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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 7/22/84


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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 7/22/84

The Grateful Dead
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 Palace

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 on.

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 shows ;-)

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.

Then, "Terrapin" 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 solo."

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 inherent grandeur.

Bob introduces "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

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 7/22/84, in Ventura, CA.
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 7/22/84


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