MSG '90
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of MSG 1990

 

Dick's Picks Volume 9 reviewView From The Vaul II review

MSG 
Sept. '90

Dick's Picks 17 reviewDick's Picks 27 review

 
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of MSG 1990

The Grateful Dead
1990 Madison Square Garden
Reviews - 9/14 | 9/15 | 9/16  |Top

1990 MSG: 9-14-90

Set 1: Feel Like A Stranger, Sugaree, Minglewood Blues, Ramble On Rose, Black Throated Wind, Jack A Roe, Cassidy, Don't Ease Me In

Set 2: Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain, Truckin' > Terrapin Station > Jam > Drums > Jam > The Other One > Wharf Rat > Sugar Magnolia, 

E: U.S. Blues

Having come to appreciate DP9 more and more over the years -- and having been awed by the amazing 9-20-90 that followed it -- I wondered about the rest of the run. Surely, I thought, there must at least be enough gems to compile (a la DP-7). So I dived in, and here's what I found:

First up, 9-14-90. This is the odd duck of the group, in that Vince is still the sole keyboardist. Immediately, the ear is greeted by audience sounds ("Who's the new guy?" wonders one fan), and yet the band sound is tremendously clear. Is this a Matrix? Or just the world's best Audience recording? Whichever; the sound is full, and yet there are clearly people nearby; the listener is in the midst. This detracts not at all from the band -- even when two people seem to be in heated discussion off to the right. "Stranger" flies well all the same, not at all hinting a need for an additional keyboardist. "Sugaree" skips and flutters, although it's not Jerry alone but the full band that gives the necessary ebullience. Yes, for better or worse, this is a truer representation of what you'd hear at the show than a soundboard could show.

The second chorus of "Sugaree" improves, as Jerry takes flight and Vince takes a chance or two. Not winning points with that rinky synth sound, but then he resorts to some simple but supportive piano. Better ....

Meanwhile, the audience is wild with joy: just to be in the presence of this most joyful of bands, despite going through yet another seemingly unfair tribulation. As if sensing this, Jerry and Vince lay down some money trills: not the culmination of long, exploratory improvs, but a hit all the same to those present. In fact, they're singing along, which becomes apparent on the third verse when Jerry waits extra long to form the last phrase -- we can already hear it echoing around MSG. This was not the quiet venue it was in March 1981. The excitement is so palpable, they're almost at maximum even between songs.

Sensing this, Bobby brings up "Minglewood". Man, could you imagine stepping into this band at this point? The expectations clearly run high. Vince seems more comfortable here, tinkling appropriately. Bobby is comfortable with his slide licks. I haven't heard this song in a while, so I'm open to its robust and visceral rambunctiousness. Vince isn't magnificent, but he's game, and the audience roars approval at the group jam that precedes the "T for Texas" chorus. Vince attempts some organ touches on the final chorus, but pleases us best by mostly staying out of the way. Good call, Vince; after all, this is New York City.

The audience quiets down a bit now; they've had their first blood, and are willing to settle out. A few chordal stabs, and it's "Ramble On". If Vince had the charts out, he's not sounding like it; he's got plenty of input. Naturally, the audience pops for mention of their own city, but that's just the surface: they sing along on the chorus with roaring gusto (and any other line they fancy). I'm surprised Jerry doesn't just let them take it. Nice envelope on the solo, but then he adds synth sax as well?! It almost works -- especially since Jerry takes four choruses. Hell, maybe it does work. With an audience like this, it's a lot like trying to describe a hurricane while it's happening.

Bobby knows where he wants to go next, and it's the revived "Black-Throated Wind", which the audience clearly appreciates. Rather fast, but Bobby doesn't seem to mind. Vince chooses a rather chimy sound -- I want to say "as usual", so there you go. Vince evidently is not one for sounds of depth and conviction, which has been the main complaint of the fans who aren't satisfied with him. This slows down Bobby & Co. not one whit, of course, and BTW is a fine if somewhat perfunctory performance. Audience reaction: satisfied, but not necessarily impressed.

Next: an electric "Jack-a-Roe". If I recall right, the last one was also MSG in 1981 (time to check Deadbase!), and both Vince and Jerry do a decent but not stunning job. Vince essays a sort of faux violin sound, which improves as the song goes on. Jerry picks in his typically conversational manner. After the song concludes, we are treated to some typical audience banter: a combination of jaded excitement and fannish enthusiasm. Just like being there :-)

"Cassidy" elicits a small roar, either of confirmation or recognition is hard to say. Bill and Mickey seem to be dueling it out on the high hats. Vince sings the harmonies, which vary in volume through the song -- I guess Healy finally decided to turn him up. The jam owes more to Mickey than Vince, but Jerry soars all the same, and very nicely at that. In fact, Jerry very much seems to be at full speed in a way we haven't heard earlier in the show, and the New York audience knows it. The jam winds up, the last chorus is sung, and those rowdy New Yorkers are almost quiet for a minute before erupting in recognition of another fine performance.

The boys don't wait, however, and "Don't Ease Me In" takes us out. New York shows real appreciation for Vince's tinkly organ solo, but Jerry again proves the real icing on the cake. Hey Vince -- a real Hammond B-3 makes the difference :-)

Loading up the next disc, I momentarily realize my good fortune: to be able to put in the next disc, to hear the whole show. It's all taken for granted these days, and rightly so. But -- boy, do I remember when it wasn't! This is great, I say to myself. Then, of course, my computer glitches and won't play the disc. I change programs and off we go.

Set two, and those in attendance are understandable delirious. Jerry starts tuning, and hints a bit of "Scarlet"; now they're insane. A pause and they calm adown, but the promise is as good as delivered, and "Scarlet Begonias" begins the set. Yowee!!

Again, we can only wonder how Vince might have felt, to be faced with a New York audience, playing "Scarlet Begonias". Maybe he thought it wasn't any different from any of their other songs -- easier, even, than playing some (like "Terrapin"). But in the non - "Dark Star" years, "Scarlet" -> "Fire" was about the most jamming sequence in the repertoire. If there was any part of their show where it truly *mattered* whether the keyboardist could pitch in on equal footing, this would be it. And in New York! ---- Well then.

So how does he do? Not bad, actually. He chooses one of his rinkier sounds, but it isn't inappropriate, and he plays notes that dovetail nicely with Garcia's. Not a bad start, really, though it is really Phil who directs the bridging sequence (but isn't it usually).

"Fire on the Mountain" surprises by quickly slowing down from the rather manic pace bequeathed it from "Scarlet". The audience applauds Jerry's "Fire" sound as if they were surprised, which they could hardly be. Delighted, then. When Jerry starts singing, the audience is predictably right there with him. Vince fills in behind the first solo with the kind of synth sound we might have expected on the reggae albums of the same name (which, come to think of it, had not yet been made). This hardly matters, though, since Jerry is typically flat-out brilliant: flying, gracefully arcing, darting in and out of tapestries of sound, while Phil underscores and Bill and Mickey emphasize. Bobby finds ways to add more or less without detracting, but Vince hasn't, and has to cut off to let Jerry sing the next verse. No matter; another verse and chorus, and they're soaring again, regardless of whatever VW might or might not add. At this point, I can hardly think of anything to add -- this band is red hot on fire! Phil throbs! Jerry trills! Mickey pounds! And then they bring it right back down, and the audience know *exactly* what's what, and how good it is. Vince puts in a very nice "bringdown solo" here before the third verse/chorus, showing us just why the band considered him a good investment. The third verse and chorus prove as enjoyable as ever, and the band moves and grooves in celebratory hallelujah, despite Vince's efforts. The "Scarlet" riffs wraps it up, and the audience says thank you. That's how it goes!

And so it's time. Time to move on; time to move up. Time to be "Truckin'" on. And the groove begins. Oh yeah: it's also another "New York" reference, which is much appreciated for some reason by Manhattanites ;-) "What a long strange trip", indeed ....

In my own experience, "Truckin;" was never a favorite song; it was more like hearing the band play the song that happened to get the most airplay a long time ago. Of course, that was before "Touch of Grey" went Top 40. Still, I remember the lights turning out to shine on the audience during the "Sometimes the light's all shining on me" part, so I assume they were still doing that in 1990. Very effective in person, I might add. On headphones, though, the most effective part is the trill-and-thrill buildup at the end, which is done here as well as anywhere, and better than most. In fact, despite the horrendously fast pace, the band jams on the "Truckin'" outro for some time, as Jerry goes through a series of sounds: octaved, overdriven, then clean as Phil starts to wander -- though Mickey maintains a shuffle on the cymbal. Vince follows Jerry into 4/4, prompting Jerry to venture into MIDI sounds and even a little feedback. Thus ensues a different mood (call it "Jam"), which takes a few minutes, but then resolves into "Terrapin" .... say, didn't I mention that song a couple paragraphs ago? Well, I'm sure Vince was prepared! :-)

"Terrapin" isn't a song to venture into without preparation, and Vince sounds totally ready. Good for you, Vince! He's right on it. Jerry's vocals sounds a little rough at first, but he settles in; after all, he chose it! "Scarlet - > Fire", and then "Terrapin"? Not exactly giving Bobby much time at the mike ....

Jerry solos confidently on the "Terrapin" interjam -- even brilliantly; it sounds like the band could go almost anywhere as Jerry and Phil exchange musical notes. But "Terrapin" continues, and wonderfully. "Inspiration / move me brightly ..." Bobby and Vince add wretched harmonies, and we're off to the "Terrapin" outro: blazing, touching, intense. Once again, this revolves largely around Jerry's choice of tone, an Phil's groundwork with the drummers; they seem a little uncertain if how to tackle it here. Eventually Phil wins (of course), and we find ourselves deep into what was later called a post-Terrapin jam. At this point, it could only be called ?!?!?!?! -- the thing that was left after "Terrapin" was definitely over. Magical in mood, it lasts about five minutes.

Drums suffers a severe cut of unknown duration, and we return to find Mickey hard at play with the digital delay. Here, people talk, which is too bad; Mickey is putting out some seriously deep drumming to the heart of the edge of .... well, something. I guess it isn't for everyone, but it's certainly the main thing for somebody (besides Mickey). It ain't easy to make noise like that, despite how it may sound :-)

Once Jerry joins in, things take a decidedly more 'jungle' sound, and I find myself wishing the talkers would talk somewhere else. But then: I liked the River Music album :-) Clearly, they didn't. Fortunately, they aren't loud enough to obscure the music, but this is one circumstance where the soundboard would be preferred.

Bobby comes out too, and things get weirder (or maybe just "Weir'd"). Phil may be there too; with this much MIDI, it's hard to say. Whoever is involved, things sound VERY STRANGE. Which I happen to like, but not everyone does.

Fortunately, for those people, "The Other One" follows, which burns for several intense minute before Phil finally obliges with the recognizable roll. Hey, whatever the people require :-) This seems to help, for the band burns even more intensely after that, and we finally reach the lyrics (altered, as usual, by Healy's effects). In between verses, the band goes out of time, led mainly by Jerry and Phil. While not as long as 1972 renditions, this one still goes for a good ten minutes before we arrive at "Wharf Rat": "Old man down ..."

Vince's harmonies must be commended here; the audience applauds each line of "But I'll get back" [etc]. Jerry can't help but try for a little more with support like that, and it's a good effort here. Jerry's 'true to you' jam seems rather unsupported at first, but the band falls in behind his earnest dedication, as he dials in more and more preamp. Way to go Jerry! When things drop down again, we actually have the audience clapping along on the off-beats. Then Jerry takes a bit of a 'true to me' solo, but it's more angelic and less fiery, which Vince seems to understand. Not that it matters; Jerry cuts it short to introduce "Sugar Magnolia", which the drummers don't quite seem to believe at first, but soon fall in and all's well.

Obviously the show's about over now, so there's nothing left to do but enjoy the Sugar Mags and get out. For some reason, the audience gets a kick out of the line "While I sing to you". Vince adds razor-clean harmonies, and the band goes to the races on the outro. I don't know if anything visual is happening, but there are periodic roars from the audience -- some clearly wrought by Bobby, but others aren't so sure from the auditory record.

What *is* clear from the auditory record is that the Grateful Dead could still rock the hall in September 1990 and make the lucky few in attendance very glad to be alive & present, which they do here. There's an encore, but -- really -- this was enough :-)

9-15-90 MSG review
Reviews - 9/14 | 9/15 | 9/16  |Top

Set 1: Touch of Grey, Walkin' Blues, Candyman, Mama Tried > Mexicali Blues, West L.A. Fadeaway, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Bird Song, Box Of Rain

Set 2: The Weight, Playing In The Band > Crazy Fingers > Uncle John's Band > Drums > Jam > Gimme Some Lovin' > All Along The Watchtower > Stella Blue > Throwing Stones > Not Fade Away, 

E: One More Saturday Night

Bruce Hornsby's first show

TOG: tempo a bit pedestrian. Slight intro cut. Phil positively bubbles. Overall, a competent reading.

Walkin' Blues: Jerry's usual nailed-to-the-notes slide is a highlight. Bobby takes a rhythmic co-solo along with Vince in a Muddy Waters-type group solo -- very effective. Slapback echo on Bobby's voice also good (as on W/oAN). Effective live fadeout - Very nice!

Jerry's guitar sound suggests "Candyman", and so it is -- after a nice little intro exploration. Vince's synth sound reminds us of his success in an 80s band, though Bobby seems determined to match him for strange sounds -- his guitar sounds like a cat growl. Overall band dynamic is good. Bill seems to like this one, and Mickey concurs during Jerry's solo. Phil underlines the sadness of the lyric even as Bobby seems unwilling to let go of the cat sound. Vince never wavers from his angelic synth sound, which could be a lot more effective if it wasn't used for the whole song.

Vince switches to a synth violin, which promises more than it actually delivers during "Mama Tried", but gives the "Mexicali" riff some mariachi flavor. Here, Bruce's piano finally starts to be heard, under Garcia's solo; until now, we haven't heard it at all. Under Bobby's third verse, Bruce sounds great -- filling just the kind of barrelhouse piano the song needs, and capping off the end with a nice dash up the ivories. Yep, it's good stuff.

Some tuning, and there's chanting out in the audience, though it's hard to hear just what. "West LA Fadeaway" starts up. Bruce isn't heard much in this song at all until he takes a solo, and we get to hear what we've been missing. This prompts a good reply solo from Jerry, and better things are clearly in the offing. Vince provides very good accompaniment; it's not his fault that he's mixed too loud. Slight skip near end.

Bobby's turn, and it's "Masterpiece". Phil figures in nicely during Jerry's first solo, and Vince's synth isn't so loud as before. Did you guess that this means no Bruce in the mix at all? Man, you are sharp. You might know this song better than I do as well, for it features a bridge section I have not heard elsewhere.

At the song's end, the sound abruptly disappears [as if for a reel change], and when it comes back we are already hearing the intro riff for "Bird Song". For the record, Vince plays it along with Jerry, showing he'd done his homework. Bruce is also audible at times -- faintly in the first verse. Phil is just incredible, weaving supple inquiries in between the phrases like a jester commenting on a king's court. Vince insists on continuing to use the angelic sound where a piano would have worked better. Fortunately, a piano appears about 5:20 in, and there's no question who's playing it: Bruce prompts both Vince and Jerry to change for the better, and Phil is right after them.

"Box of Rain" finishes the set; a nice sendoff.

It's another week before I get to set two, but here we go: a quiet riff from Jerry, and they start up "The Weight" in its last non-encore appearance. A perfect song for this era of the band, and they rip in with creaky gusto. Bobby especially shines on his verse, but everyone does well.

"Playing in the Band": Phil is especially bubbly. Both Vince and Bruce hammer at piano sounds, though Vince soon shows his typical preference for sustain and suspensions, while Bruce underpins with a more active Keith-type commentary. Heading into the jam, we find Bobby dropped low, so it's mostly Phil & Jerry and the drums -- by no means a bad thing. Bruce soon makes his presence known as well, and Vince tries his hand at some color. At times, this is very effective. Bruce, on the other hand, is *always* effective, and knows when to lay out.

I suppose Jerry does too, but that doesn't seem to be too often ;-) Building, swirling, even a little feedback -- Garcia always has something that really works, and pours it into the general fusion. The drummers find ways of charging in and retreating so naturally that it's easy to overlook; it seems obvious, after the fact.

The PITB jam isn't very long, but it does not seem prematurely ended when Jerry switches to the "Crazy Fingers" intro riff. One quick organic transition later, and the suggestion is turned into a done deed, voted and ratified by all involved. Smooth and gentle, it's actually Bruce who provides some X factor during the middle solo, jumping in and giving it a purpose that Garcia quickly pursues as well. An auspicious pairing indeed. The outro finds good contributions from everyone, and Jerry winds it down nicely into "Uncle John's Band".

PITB > Crazy Fingers > UJB? Yup. Sounds nice too, and I say that as someone who had spun portions of shows from both 1972 and 1978 earlier the same day. Clearly, it's not just a matter of era preference or ignorance; the band is in good spirits, and is enjoying good fortune. Bruce puts in some accordion, which perhaps sounds even better for being mixed very low. Jerry's ideas for the jam are mainly chordal and rhythmic, but he does get a minor flight in before the last chorus. All too soon, though, they leave the stage for the drummers -- and not really with a good launch, which puts the drummers in the awkward position of creating their own. A lot of pounding ensues, though I'm not sure for what.

Five minutes in, Mickey's gotten to the marimbas-and-delay deal, and Healy sees to it that the stereo imaging is mind-boggling. Mickey soon drops the electronics for some "heart of the drum" exploration that seems to be focused on just one drum. Strangely, this is more effective than all the louder drums that preceded it. Then, of course, it's time for The Beam, and other ominous digital noise; some don't care for it, but I remember how powerful it was in person: vibrating the venue, felt as much as heard, clearing all thought from the brain like a fresh ocean breeze.

I guess Phil found this equally intriguing, for he comes out to help with digital-synth explorations of weird kinds. Jerry comes out too, choosing one sound after another for the usual whole-tone sequences he prefers for this part of the show. Bobby also putters around with one sound after another; I suppose one Space section from this era is much like another. Either you liked much of INFRARED ROSES or you didn't, and most seem to fall into the latter category. I liked it, and if this show wasn't used for it, it's certainly of the same thread. VERY lively for a 'space' section; Phil in particular stands out.

Somehow this leads out to the only post-Brent version of "Gimme Some Lovin", which is adequately played -- fine, really -- but suffers the lack of you-know-who; we wouldn't hear it again. Jerry closes the song by hitting some scales clearly intended to alert the impending transition, but this utterly fails to be smooth. Evidently nobody got the memo, Jer ... Whatever: they pick up and move on soon enough. Jerry in particular tackles "Watchtower" so vociferously even Bobby seems hard-pressed to match his fire. Sadly, the rest don't really seem to try, resulting in a largely tepid rendition that is practically blood-spattered by Jerry's savage playing -- until, ironically, after the line "the wind began to howl", at which point the whole band seems to disintegrate into -- what? some thematic vibe? Hard to say. Jerry pulls it out of the ashes just in time to make us think it was planned all along (which it may have been), strumming up "Stella Blue". Vince provides most of the background, using yet another evocative synth sound, while Bob and Bruce add minimal but effective decorations. All told, a great ensemble performance, with everyone making great choices. Jerry gets his pin-drop (rather deliberately, from the sound of it; even the heavy-handed Vince lays off the synth at that moment), and gives out a wonderfully heartfelt solo that finds even the drummers fully involved. Who says drummers can't play ballads?

After this, the band moves to closing the show with the all-so-common "Throwing Stones". Healy's got Bob's voice going through a long delay on occasion -- faintly heard, but effective. Bruce contributes some sparkling piano on the instrumental break, and Phil is lively. In my opinion, this song has always just gone on too long for the musical ideas contained in it, but that doesn't seem to bother the band; they seem quite happy with it. Predictably, they end it with a short run through "Not Fade Away" -- one of my favorite Dead vehicles, and Bruce gets a smokin' chance to shine after the second verse. Way to go, Bruce! Jerry takes over, but chooses short phrases to encourage Bruce to trade off with him, which he does to nice advantage. Not the lengthy Jerry-a-thon of old, but a good and very tasty rendition all the same, as Jerry caps it off with some thunderous trilling that pegs the old heart meter. One more chorus, and you know the rest. And that, as they say, is show biz :-)

As for the encore: well, it's "One More Saturday Night", and the first thing you'll notice is that Vince seems to have some idea of adding his own touch -- in the form of rhythmic stabs during the riff -- which really don't work. Uh, nice try, but, ah -- oh Vince? VINCE!! Just stop it, alright? OK then; glad we got that straight.

9-16-90 MSG review
Reviews - 9/14 | 9/15 | 9/16  |Top

Set 1: Hell In A Bucket, Cold Rain & Snow, Little Red Rooster, Stagger Lee, Queen Jane Approximately, Tennessee Jed, Cassidy, Deal

Set 2: Samson & Delilah > Iko Iko > Looks Like Rain, He's Gone > Ne MSG Jam* > Drums > Space > Standing On the Moon > Luniatic Preserve Jam > I Need A Miracle, Morning Dew

E: It's All Over Now Baby Blue

Naturally, this show is already familiar to these ears -- and probably yours -- as DICKS PICK #9. If discussions on the lamentably deceased Deadbase forums were any indication, it wasn't regarded as one of the better issues in that series. After hearing the two preceding nights, 9-16-90 comes into sharper focus than it does on its own. The modern listener descends upon any given date like a raptor on a flock -- we may choose of those that seem most choice from a distance, uninterested in details or personal histories. We want the cream, even the cream of the cream. And why not? The price is the same, either way. And yet: each has its own unique qualities.

The 1990 MSG run is a rather joyful one, despite the double tragedy of Brent's loss: professionally, for the band's music, and personally, for the band members themselves. Having added Bruce to Vince the night before, they were trying to find a new balance, a new answer to their needs; this would be the show where they found them.

Things start out typically enough; Bobby forgets a line right away in "Hell in a Bucket", so we know this is really the Grateful Dead and not just a cover band. "Little Red Rooster" features a roaring solo from Vince, but "Queen Jane" is where things begin to happen -- benefiting from both keyboardists and some fairly active fills from Mr. Garcia. "Tennessee Jed" finds the new lineup working to good effect: the band is positively punchy on the up beat, with Bobby and Phil riding on Bill's snare beats; Vince plays around with a faux violin sound, and Bruce plays call-and-response with Jerry's guitar lines.

It must be said that Bruce was earning his stripes, trying out single-note melodies, block chords, chromatic runs, and rock-and-roll trills with equal facility, seemingly able to mix-and-match without end. Which, of course, is just what they needed, and only underscores Vince's tendency to stick with one area of the keyboard. On the other hand, Bruce (like Keith before him) lacked the broader sense of tone color that made Vince so useful in The Tubes; in retrospect, it's easy to see why the band kept both of them rather than making a choice.

Many a later-era show ends with a strong "Cassidy" / "Deal" punch; noteworthy here is Bill's punchy snare and how Bruce's genuine piano outshines Vince's faux one. Fortunately, Vince switches to synth organ for his solo -- not as rich-sounding as the real thing, but there it is. Bruce follows with some key-pounding of his own, and it becomes downright impossible to say whose solo it is after a while, as Jerry and the two keysmen make a lot of group noise together. Joyful and loud, they strike that balance of noise and melody that characterized the Muddy Waters band. Not the "best-ever" performance, but a sign of things to come ...

There isn't SO much going on in the first songs of the next set, but that doesn't mean there isn't anything to enjoy; these are fine readings of "Iko", "Samson" and "Looks Like Rain". But they necessarily pale before the heavy-duty exorcism of "He's Gone", with Jerry pouring out his heart to the naked public ear: "he's gone, he's gone / and nothing's gonna bring him back". I guess this is my favorite rendition, because I've listen to it over and over again -- it's the fulcrum for the whole set, the corner on which all the rest will pivot & gain strength. Bruce uses it to propel a pre-drum jam, but we must get past the all-too-rote Drums > Space before the next chapter unfolds.

This was the first "Standing on the Moon" to reach my ears, and I wasn't too impressed; Jerry's decision to drag down the tempo after the song was already in flight is not exactly an ear-catching move, but evidently one he felt necessary. If we accept and expect that, it's a fine performance otherwise, and ends with the usual emotional charge -- bolstered by our memories of the earlier "He's Gone", and perhaps piqued by our realization that no Bobby tune intervened, breaking the usual cycle of alternation; something is clearly going on.

This becomes even more clear with what happens next: Space -- the real thing, not the premeditated mid-set break. Space, uncontained and unexpected. Space, howling and gibbering because we've arrived someplace incoherent, beyond words, unplanned and perhaps even unwanted. There are no breaks in this; it's not Easy Street for anybody. "Something's been lost," this moment cries out -- and "Dammit, it's Just Not Fair!" For one beautifully horrible moment, we're back in the Acid Tests where it all began, where emotion, beauty, and intensity melt together into one public event. Of COURSE everyone is invited, everyone is welcome. Of COURSE everyone is an attendee, but also a performer, a participant. And we all want; we all need something. What do we need? We need -- a MIRACLE!

Which, of course, is just what song erupts from this eloquent mess. Bobby growls and rants, Jerry's guitar cries and swoops, Phil thunders and cajoles. Bruce trills and Vince declaims, even as Bobby comes in on the wrong beat; it doesn't matter, because they all fall in just as if it had been the right one. There is no right or wrong anymore; there's only light and darkness, and it takes all of them working together to keep that darkness away. As in the days of old, it's no longer just music to dance to -- the music takes on a persona of its own, and the performance has become a psychological battlefield. "I need a miracle / I need a miracle ..." Maybe if they just play loud enough, and long enough, they might be saved?

Oh sure: It sounds silly. And yet ... it just might have worked. For, as the ending winds down, Jerry brings us through a seamless transition right into "Morning Dew". And the crowd goes berserk. "Dew" wasn't so common as it had once been; only four had occurred in 1990 before this -- one only three shows earlier, in Philly. Imagine yourself a New Yawker at this MSG run -- possibly just arrived from Philly, where you saw those shows -- and getting "Dew" on top of what had already happened this evening. It would be so much more than you could expect, and yet it would make perfect sense: "He's gone"; "I'd rather be with you"; that violent and unexpected space jam; "I need a miracle" -- and finally, "I guess it doesn't matter anyway". After all that, the encore would have to conclude that "It's all over now, baby blue" -- it would just have to. What else was there to say?
Ramble On Joe

Below are set lists for the remaining nights. Perhaps we'll post reviews of them, stop back. 

09/18/90 


Set 1: Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Minglewood Blues, Loser, Picasso Moon, Row Jimmy, Desolation Row, To Lay Me Down, Promised Land

Set 2: Eyes Of The World > Estimated Prophet > Foolish Heart > Drums > Jam > The Other One > The Wheel > Sugar Magnolia, E: Knockin' On Heaven's Door

09/19/90 

Set 1: Jack Straw, Bertha, Me & My Uncle > Big River, It Must Have Been The Roses, Stuck Inside A Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Help On The Way > Slipknot > Franklin's Tower

Set 2: Playing In The Band > Ship of Fools > Playing In The Band > Uncle John's Band > Let It Grow > Jam* > Drums > Jam > Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad > Stella Blue > Around and Around, 

E: Mighty Quinn

09/20/90 

Set 1: Feel Like A Stranger, Althea, It's All Over Now, Ramble On Rose, El Paso, Brown Eyed Women, Greatest Story Ever Told > U.S. Blues

Set 2: Truckin', China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Women Are Smarter, Drums > Jam > Dark Star > Playing In The Band (reprise) > Dark Star > Jam > Throwing Stones > Touch of Grey, 
E: Lovelight

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performances at Madison Square Garden ~ New York, NY, September 1990. 

Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of MSG 1990