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
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.
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!
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".
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 ©
the Grateful Dead's concert performance on
5/1/81 Hampton Coliseum - Hampton, VA.