2/21/95
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2/21/95
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 2/21/1995

 

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

2/21/95

Dick's Picks 17 reviewDick's Picks 27 review

 
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 2/21/1995

The Grateful Dead
Delta Center - Salt Lake City, UT

Set 1: Salt Lake City, Friend Of The Devil, Wang Dang Doodle, Tennessee Jed, Broken Arrow, Black Throated Wind*, So Many Roads, Music Never Stopped

Set 2: Foolish Heart, Samba In The Rain, Truckin' > I Just Want To Make Love To You > That Would Be Something > Drums > Space > Visions Of Johanna > Sugar Magnolia, E: Liberty

Review

1995 already has a such a low reputation, I hesitated to listen to any of it. By the time I'd heard 2-21, though, I'd already spun through half-a-dozen pretty good shows from this year, all with some amazing highlights. Naturally, each one had come recommended; when each proved as good as advertised, I thought "Well, these must be the few exceptions to the rule." But: how many times can you tell yourself that before the "exceptions" outnumber the supposed rule?

Don't get me wrong: 1995 is definitely to be approached with some caveats: Jerry's voice is at its weakest, and sometimes his guitar isn't loud enough. Admittedly, this is partly due to their new sound guy, but it's an issue all the same. As if that weren't enough, the first sets are among their shortest (that's right folks: it's the old complaint of "It's not very good, and they don't give us much of it")

None of this applies to 2-21-95.

First thing you hear is the one and only Dead performance of "Salt Lake City" -- eliminating any complaint about hearing only the same old songs. Understandably, it gets off on a somewhat unsteady start, but this is compensated by some real enthusiasm on the outro: Jerry jumps out [musically, that is!] and the band definitely gets behind him. Next up we expect a tired-sounding Garcia ballad, but in fact Jerry sings "Friend of the Devil" with the kind of vigor we expect from his clean years. Bobby dials up the "Wang Dang Doodle" party mode, and a valiant "Tennessee Jed" follows, throughly enjoyable despite the mess-up out of the solo (as similarly heard on DP-11's 9-27-72).

If we wanted to, we might fault Phil's trying-a-little-too-hard singing on "Broken Arrow" -- and the fact that both Bob and Jerry follow this midtempo number with slow songs of their own -- but these renditions of "BTWind" and "So Many Roads" are good, solid performances; good enough to have ended the set. Instead, they try for one more, and "The Music Never Stops" gets the usual boogie going down. Here, the experienced Deadhead can tell that Garcia is laying back, letting the band push for the big peak where he once drove them over the top. Still, a fine set overall.

Set two begins with great promise in a climactic "Foolish Heart" -- is this out first set finale delayed to the next set? ;-) "Samba" takes the second slot, surprising nobody except one five-year-old boy who was only at his second show. Jerry seems strangely uninvolved during his solo, as if distracted by technical trouble; this is too bad, as this song offered him some interesting harmonic challenges (despite Vince's cat-in-heat singing) and we would expect him to make good use of it.

But enough of that: this is a Dead show, and it's time to sound like one. "Truckin'" puts them back on track. Vince throws in just the right kind of ice-cream-parlor piano, and the drummers sound genuinely enthused. A quick climax seems a little short, despite Vince's Hammond sound, but Jerry doesn't seem quite willing to surrender the stage yet. A sonic sparring match ensues, until Jerry's rhythmic insistence wins over the rest; this ultimately proves to be one of their more interesting transitions. Somehow Jerry pulls "I Just Want to Make Love to You" out of all this, and really gives it his voice. Tiring of this, he pulls another corner turn, and the band backs him right into "That Would Be Something" -- giving some sort of notice that 1995 wasn't going to be a let's-rest-on-our-laurels year.

Now, those of us with shelves full of Dicks Picks and hundreds of other shows have come to expect certain things: certain songs, certain personnel. Most especially pertinent to the later years is the desire for the long, unstructured jams of their younger years. Instead, we have the "Drums > Space" sequence. Too often, this served mainly as a smoke break, and some fans never liked it. But it offered the chance for some real adventure if they wanted to take it: an organized place for chaos, adventure, surprise, or even just to fit in some element that didn't otherwise fit with the program [e.g., the Gyuto monks].

In this department, 2-21-95 really shines; the drums are varied and interesting, soon exploring a Planet Drum-type groove. Eventually they make their way to the more usual Space-type jam, which serves as a fine gateway to Garcia's "Visions of Johanna" breakout (I think this is the one Phil put on the FALLOUT ZONE CD).

Now, maybe three consecutive unusual cover tunes sung by Garcia (with drum & space interlude) isn't your idea of a "proper" Dead show, but what does that mean? That we want the band to be adventurous, but only in ways we expect (i.e., ways they did it before)? While I expect most of us would love to have been at Veneta in 1972 (or some other high-profile show), this is just as legitimate a surprise as any of the 80s Dark Stars. And "Visions" is really a gem here -- Jerry really puts in a performance: expressive, intense, emotional.

As "Visions" runs out (and Bobby starts up the "Sugar Magnolia" riff), we realize we've just experienced something very special. The move to "Magnolia" is perfect -- musically, emotionally, kinetically -- as if to prove that it doesn't matter how overplayed a song is: when it's right, it's right. And it most certainly is, here. The only blemish is a technical one toward the end, when some distortion creeps into the sound (no, I don't mean Bobby's guitar!), but that's minor; this "Magnolia" finish is excellent.

With "Liberty" as the encore, it's a solid two-disc argument for 1995 as a year worth hearing. Joe sez get this and not 7-08 if you want to judge this year!
Ramble On Joe

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 2/21/1995 in Salt Lake city, Utah.
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 2/21/1995

 

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