Autzen Stadium - Eugene, OR
Set 1: Jack Straw >
Bertha, Little Red Rooster, Broken Arrow, Althea, When I Paint My
Masterpiece, Tennessee Jed, Music Never Stopped
Set 2: Help On The Way >
Slipknot > Franklin's Tower, Samson & Delilah, Ship of Fools,
Corrina > Drums, Jam > The Wheel > I Need A Miracle >
Days Between > Not Fade Away, E: Liberty
Once you start on later-era shows, it's easy to go for a few -- expectations are low, so the pleasure factor is higher when they actually turn out good. This is, of course, entirely irrelevant to 8-22-93, a lip-smackin'-good show no matter how you approach it; it wouldn't surprise me if this were to show up as a DP someday, should they ever venture so far as
First up, it's very rare to find a show where every single performance is interesting just by itself, but that seems to be the case here. I don't notice *any* weak tracks. Now, this would be no more than a fine footnote in an average show, but 8-22-93 is pretty long for its era -- about three hours. And it's of absolutely impeccable sound.
Well, so what, you might think; it being 1993, Jerry must be in wretched form. But he's not; in fact, there's every indication that he's in fine fettle & giving 110%. "50 years upon my head, to have you call me child" he growls at us, and some quick math finds this just about right. Then he puts out the same intensity through his fingertips. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
To start, an interesting anomaly gives us a unique "Jack Straw" opener. You see, Bobby's guitar is missing from the mix (so are a couple lines of Jerry's vocal). No doubt annoying Bobby, it leaves us a better 'view' of Vince's playing than usual. Evidently the stage crew were so busy fixing the problem that Jerry just had to keep soloing until they were done -- creating what is probably the longest, hottest
J. Straw solo you will ever hear! Heck of a way to pass the time, Jer! Jerry seems to think this means the show hasn't properly been 'opened', so "Bertha" kicks it off again, appropriately Bobbified. OK, now we're officially rolling :-)
As usual for 1993, Jerry shows a preference for the acoustic simulator (on "Althea", "Tennessee Jed" and -- strangely -- most of "Music"). To my ear, this doesn't really make an improvement, but if that's what Jerry wants, why not? They're very good versions of songs that aren't always so good. Bobby does fine on his songs too -- singing lustily throughout. Vince gives a pretty good faux horn section on "Rooster", although he seems to forget about it later. Still, "Rooster" might be his best number, as he gives us some fine Pinetop Perkin-type blues piano, then launches into Jimmy McGriff B-3 territory on the solo. Of course, this is followed by a Bobby slide solo intended primarily for dogs & seagulls, so you could be forgiven for forgetting all about it.
"Broken Arrow" isn't the best ever, but it's solid & maintains momentum. "Althea", "Masterpiece", "Tennessee Jed" may not be your favorite songs, but there's no denying they are played with feeling & conviction. And confidence!! This band sounds like they can do whatever they choose, and make it work. Not surprisingly, "Music" doesn't disprove this; I have never heard a bad version of this. Even Vince's rather unimaginative ideas don't dampen the general enthusiasm -- in fact, the reverse seems to happen: the band fires up Vince to fly into the stratosphere a bit. Nice job all around.
As if noticing that set 1 ends with "Music" despite NOT beginning with "Help / Slip / Frankli"', Jerry compensates by choosing it to start set 2. There's that acoustic simulator again; one can only presume that his work with David Grisman had awakened some desire to hear more acoustic sound in his regular gig. The "Help" riffs are clearly & precisely articulated -- almost too much so, but at least it's clear that Jerry is really playing them, unlike his 'let the keyboardist[s] play it' attitude of 1992. Once it's clearly Solo Time, Jerry flies directly into busy burn territory, flicking on the Heavy Metal pedal and sounding like a 300-lb. bee with a knitting fetish. The band responds with glee, but hey, it's not like they weren't expecting it. Billy & Mickey have been keeping things pretty lively throughout this show.
I don't mean to make it like Phil hasn't been doing lively & interesting things; it's just that I can't get over my surprise at how alert & involved Jerry is. -- not to mention Billy, that not-so-often-discussed bandmember who was having troubles of his own. Of course, Billy didn't die, nor was he so obviously dragging down the band, though he contributed. But DAMN! Jerry musters up a level of energy & activity that sometimes rivals anything he'd done since at least 1990, if not 1978.
I'm actually a little disappointed that he lets "Franklin's Tower" end when he does, as he has led the band to a final buildup that sounds sure to burst out in another solo. Ah, no matter; "Samson" picks up what "Franklin" left out -- Vince dashes off effective organ bursts, and Jerry seems moved to soar like we all remember he could do. "Ship of Fools" seems like it might coast, but Jerry's singing puts it up a notch from the norm. I notice that this set is consistently moving up, improving from song to song -- in this case, the sometimes-lamented "Corinna", which is lively & well-played, segueing naturally into some interesting Drums.
Actually, 'interesting' is too tepid an adjective. I don't know who exactly is participating; in this digital age, almost anything can sound like something else. But a low-key synth vamp soon starts up and becomes quite hypnotic, giving way to further low-key excursions that are nevertheless quite worthwhile. These go on for some 20 minutes but never bore, even when dropping into near-silence. By Jerry's return, I'm almost sorry to leave for more usual "Space" fare, although that too soon proves to capture attention, in a semi-Seastones sort of way (at least, it reminds me of some of the wandering middle parts of the original Seastones album). No, that's only accurate for about a minute -- this "Space" jam is ALL OVER THE PLACE, and would take a couple more paragraphs to document. Why bother? You just gotta hear it :-)
"The Wheel" shows them having lost none of the magic that has thus far propelled the set; Vince particularly surprises with his sensitive choices of sounds and ideas, and Jerry seems as inspired as three different geniuses, all taking turns. A beautiful performance, but evidently intended as a launching pad to greater things.
A sudden turn takes us into "I Need A Miracle", and the band burns like a house on fire. Once again, I must mention Vince -- not because the rest of the band are slackers, but because we simply don't expect Vince to kick in so strong. Unless there's some second keyboardist here i don't know about .. because we actually get alternating keyboard solos here, trading between piano and organ. Pretty darned nifty if it isn't two different people, and not band even if it is.
Speaking of sudden, Jerry switches on the acoustic simulator, and downshifts to "Days Between"; pretty heavy after the last two songs. While deep, Jerry seems to chuckle in the second verse; this does not diminish the effect. I think of "Days" as a 'mood song' -- you're not gonna throw it on the stereo for background music at your next barbecue, but it can be enormously effective when the listener is willing to just sit and let it wash over. As far as that goes, this is just about the most slammin' performance you're ever likely to hear; Vince provides the wash, in wide swaths of sympathetic synth; Phil and the drummers provode the necessary dramatic foils, and Jerry just sings and sings -- strong in voice and interpretation. Then comes the guitar, evoking a mood even more tender than that of "Wharf Rat".
Perfect? Oh, no, but marvelous -- yes, that it certainly is. And they aren't even going to let us realize that, but instead click right into "Not Fade Away", with no sense of loss or diminished energy. Can any band really play like this besides the Dead on full steam? Because we've all heard fast NFA blowoffs -- end-of-show excuses to get off the stage. But I must be easily seduced by 8-22-93's beautiful mix, because this sounds DYNAMITE despite its short time: I expect the band to fly off the stage. Regrettably, it is not to be; they sing their way as usual, but not without some powerful playing first. Even so, the sing-out portion is highly entertaining, with Phil adding some off-beats, and the drummers kicking up enthusiastically in the background.
The "Liberty" encore is one of my favorite renditions, but -- really -- this was already a tremendous show, and one of my personal favorites.
Ramble On Joe ©
the Grateful Dead's concert performance on
8/22/93 at Autzen Stadium - Eugene, OR