5/25/1995
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5/25/1995
6/25/95

Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 5/25/1995

 

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

5/25/95

Dick's Picks 17 reviewDick's Picks 27 review

 
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 5/25/1995

The Grateful Dead
Memorial Stadium - Seattle, WA
5/25/1995

Set 1: Feel Like A Stranger, Bertha, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Peggy-O, El Paso, Tennessee Jed, Cassidy

Set 2: Foolish Heart, Victim Or The Crime, Samba In The Rain, He's Gone, Drums > Space > The Wheel, Throwing Stones > Not Fade Away, E: Mighty Quinn

Review

The 1995 shows carry such a heavy rap; it sometimes seems the main reason anyone appreciates shows from this year is because they were there. Obviously, there is something to be said for that :-) But what about the rest of us?

5-25-95 doesn't start with much promise: as soon as the band kicks in, we realize we are listening to a fairly distant Audience Recording, possessed neither of super soundboard clarity nor awesome audience ambience. Phil's bass is typically thin, and Jerry typically weak. I imagine that, were I a returning fan who had brought a newbie, I would at this point turn to say "Um, it gets better", because Jerry seems unwilling to play on the "Stranger" jam. Perhaps he's trying to engage Vince and/or Bobby in trade-offs; perhaps he had equipment difficulty that just doesn't show up on audio tape. Whatever the reason, the whole team ain't pushing the luge on this one.

Lest we think it's just a matter of song choice, Jerry follows with a dismal reading of his own "Bertha": forgetting wide swaths of lyrics, and then squawking out out the usual pop points with such exaggeration that they come across as either: a) transparent attempts at audience manipulation, or b) relief that he remembered anything. In either case, it's utterly unconvincing, and the audience barely pops even for the usually sure-fire "why don't you arrest me". All things considered, their lukewarm enthusiasm sounds just right -- a tepid memorial to what this song had so often been before, but wasn't on this night.

Things pick up a bit in the next song, a Bobby-sung "Schoolgirl" that isn't bad at all. Perhaps it helps that this rendition owes nothing at all to their former bandmate; musically, I'm more reminded of Johnny Winter's version from the late 60s, which of course derived directly from Muddy Waters. Credit to Bobby for sticking to his own vocal style as well, which (besides being uniquely his) is closer to Muddy's than Pigpen's anyway.

This was evidently a good move, requiring another to follow; Jerry chooses "Peggy-o". It's not too fast, not over-wrought (as "Bertha" had been), not out-of-balance. In fact, it's a surprisingly perfect gem, showing no trace of the timidly hoarse vocals that often marred Jerry's first-set singing in these later years, and the rest of the set carries on in this higher spirit: Jerry darts around Bobby's vocal in "El Paso" like it was still the 70s, sings "Tennessee Jed" with carefree gusto, and gets on the bus for the jam in "Cassidy" the way "Stranger" had needed. As so often before, crimes committed were certainly atoned for, and we leave the lunch table with full bellies and satisfied palates.

Set two starts with a long "Foolish Heart", for good or bad reasons; the middle jam stretches on and on, but it's more of an extended take-off than a long flight. Even then, Jerry doesn't seem satisfied, and stretches out on the end as well, yielding thirteen minutes devoted to this song. After a bit of tuning, Bobby launches "Victim or the Crime", and this evening's theme seems to be rather on the murky side of emotions: "Stranger", "Cassidy", "Victim" ... even the musically sunny "Foolish Heart" has an admonitory message in the lyrics.

"Victim" shows promise here, improving with age. The band is in no hurry. Jerry particularly seems to enjoy this one, throwing in some sci-fi sounds during the lyrics and the jam. They pick up the mood a bit with "Samba in the Rain", a song rather more disliked for its overexposure than for Vince's strained vocals. It's a decent song that filled a dance-tempo need at a time when both Bobby's and Jerry's newer songs were fairly slow, and it might have gone over better if Bobby or Jerry had sung lead. That doesn't happen here, but the middle jam is not at all far from the "Foolish Heart" jam. Overall, a good performance.

All right, time to dip in the past: Jerry starts "He's Gone", and Bobby is determined to put some weird guitar effects in it. Whatever, Bob; you can't know if something works until you try, even if it is an annoyance in the meanwhile. To his credit, Jerry manages to ignore it, and sings beautifully. Vince adds some nice piano flourishes and graceful harmonies. It would all be perfect if it wasn't for Bobby's incessant noises; should've saved it for your own song, Weir!

All is saved on the vocal outro, since Bob stops playing. The vocal interactions are alternately fun and uplifting, featuring especially Jerry's soulfulness and Vince's extraordinary range; a very nice finish.

No real jam before the segue to Drums, which seems a decent place to mention them: Jerry may not have been the only band member burning out by then, but the segment here doesn't disappoint. As ever, it's a feast for Mickey's hungry interest in percussive possibility. Sure, it's also a bathroom break, but what nice music for that! I particularly like the outer-space effects, but you may not.

After about ten minutes, the drums give over to the other instruments, and here things flag; more aimless than experimental. In fact, it fizzles out altogether, leaving Jerry, Vince and Bob in mid-space with no choice but to try to get something going again. To their credit, a gentler turn actually works, making a very nice lead-in to the last-ever performance of "The Wheel". Nicely performed!

By now, we notice that this apparent Audience recording doesn't seem to have much audience in it -- was the recordist outside the venue? Behind the band? Floating in the air above? These questions can distract us from Vince's once-again strained harmonies and just enjoy the pleasure of hearing this song's final performance, which cuts all too soon to that common set-closer, "Throwing Stones", followed by a spirited but short "Not Fade Away".

I'm wondering if I shouldn't feel cheated, but the "Mighty Quinn" encore proves just the right closing touch.

Bottom line? Well worth the spinning, once past the two openers. Highlights would be from "Peggy-o" to the end of the first set; "Foolish Heart"; Jerry's noises on "Victim"; some parts of "Drums"; mid-Space through "The Wheel", and the "Quinn" encore, all worth hearing at least twice. Totally essential listening would be "Peggy-o" and the last sweet performance of "The Wheel". Overall, a show that gives thoughtful and fun performances ("Tennessee Jed" in the latter category). Had I been there, I'd have wanted to see them again, and that might be recommendation enough :-)
Ramble On Joe

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance on 5/25/1995 at Memorial Stadium - Seattle, WA
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews of 5/25/1995