5/1/81
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 5/1/81

 

Dick's Picks Volume 6 reviewGo To Nassaureview

5/1/81

Dick's Picks 13 reviewDick's Picks 32 review

 
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 5/1/81

The Grateful Dead
Hampton Coliseum - Hampton, VA

Set 1: Alabama Getaway > Promised Land, Friend Of The Devil > Me & My Uncle > Big River, Althea > Little Red Rooster, Tennessee Jed > Let It Grow > Deal

Set 2: Feel Like A Stranger > Franklin's Tower > Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance > He's Gone > The Other One > Drums > The Wheel > Wharf Rat > Sugar Magnolia, E: U.S. Blues

Review
Well, Hampton, and May 1981: that should set off the buzzers right there. Because May was good in years other than 1972 and 1977, and May 1981 starts right here. At this very moment, in fact; I am listening to the end of set one AFTER hearing the thrilling conclusion to set two, and it's not paling in comparison: "Let it Grow" is fast & fiery, and Jerry's guitar-playing reminds me of a Benihana chef, spewing ideas right and left, all landing right on our plates. And he ain't alone!

But, let's backtrack: this smorgasbord opens with a typical one-two Berry punch (hmmm ... there's a pun waiting in there), by the end of which it's quite clear they'll be up for whatever the night brings 'em. In fact, Jerry immediately tries to rope it in with FOTD, dragging the energy down a bit ... for the first few minutes. It just ain't gonna stop -- three minutes in, and i've forgotten about anything else, as they build up a beautiful rendition. This night is gonna be hot!

This goes on all set long -- "Big River" chugs, "Althea" is sublime; even some flailing slide by Bobby doesn't break the mood. Tennessee Jed positively *marches* out of the solo, and we're taken for a loooong ride on the "Let it Grow">"Deal" express; five minutes into "Deal", and I find it difficult to believe anyone in the audience still has their clothes on. 5-06 offers a neater performance, but this one is wild, swinging, and more than a bit savage.

Fortunately, that was the end of the show -- NO! Set two starts with a "Stranger" as strong as any I've heard. It begins quite a notch down from the closing punch from set one, but after a few miscues on the vocal rounds, they simply make for the woods -- evoking something like the middle jam from Led Zep's 'No Quarter' despite moving twice as fast.

The '"Franklin" is a very good one, with plenty of spot-on jamming, but I expect that: on the other hand, I may have found a new favorite in "Sailor>Saint" here. Again, 5-06 may offer a prettier, more contained version, but when you're still naked from set one that doesn't matter so much. "Sailor" is introspective & sweet, but then they really let 'er rip on "Saint", despite Bobby's lack of profanity :-) In the jam, it sounds almost like Brent gets stuck on one note on his keyboard -- 'hey, is it still alright to have some fun here?' he seems to be asking. Phil jumps on the bandwagon, and they hammer it for all it's worth before banging back to the vocal chorus. I guess it's still all right!

"He's Gone" provides a needed lull, gently building up its own finale; Jerry's vocals sound a little frail here, but it works -- right through the singing on the outro, well-appreciated by the audience.

Oh, the audience! I forgot to mention: this is one of those excellent AUD recordings that make SBDs sound like some technical experiment in sterility.This, my friends, is the Real Deal, with audience reaction and full band sound. We just can't miss the band-audience spell being woven before our ears, because we can hear every bit of it.

We return to find that the band has let the music spiral a bit -- not into the expected Drums, but to let Phil erupt into 'The Other One'! Of course, this is not the extended monster TOO's of earlier days, but lends plenty of support for Jerry's contention that in later years they made their point faster and moved on. This 'One' does not disappoint for energy & intensity, and sounds as if it *might* go on for hours, though it lasts only a few minutes.

Drums and Space don't always come across well on tape -- really, there are three varieties: 'dull', 'interesting enough to pay attention' and 'really cool'. 5-01-81 is in the 'interesting enough' range; they keep it lively -- ideas are proposed, explored, and discarded fairly quickly, in keeping with the 'efficiency' theory -- and a decent tar-and-guitar jam leads into a brief 'space' jam before "The Wheel" comes around.

Now, almost every version of "The Wheel" is nice, and I'll admit to getting a little blase about it. This is not one of those versions: Jerry is really putting some interesting & soulful phrasing into this one, and I want to hear this a lot more. As if that weren't enough, at the end Jerry actually feints the "Gimme Some Loving" riff that commonly preceded "The Wheel" in 1976 before dropping us gently into "Wharf Rat".

"Wharf Rat". Here's another Jerry ballad that was sometimes worn a little thin, but both the "fly away" and "true to me" jams work well. Like every other track in this set (and most of the first), it meets & exceeds my expectations (well, Sugar Mag might be just adequate). Jerry plays & sings just the way I want to hear: full of passion, energy, zeal; it's hard to believe he ever sounded any other way.

A great show; wholeheartedly recommended. Joe sez pack an extra set of clothes & get a copy :-)
Ramble On Joe

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 5/1/81 Hampton Coliseum - Hampton, VA.
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 5/1/81