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F. West ' 69
6/5-8, 1969
MSG '90
Boston '91

Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 7/2/88


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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 7/2/88

The Grateful Dead
Oxford Plains Speedway - Oxford, ME

Set 1: Iko Iko > Jack Straw, West L.A. Fadeaway, Stuck Inside A Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Row Jimmy, Blow Away, Victim Or The Crime, Foolish Heart

Set 2: Crazy Fingers > Playing In The Band > Uncle John's Band > Terrapin Station > Drums > Space > The Wheel > Gimme Some Lovin' > All Along The Watchtower > Morning Dew > Sugar Magnolia, E: Mighty Quinn

I’ve long had the second of these shows, 7-03-88, but was always told that 7-02 was the one to hear. Since 7-03 manages to include at least two songs I consider unsurpassed performances [‘Looks Like Rain’ and ‘I Will Take You Home’, high on most people’s lists of unfavorites], plus a strong ‘Bird Song’, this would seem quite the claim :-) But only a few songs into the first set, it’s apparent why.

This show starts with a strong ‘Iko’, but it comes off as only a warmup for the ‘Jack Straw’ that follows -- one that instantly jumped into my All Time Top 5. I realize high-octane Straws aren’t for everyone (hey, Montovani needs fans too ;-), but I prefer them that way. Place this one with 12/29/77 and 8/22/93. Having clearly started the show in rip-roarin’ fashion, they proceed to give each song the same high-spirited treatment. This doesn't necessarily mean FAST – ‘Row Jimmy’ is an almost daring lull in tempo -- but ebullient, brimming over with good-time energy. Jerry even muffs a line here & there (as he did in ‘Jack Straw’). I’m starting to think muffed lines are the litmus of a show’s general quality – in good shows, they don’t matter. And here they surely don’t.

After ‘Jimmy’, Brent takes a turn with ‘Blow Away’, which is not only strongly played but seems entirely logical as the next number. The same can’t be said for Bobby’s followup, ‘Victim’. It isn’t a bad performance, actually very good for being so young, but it seems out of place -- as if we’ve jumped into another set (perhaps this is why it later moved to set two).

Jumping on the new-material bandwagon, Jerry closes the set with ‘Foolish Heart’. I can sorta see that they’re thinking it could be developed into a ‘Bird Song’-type closer. I like this one as a performance a little better than the one that opens a Greek show two weeks later -- for one thing, Jerry’s voice is more warmed up here -- but I’m not entirely convinced of it as a set-closer.

‘Crazy Fingers’ starts out set two, a fair performance; as usual for the later eras, Jerry seems to find the chord changes a little daunting for his stream-of-consciousness style of soloing. He manages, but doesn’t soar. The transition to the ending jam only highlights this, as Phil hints the change a few times before Jerry bites. When Jerry finally OKs it, it isn't so much a move from one strong mood to another as just getting from point A to point B. Some very nice sounding points, to be sure! :-) But nothing to hold up for admiration.

They must think likewise, for they drop it and move on: as with set one, here the set really seems to begin, with ‘Playing in the Band’. I can’t argue with those who feel PITB’s best performances lay mostly (if not entirely) in the early 70s, but I still like the later-era versions. They remind me of ocean waves: always moving, while remaining in the same place; all uniquely cut from the same piece. The jam portion usually lasts about ten minutes (just about as long as it did on the Europe ’72 tour), and we drift into another song – often (as we do here) ‘Uncle John’s Band’, a transition so natural one could believe them to be one long song (a la WRS or Terrapin). And speaking of ‘Terrapin’ ….

Where PITB & UJB are solidly good performances that never flag, ‘Terrapin’continues & delivers something of a finale to this three-part meditation. Jerry mumbles an early line, but again, it doesn’t matter – this trip is launched, and we are well under way. Memory, myth, and music intersect, weaving a fragile bridge before us, and Jerry gives no indication of knowing what may lie ahead. Phil, on the other hand, does, and Billy & Mickey are there to help push. Here’s a ‘Terrapin’ worth saving, and I give it the pre-drum rosette.

Speaking of ‘Drums’, they are rather dominated by digital effects: the first section sounds compiled from video-game sounds. Interesting, if not absorbing. Later we seem to shift into a scrap-metal yard, a bit reminiscent of the ‘Apocalypse Now’ session. Then comes the ominous occlusion, and Space has begun. On repeat listening, what really strikes me about this Space is the depth (and sometimes intensity) of its loneliness. Jerry starts out quiet, but soon finds the overdrive a necessary tone for what he's trying to get across. Fueled by digital delay, he fills up quite a lot of space with that lonely fuzztone. The band just lets him. I think, for one moment, we may glimpse a little of the real Jerry Garcia here.

After that kind of painful revelation, what can you do but just be a friend? And Jerry provides that too, in a quiet segue to 'The Wheel'. No, it isn't jammed out; no, it isn't momentous. But it is exactly what's needed at this moment, and very welcome for that.

Well, we've covered some significant moods over the last couple tracks; celebration is in order, and Phil proposes 'Gimme Some Lovin'. After the preceding, this is a tremendous relief, and the band takes it with relish -- banging out several hot minutes before Bobby derails everything by insistently playing the chorus in the middle of the jam. What the --?? Hey, Bob, some free advice: when nobody picks up on the changes only you are playing, GIVE IT UP. This has approximately the same effect as a blown tire on an Indy race car, and everyone is forced to head for the pit. Bob quickly jumps in with another tune, but there's no forgetting who harshed the buzz; we're bound to be more cautious in our enthusiasm now.

Still, the 'Watchtower' which follows soon scores big, building incredible heat from a fire that seemed about to go out only minutes before. Sure, we can forgive & forget! Because Jerry hasn't forgotten the introverted mood that informed his Space solo and turns it outward this time --practically scorching the stage. I hope Bobby was wearing asbestos shorts ;-) I think the rest of the band may have been surprised by his ferocity, because Jerry doesn't seem like he'll ever run out of notes ... oh wait: a pause, a breath, and -- of course: not a run-out so much as a run-in, and they shift straight into 'Morning Dew'.

A word about these shifts: I don't mean transitions. This may well be the most significant shortcoming of this show -- when they make a change, more often than not they simply drop the song they were playing and start up another. This goes by quickly enough that we can simply move on along with them, but it is a bit puzzling coming from a band that was once known to explore its way from one song to the next. That being said, these performances are still remarkable, especially the 'Dew'.

Now, this is well worth hearing. You know the part where Jer sings 'I guess it doesn't matter, anyway' a few times before going for the final climax? That part goes on & on here, as if Jerry was trying out all the different ways it could be sung at the end; I haven't heard another like it. Of course, he does go on to play the buildup, and when he does shift into stronger playing, the drummers seem a little too eager to crank it up again. Perhaps sensing things are already as good as they're gonna get, Jerry wraps it up and lets Bobby call up his Big Show-Stopper, 'Sugar Magnolia'. And wouldn't you know -- it's just the right move, and the band takes it away. Way to go, Bob! Another fine show-closer.

I can't comment on the encore, 'Mighty Quinn'; I know a lot of Dead heads are also Bob heads, and love any cross-pollination. This song (and this performance) doesn't do anything for me, but it does give the audience something to sing along with before they go home. And, honestly, that's enough reason in itself :-)
Ramble On Joe ©

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 7/2/88, at the
Oxford Plains Speedway - Oxford, ME
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews 7/2/88


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