4/01/84 Marin County Veterans Auditorium, San Rafael CA -- exc. AUD
One Jack Straw [5:48] ; Friend Of The Devil [8:30] ; Me And My Uncle
[3:14] > Mexicali Blues [4:51] ; Big Railroad Blues [5:33] ;
Cassidy [5:15] ; Tennessee Jed [#7:33] ; My Brother Esau [4:30] >
Don't Ease Me In [3:12]
Two Help On The Way [3:12] > Slipknot! [5:29] > Franklin's
Tower [11:27] > Samson And Delilah [7:32] ; Terrapin Station
[12:18] > Drums [4:37#] > Space [4:48] > Morning Dew
[12:19] ; I Need A Miracle [3:18] > Goin' Down The Road Feeling
Bad [7:29] > Good Lovin' [8:27]
Encore Touch Of Grey [6:35]
An energetic first set has the experienced listener wondering why 1984 isn't better-regarded. "Jakc Straw" has a drawn-out jam that's quite enjoyable, with Phil & Jerry both sounding enthusiastic. FOTD is sweet, and "Me & My Mexicali" isn't burned out -- in fact, Jerry is pretty busy. A good start that meant business, with no skippers; "Don't Ease Me In" closes a set that never really exploded but carried lots of potential.
Set two takes the last song's advice: they don't ease in, but start straight into the opeing riff of "Help on the Way".Jerry fumbles a little over the words, but Brent's darting electric piano more than makes up for that. Bobby gets in a "Samson" before Jerry starts up "Terrapin", leaving Bob with the short end of the singing in the pre-drums. This "Terrapin" reminds me of an acupuncture session, alternating fullness with mere pedestrian reality; when they finish, they leave nothing really for the drums but a promise to return.
Despite the cold transition [and Brent's aborted attempt at one of his own songs], the drums do get interesting about five minutes in. And this is where you shouldn't plan to be going someplace anytime soon. 1984 was great year for drums & space, and once the hypnotic groove begins, you won't want to leave -- before you could, Jerry steps in with his most rubbery sound, and the X factor takes over full-force: not just going somewhere, but going somewhere compelling.
A friend of mine doesn't care for the space jams, and it's true the format sometimes results in a lot of searching with little result. This one however turns into a passge of such gorgeous beauty, it's hard to imagine them getting there any other way. Really it's no suprise that Jerry pulls out of it with the opening notes to "Morning Dew" -- it's really deserved. What _is_ surprising, however, is how it's performed: as the band builds around him, Jerry sings with a fine balance of passion and confident restraint, as if knowing he doesn't have to push to reach the cataclysmic energy waiting in those chords. Phil hits the power, but it isn't overdone or underdone -- just enough to keep going, and Mickey & Bill are with him. Bobby likewise teases things along without overstatement, and Brent quietly fills the difference with Hammond organ.
Now, we fans of the band have learned a thing or two over the years, and one is that ragged-but-right means tolerating a few clams -- that we might even welcome such, as fuel for better performance. But that doesn't happen here: the band glides smoothly through the changes like it's May 1977 all over again, supernaturally in tune & rhythm with each other, and slowly it dawns on you ... oh-my-god, this is one of _those_ performances: where the band doesn't repeat past tropes, nor get carried away. There is a momentary question in the middle of the final, quiet part as to where Phil wants to go, but that only makes me think of the Persian weavers who put one flawed knot in their carpets: otherwise, it would be perfect. When it finally does end, Jerry hangs on to that final note like they finally got it right, and it's hard to disagree.
After that, "I Need A Miracle" is a welcome relief; Jerry returns to human fallibility, even as Bobby belts out his second song in the set like a thirsty man finally given some water. The post-song segue sounds suspiciously planned: normally they modulate from the key of E to G, but strangely not here; if they had, they couldn't have segued so smoothly to .... oh, who am I kidding? The "Going Down the Road" segue is sloppy as ever despite the obvious advance intent -- Jerry suddenly plays the riff with all the grace of a sumo wrestler entering an elevator, and eventually everyone;'s on board. The likewise-planned segue to "Good Lovin'" works out better, with a nice buildup under Bobby's rap to finish the show.
Which only makes me wonder if the Space>Dew was likewise planned [suggested also by Phil's moment of hesitation]. If so, kudos to whoever proposed it; 1984 may have more than its far share of tumbledown moments, but the highlights show them as a band still capable of blowing the roof on a good night. Here's one that won't ever see official release; there is no soundboard, only this capture of the genuine experience. Get it free on the
Archive, as I did, and you can decide for yourself if Bobby should be shot for forgetting how many verses "Touch of Grey" has :)
Ramble On Joe ©
the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 4/1/84, Marin County Veterans Auditorium, San Rafael CA.