4/8/85
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 4/8/85

 

Dick's Picks 21 reviewView From the Vault IV review

4/8/85

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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 4/8/85

The Grateful Dead
The Spectrum - Philadelphia, PA
4/8/85

Set 1: Midnight Hour > Walkin' The Dog > Big Boss Man, Me & My Uncle > Cumberland Blues, Down In The Bottom > I Ain't Superstitous, Althea, Tons Of Steel > Supplication > Might As Well

Set 2: Revolution, Hell In A Bucket > Touch of Grey, Estimated Prophet > Eyes Of The World > Drums > Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad > Stella Blue > Around and Around > Lovelight, E: Brokedown Palace

Review 
First up is a set-opening 'Midnight Hour', and it is sweetly played & sung. We all know just about how Jerry was doing at this time, health-wise, and -- frankly -- I don't hear it. A minute or two into the song, and it is not only apparent that Jerry came to play but that he is fully capable of doing so. He sounds great! It's nice to hear a band hit the stage with some fire, and they do so here. But there's more: a riff, a tempo, and we're launched into 'Walkin' the Dog'. Jerry seems the main singer on this one, and it doesn't seem to sit with him so well; perhaps this is why Bobby seems to be the lead singer in November. In any case, it doesn't hurt his guitar-playing, and his leads dance & swoop with joy. It's a tough choice between this one and 11-11-85's 'Dog' opener; 11-11 has the stronger vocals, but this has the stronger solo.

No time for languishing; they've got a set to play, and by golly they're playing it. 'Big Boss Man' comes next, to the audible approval of the audience. Again, Jerry is the lead vocalist, and again he doesn't seem too comfortable with it. While this doesn't hinder his fingers, it also doesn't replace any 1971 performance; I have the feeling Jerry couldn't 'live' the lyrics (for example, he forgets the second verse). This has no apparent effect on the rest of the band, who still sound hot to play. Phil in particular ...

For some reason, after 'Boss Man', I find myself expecting 'Althea', but of course that wouldn't be right: it's Bob's turn, and there's really no doubt what he'll call up (hint: the single most-played song in their career). But what should it be paired with? On this SBD, we hear a bit of band chatter, and someone insists on 'Cumberland'. And sure enough, we pass through an almost obligatory 'Me & My Uncle' into nothing but. There are great Cumberlands (4-08-72, used on EUROPE 72); there are so-so Cumberlands (7-15-84 comes to mind), and then there are almost-great Cumberlands, of which this would be one. While MAMU has nothing else to recommend it in itself, it does provide a lauch for 'Cumberland', and for this we may be thankful: instead of building up steam between verses, they're playing this full-tilt from the first note. It sounds almost like Jerry will never stop -- it's practically a surprise when another verse starts up. I may be wrong; perhaps this *is* in fact one of the great Cumberlands ;-) There's just something so perfect about 4-08-72's version, I may find it hard to accept an equal!

Well, we've made it thus far into a strong and interesting set with only ONE original tune. - but where's Bobby's blues song? Ah, it's next -- but it's a much faster blues-slide riff than we're used to hearing, because it is the all-too-short-lived 'Down in the Bottom'. What a shame we didn't get to be more familiar with it before it was dropped from rotation, because it was a great blues stomper while it lasted. Is a Dead show supposed to be this much fun?!

'Althea' is next. [Hey, thanks for the validation!] While some feel this song peaked early, this version is nice, and Jerry's solos stretch on most satisfactorily. Not an earth-shaker, but a good performance. Then things get a bit strange: Brent breaks out 'Tons of Steel', which goes reasonably well although somebody seems to have missed the memo on the solo break arrangement. I guess that's why the end sorta falls apart, and compensation appears in the form of a 'Supplication' jam. Um, did that make sense? It makes about as much sense on tape as it does on paper, but I'm not complaining; the band gets up some decent heat before Jerry takes the opt-out, rather abruptly thrusting 'Might As Well' onto the rest of the band. You wouldn't know it was a surprise by the way they take it up -- the band that can turn on a dime. Blistering solos and full-octane vocals are what this song calls for, and it gets them. Ten 'might as well, might as well' choruses end the set, and we've heard promise of a good second set to come :-).

Second set: what shall it be? Guitars are tuned; sounds adjusted. Hmmm, seems to be a bit of distortion guitar going on here. Hmmm, TWO distortion guitars. Hmmm. A riff. Nope, change the tempo a bit. Tweak it a bit more. Jerry, what are you doing? Now he's got it: a loping bluesy vamp, sounding for all the world like a return to the early 70s version of 'Deal'. Well, that would be an interesting return, and in an unusual place. But it's not 'Deal'. It's not typical set-opener or closer. In fact, it's not even one of their own songs. You and I cannot really experience what it was like in the Philly Spectrum that night, to be standing in front of the Grateful Dead and hearing the recently-busted Jerry Garcia sing John Lennon's 'Revolution': "You know it's gonna be .... ALL RIGHT!" I bet they went bonkers. How is it on tape? All right :-) But I wish I'd been there.

The 80s often found them relocating first-set songs into the early second set with electrifying results, and here's a hot example in 'Hell in a Bucket'. Not to be upstaged, Jerry responds with an equally hot 'Touch of Grey'. Fine stuff, but, ah, it IS the second set, y' know, eh? Right: 'Estimated' is next, and it is very nice, if typically so. The transition into 'Eyes' is very gradual: you hear it coming, but it's never quite arrived .... floating & circling for several minutes. Just beautiful.

Typical also of this time, Jerry wastes no time getting to the 'Eyes' lyrics, which *is* a shame; as if to compensate, he then tries to play like a speed-demon during his solos. This almost works, and at a low volume we might not notice that his fingers are moving so fast that he's actually missing some of the notes. I'm not sure if this is something to admire or lament ;-) But he keeps it up right into the drums .... actually the drums seem awfully fired up, and show no sign of stopping. Mickey gets immediately onto the marimbas, and I realize it must be all Bill on the hyper drums I'm hearing. Really? yup. This proves to one of the better Drums, and I don't feel any urge to skip it: energetic, interesting, and (above all?) short! They then switch over to Space, and it too proves worthy of our attention, lauching immediately into waves of soothing sound. But not too much -- before you can say 'Windham Hill', some subversive notes sneak in, and we find ourselves in more uncertain territory.

In fact, it changes, subtly; there are really several space solos here perpetrated by the Great Barcia: he's fully in charge, and the rest of the band wisely follows his lead. So it's rather surprising when that leads into -- really? -- yes: 'Going down the Road'. A VERY smooth transition -- very organic -- the kind of transition we always know they can do but don't seem to hear as much as we'd like. There are probably hotter versions, but this one is fully fueled -- they're behind it 100%. Brent shines on the B-3, and Jerry seems quite determined not to let any energy get left untapped, almost muscling his way through the song with great handfuls of notes. Which only makes it that much more surprising when he steers the band from the volcano of GDTRFB into 'Stella Blue', another fine transition. Here we also see the value of Phil being fully on board -- no suggestion is too weird for Phil to follow (if not suggest!). Full-on rocker to ballad? Sure; let's go. This doesn't set the stage for an all-time performance -- the band is still too amped from 'Going' to really slow down to 'Stella' pace -- but it still convinces.

When Jerry switches to the opening riff for 'Around & Around', you know we're heading to the gate. 'Around' is spirited if perfunctory, shortened to medley length -- basically just long enough to get through the lyrics -- and they ramp up to 'Lovelight' without hesitation.

Now, most of us have heard enough set-closing Bobby-led 'Lovelights' that the prospect doesn't elicit the kind of excitement we have for a Pig-led 'Lovelight'. But in 1985 this was still fresh -- not just novelty, but genuinely exciting. The energy is up where Jerry had it during GDTRFB, and everyone is fully engaged. Mickey spices up a drum fill, Jerry's fingers fly with an ease they rarely had post-coma, Bobby bring the band down like a pro in satisfactory fashion (although, admittedly, he does not create any dating arrangements in the audience, let alone tell any STO-ries), then brings them right back up again. Is this THE Bobby 'Lovelight' performance? I haven't heard enough to say, and you may not be taken by his falsetto singing at the end. But for my money it works pretty well, and much better than usual. Turn on your 'Lovelight' indeed!

After that, really, only 'Brokedown' could do. Yes, Jerry's voice is a bit weak, but it doesn't really seem to hamper him here. Brent warbles in with the organ, harmonies are tolerably together, Jerry adds effortless guitar flourishes. A slightly awkward drum emphasis at one point mars what is otherwise a very sensitive percussion backing (I think Bill & Mickey both went for the same accent, resulting in a flam where only a beat was needed). A sensitive solo from Jerry(typical, but oh-so-appropriate), and we're done -- And well done it is. 1985 was starting out in fine form.

Sound notes:

this version (on cassette!) had a very high ringing sound towards the end of the set -- I noticed it on 'Brokedown', and can't be certain how long it might have been there, drowned out by the volume of the earlier performances. Some hiss prevailed, but not more than we'd expect from a few generations. Good EQ.

Mix notes: pretty good overall. Clear bass if not heavy, typical of this time. Separation seems nicely balanced. Bobby's guitar a little low (again, typical) and Jerry's not. Last word: reminds me just how it sounded in person during early 80s shows :-)
Ramble On Joe

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 4/8/85, at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA.
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 4/8/85

 

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