had you walked in late for just this part, you could be excused for thinking you'd missed the best first set in months.

Clearly, there was an opportunity to come back strong in the second set, and with 'Samson & Delilah', they do. This song is heavily dependent on Jerry, and he's clearly ready for it here. As usual after a manic Bobby opener, Jerry slows things down (this time with 'Ramble On'). Probably it was a fine performance, but my attention wandered off; were there ever two non-segued songs more often paired? I checked Deadbase; evidently, there were, as 'Ship' pursues 'Samson' more often than 'Ramble On'. I guess it was just because they were paired on 12-31-78 that I thought it was common. Then I was thinking about the 'Sex & the City' episode I saw last night, where Samantha has a nude photo session. Hey, look: the song is over! :-)

On to something new: playing the jam part of 'Supplication' without playing the song itself. ?? perhaps Bob had just grown tired of the lyrics (as he did with BTWind). This is a nice jam, but a little removed: they don't segue into it; they don't *really* segue out of it (rather, they abruptly shift into 'Estimated', no doubt hand-signalled by Bobby). And they don't really get all that fired up while playing it, making it more of an exercise than a performance. Granted, this jam part was the highlight of the full version of the song, but removing it from any context diminishes a lot of the power that we usually hear in it. Still, we can excuse it a little on the grounds of being a maiden voyage -- later they would use this jam-only 'Supplication' to better effect. Interesting and auspicious.

'Estimated > Eyes' had already assumed it's 80s form, and this proves to be a fairly typical rendition, fading out to leave the drummers in control of the stage. The interjam is nice but not especially noteworthy. Bobby had yet to discover the joys of yelling 'Hah!', but Jerry finds a rhythmic chordal approach to his 'Eyes' solo that is different and works rather well. Already, though, we see the 80s pattern of starting a second set strong only to fade quickly; the transition form 'Eyes' to 'Drums' is very quick.

I have not said anything about the drummers so far, though they have been excellent; here, though they take over and shine. This is not one of those lethargic, fill-in-some-time drum slots -- these guys have been chugging since note one and are now ready to fly. It's hard to say what makes a good drum solo -- much easier to describe a bad one ;-) Here we find them zestful, confident, even joyful as they pound right & left. This fuels a nice 'Space' with drum participation, basically a long intro for a full-bodied 'Other One' that seems much longer than a clock will admit. At this point we realize they have sneaked up on us as if by stealth: from zero to sixty, stretched slowly but surely over a meandering journey of no certain path. It turns out that it was the drummers' show all along, though we didn't know it; hence the aggressive tempos & fiery moments.

After this, there's no stopping; they cruise into a fine 'Wharf Rat', complete with soaring solos after 'true to you' and 'true to me', stumbling only for a moment as Jerry does a surprise turn into 'Going down the Road Feeling Bad', which raves up solidly Nawlins-style as ever; add in a clarinet obbligato and nobody would question their Cajun authenticity. Then it's Bobby who pulls a surprise transition; the band had downshifted to the key of C, as if anticipating 'One More Saturday Night', but Bobby chooses 'Good Lovin' instead -- and a fine strong version it is, a satisfying closer, with Bobby's usual (and successful) exhortations bringing things to a bang-up ending.

There's a 'U.S. Blues' to follow, but really we look forward to the landmark show in Maine that follows two days later. 9-4-80 shows us how they get there, and makes a fine companion. Two discs; Joe sez it's worth a trade :-)
Ramble On Joe

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 9/4/80,  in Providence, RI
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 9/4/80 - Providence, RI

 

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