Ventura County Fairgrounds - Ventura, CA
Set 1: Dancing In The
Streets > Bertha, My Brother Esau, Loser, Cassidy, Ramble On
Rose, Hell In A Bucket > Day Job
Set 2: Samson &
Delilah, Ship of Fools, I Just Want To Make Love To You > Women
Are Smarter > Terrapin Station > Drums > Morning Dew >
Throwing Stones > Not Fade Away > Midnight Hour > Brokedown
7-22-84 Ventura SBD
You don't hear much about
1984 Dead shows these days; it's as if we'd rather not dwell on an
era when the band no longer believed it could attain conventional
record-industry success. However, this apathy did not extend to
their concerts; Phil and Jerry may have taken a back seat to Bobby
in the composition department, but they still came to play; if 1984
coasts, it does so on the hard-won musical interplay the band had
developed over the previous 18 years. When the magic came, the
results were sublime indeed.
Which brings us to
Ventura's 7-22-84. Comparisons to the Sunday Greek show from the
week before are inevitable, since the first set features four of the
same songs (and in the same order!), including a sublime "Dancin'
in the Streets" to start. Further, this soundboard has the same
overmixed high-hat [it appears to be Bill's]; had I walked into a
friend's house in the middle of "Dancin" I might well have
mistaken it for 7-15-84. The jam immediately goes into the same
summery groove, the kind you could listen to all day & never
seems to end. There is a minor nit, so things aren't Just Exactly
Perfect: the mix starts with a fat, full presence from Phil's bass,
but someone is twiddling knobs. The bass thins out a bit, which does
make for a better overall mix, but then disappears entirely for a
minute or so. What the ??? Still, it's not an unreasonable price;
once settled, the mix is good, the sound is clean, and the band is
Somehow Bob forgets both
his blues and cowboy songs -- a welcome relief, really -- focusing
instead on his newer songs; Jerry sticks to songs from 1971 but
chooses "Day Job" to end the set, reminding us that the
Dead are not Deadheads. All are good performances: both "Dancin"
and "Cassidy" jams get off the ground, and
"Loser" features a strong mid-career solo, part pinched
harmonics and part flurry. Of course, the emphasis is on songs over
jams, but listen to Phil and you hear as much rebellious anarchy as
ever; sometimes it seems as if he is searching for anything that
would not be typical of bass-playing. That's why I rooted myself in
front of the speakers on his side of the stage at these Ventura
A good "Samson"
starts the second set, and Brent remembers his Hammond organ. Jerry
noodles his way into "Ship of Fools" eventually, as if
convincing himself; this may well be how he played alone at home at
the time. Admittedly, his voice sometimes sounds a little forced on
these ballads (as it did on "Ramble" in the first set),
but not yet as rough as it would in 1985.
Things pick up with a
funkified "I Just Want to Make Love to You" sung by Brent
-- a real surprise to me, having heard Jerry's more bluesy
performance of this song from 2-21-95. DEADBASE calls Brent's
noodling before "Cassidy" an "I Just Want"
tease, so I just didn't recognize it -- possibly because there are
only two known renditions between 1966 and 1995 [the other known
date being 10-08-84].
Here, Jerry takes a fluid
solo, and Brent belts out the lyrics with his usual gusto; a perfect
match really, and a nice counterpoint to Jerry's more Muddy Waterish
performance in '95 -- I definitely recommend hearing both! The only
caveat: someone decides to turn this into "Women Are
Smarter" -- not sure who, but it sounds like none other than
Jerry himself. A feisty version it is, though, and not a bad
pairing; they might have done it a little more often.
follows, a stately song even in 1984 -- especially since this
concert shows no hint of the sloppiness that mars the later shows
from this year. Jerry forgets the "Lady With a Fan"
lyrics, of course; you can't have the habits he had then, and still
be sharp on every line of a lyric poem. But the band doesn't falter
(they were used to this, I'm guessing) and he recovers nicely. A
nice post-Lady jam, a strong "Inspiration" [I found myself
captivated by Mickey's use of a china cymbal and even a vibra-slap],
and a near-orgasmic instrumental buildup characterize this
performance! Wow, where did that come from? All to drop, of course,
to a mere whisper of the "Terrapin" theme.
Jerry must have gone, but
the rest of the band lingers in the moment, giving the drummers
decent mood fodder for their own excursion to follow. Too often, the
Terrapin > Drums transition leaves the drummers nothing to build
on -- really just abandoning the stage, when the drum solo should be
launched (check any Allman Brothers Band show for an example). This
isn't the case here; Bob, Brent & Phil support the transition
well, and there's no sense of "oh, it's just the drum
As with most better
"Drums" segments, Mickey and Bill show us why Coppola had
them make his jungle-music soundtrack. After some simmering mystery,
we hear some big pounders, and a busy marimba begins to dance behind
strange sounds of wind and wood.
Ram's horns interact with
digital delays and Jerry's murky forays. Bobby seems intent on
sounding like a humpback whale (at least, I'm guessing it's Bob),
and the occasional sci-fi sound darts through. Bobby hints at the
strange riff that dominated 7-15's Space segment but doesn't pursue
it; different ideas are hanging in the air, and there is a great
sense of suspension: waiting, anticipation. Jerry plays with great
longing, and the band sweeps gentle moods under his meanderings.
Speaking from experience,
this stuff sounded amazing in person. 1984 was a great year for
moody Space -- a real event in itself, and not just part of The
Structure. Freed from the restrictions of meter or harmony, Jerry
was evidently in his 'happy spot', and Bob and Phil were happy to
support it. It is no surprise at all, then, that Jerry should turn
the corner with the lead-in notes to "Morning Dew" as if
that had been the goal all along.
A little faster than we
might expect, "Dew" clips along at a more 1969 pace than
1972 or 1977. Jerry seems a little caught up, flubbing a note here
and there in the riffs. Worse, the band seems unwilling to really
mine the song's emotional depths, moving through it rather quickly.
This is too bad, and not likely to win 1984 any new fans. It's not
that the energy isn't there -- it is -- but not so consistently as
we've heard elsewhere, or as well done. the fact that the drummers
seem to be trying to make "Dew" into a chirpy number is
just not right. Fortunately, Brent lays out some rich Hammond organ
for the finale, and even the drummers must acknowledge the song's
"Throwing Stones" to take up the slack; we leave the
mystical for the mundane. The band doesn't sound as committed to the
"Samson & Delilah" middle section as they later would,
giving it a more delicate energy, and of course "Not Fade
Away" is the followup song, featuring great Hammond organ from
Brent. Bob shouts some "Bops" over the transition, and the
band jumps into Jerrry's solo as if this was wait they'd been
waiting for since the Space segment. My biggest complaint about the
"Throw>NFA" finish was that, too often, there just
wasn't much of interest to hang around for. This is not the case
here, though it does seem like it could have gone longer. Lots of
nice interaction, good support from Brent, lively percussion: the
kind of finish that has you deciding to come back the next show :-)
It's not clear from my CD
that the band leaves the stage, but "Midnight Hour" and
"Brokedown Palace" are the remaining songs. "Midnight
Hour" makes for a good show-closer, but "Brokedown"
makes an even better one, despite someone belatedly turned on
Jerry's vocal mike (losing the first two words; Jerry comes in on
"-- well, my honey").
No matter; it's an
excellent performance, and a sweet, strong finish to a very good
show -- marred only by the strangely uncommitted performance of
"Morning Dew" in the second set. That's 7-22-84 for you:
an almost-great show until it shot itself in the foot. In this case,
a stronger "Dew" would have made this show as popular as
7-13-84. But I'd be lying if I said you could skip this one.
Ramble On Joe ©
the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 7/22/84, in Ventura, CA.