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Grateful Dead concert reviews by Rob Goetz

Grateful Dead concert reviews by Rob Goetz

Grateful Dead - Summer Tour ~ Aug. 1989
At Cal Expo.

8/4/89 ~ Sacramento, CA
8/5/89 ~ Sacramento, CA
8/6/89 ~ Sacramento, CA

Grateful Dead February 1989 concert reviews by Rob Goetz

8/4/89 ~ Cal Expo ~ Sac., CA

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8.4.1989 Cal Expo, Sacramento
Friday
43rd Show of Year
15th Show of 1989 Summer Tour

After about two weeks off the band returned home to sunny California after completing a very successful main Summer Tour. While there was only one exceptional show from start to finish (7.7.1989), there were numerous shows that were just shy of exceptional (7.10, 7.15, and 7.17) and 7.4 and 7.19 were exactly above average. As such 6 of the 11 shows on the main tour were at least above average (better than 50%). If you include the June Shoreline 1989 shows, then the average is much better – 8 of the 14 shows were at least above average. The exceptionals, of course were, 6.19, 6.21, and 7.7.1989.

By comparison to the 1989 Spring Tour, the band was much more consistent and energetic, and were much more likely to play above average than merely average.

As the Fall drew ever closer, I am left wondering just how the band’s performances prepared them for the Dark Stars – would the Bird Songs start to get deeper? Would Jerry’s midi space improve even moreso than it already had? Would the band bring back Help Slip? When would Death Don’t come back? Would the band treat the California audience with Bid You Goodnite? Each show drew closer to an answer, and each show could provide the answer. But alas, unless each show is listened to, the answer was to remain the question.

So with all of this karma and energy, the band steamrolled into Sacramento for three shows at the Cal Expo, followed a week later with three at the Greek Theater. Bertha starts the show out carefully and almost shyly. The rhythm is present and in synch, but the band sounds a bit coy. The jam has Jerry providing relatively typical Bertha strays. But, the band sounds very tight. After the instrumental run through the chorus, Jerry gets a bit more aggressive and gets atypical in his note selection. The band equally responds and provides “punches” to his progressions. This Bertha is relatively interesting in that its approach is so withdrawn. Despite the careful approach, the band certainly did not sound sloppy at this point.

As Bertha concludes, Lesh pounces into GSETold with massive bass notes. Again, the band sounded very tight and in synch. Despite two weeks off, the band did not sound sloppy. Jerry’s rhythmic notes throughout are interesting and calculated. Weir’s signing is exaggerated and bizarre. This was the type of GSETold that extends beyond song and assumes a different formation. Unfortunately, as the band begins the final jam, Jerry’s notes are absent and on the soundboard you can hear a scream of frustration suggesting that his guitar was having a problem. Mydland and Weir fill the gaps, but the effect is lost. Jerry returns for the final 10 seconds of the jam. This version was definitely on track for an exceptional rating prior to this technical flub. Still, the band sounded great. The technical error wasn’t their fault.

For Jerry’s two spot pulled out Althea, just as he had done on 7.19.1989. On 7.19.1989 the Althea was surprisingly hot and well done. This version starts with a brisk pace. Jerry’s singing at first is precise and direct, but he forgets the third verse (“aint nobody messin”). The 7.19 version had an echo effect for Jerry’s inbetween verse runs, but on the 8.4.1989 version there was no echo effect. The inbetween verse jams are well done but moreso tight than interesting. Weir’s rhythmic chord thrusts matched by Jerry’s very fast note runs indicates the band was very in synch with one another. After the final verse, Jerry opens up more of a jam that only lasts about 30 seconds before the song ends. This Althea was interesting in that Jerry was not so much interested in generating sizzling note runs as in generating very tight and precise note runs. In comparison to the 7.19 version, the 8.4 version note runs from Jerry are not as interesting to me. This is a strong version, but not exceptional.

The following Mama Tried is very tight and well done. Weir’s vocals are not exaggerated but rather precise and direct. Jerry’s harmony is also not invasive but rather is complementary. The timing of the band on this version is also nearly perfect. The Jerry solo is crisp and the Brent solo is also flawless. As with the Althea, this version doesn’t have blistering solos, but is an exercise in precision. I think that works perfectly on a song like Mama Tried, but on Althea I like to see more improvisational jams. Still this Mama was nailed perfectly.

The Mama Tried flowed right into its evil twin – Mexicali Blues. Another precision tune that requires impeccable timing and short but precise note runs from Jerry. Unlike the 7.19.1989 version, this version sails and is quite successful. Weir’s singing, like on the Mama Tried, is not overpowering but careful. The Jerry runs are succinct and flawless. During the final jam push Jerry does markedly increase the pace of the tune which climaxes in a structured chord finale (which was blown timing wise on the 7.19 version, but nailed on this version).

The band certainly had proven their prowess at precision at this point in the set as the Althea and Mama Mex were all flawlessly done. But, the set needed a nice injection of Jerry improvisation at this point.

Instead, Brent stepped up for one of the first “Never Trust A Woman” in a long while (the previous version was on September 18, 1988). Upon hearing the beginning of this song, I’m always drawn to the 8.28.1981 version which was, in my opinion, phenomenal. But, I’m also a bit turned off by the lyrics of this song, but it doesn’t bother me too much. This version nearly stalls from the start. The first Jerry solo is bluesy but Jerry’s reverb doesn’t quite kick in and instead of improvising the blues scale, Jerry mostly tries to capture his sound. Brent takes over and provides a scat solo. This version is extremely loose and doesn’t quite sound rehearsed. Brent, ever the opportunist to share his dirty secrets with everyone (e.g., see the Far From Me on 7.12.1989 where he screams “There’s just nothing to hold onto with you – Bitch!!!”), screams at one point “come tomorrow I’m gonna leave this goddamn fucking town!!!” The song ends on an interesting note with Brent repeating “if they don’t come…if they don’t cooomme…if they neeever come around….if the neeeeeeever come around…oh well, what the hell.” Brent was showing off his ability to hit high notes here – and it actually sounded pretty good.

As I have mentioned before, an integral part of the band playing so well in 1989 (mostly in the summer) was Brent. But, with the way the band was chugging along on 8.4.1989, I think this song selection hindered the group effect. Perhaps Just A Little Light would have been better. But, one thing I doubt I’ll ever be accused of is knowing a lot about anything – so my opinion should be taken with caution.

Jerry next chooses one of his bigger successes of the main Summer Tour – Built To Last. This may be one of the poorer versions of the year. Jerry struggles with the lyrics, the rhythm’s timing sounds very forced, the Jerry solo is nearly completely in error, and the overall song sounds quite hurried or paced too quickly. A striking contrast to the 7.17.1989 version which was exceptional, this version is below average at best.

Bobby next chooses Queen Jane Approximately. While Weir’s singing and Jerry’s harmony sound very in synch. The first Jerry solo extends beyond the norm partially but mostly is average and not overly impressive. Near the conclusion of the song, the band’s rhythm seems almost disinterested. While flawless, this version lacks energy. The Brent solo is almost midi-flute sounding. It has some interesting moments but sounds a bit too out of place. Jerry does not jam after the Mydland solo. As the song ends, it is nowhere near as well done as the 7.15, 4.28, and 4.15.1989 versions.

Jerry tries to resurrect what once was an impressive first set with Jack A Roe. Recent versions of this tune were impressive (see 7.10.1989 and 4.3.1989) and not impressive (see 7.18.1989). This version has a nice pace throughout the song and on Jerry’s first solo he successfully increases the pace and the tension level. The second solo too achieves its goal. But the second solo is a bit sloppy as Jerry’s notes seem not so much to glide but slosh. What’s missing is the extra flavor that drives the jam back into the final verses of the song. For example, on the 7.10.1989 version, the second jam not only is well paced but it is crafted with such signature note patterns from Jerry that the listener is nearly begging for the song’s conclusion. On the 8.4.1989 version, that same effect is reached, but the listener is merely suggesting the return to the song rather than begging.

The jam spot of this first set is Cassidy. This was the fourth Cassidy of the summer; 6.21 was exceptional and 7.2 and 7.12 were average. Unlike the previous songs of 8.4.1989, the band’s rhythm throughout the song portion is lively and exuberant. During the instrumental run through the song chords Lesh makes his first presence of the night with a few well placed bombs. As the main jam starts, Jerry creates a pace that is maintained and from which he races through his scales. Weir on top of this provides a lot of wah wah blasts. Eventually the tension starts to build as the drummers and Lesh increase the pace. Without a real theme change Jerry starts attacking the high notes on his fretboard. Eventually the jam slows a bit and Weir changes the key. This transition was awkward and Jerry never quite adjusted to it. The transition back to the song is equally flubbed. The 6.21.1989 version is markedly better.

Jerry rounds out the set with Deal. The previous version on 7.19.1989 (which luckily was captured on the DVD Downhill From Here) featured an extremely hot and extended jam with Jerry reaching about three different peaks. The main jam on this version starts out with about 3 minutes of solid jamming from Jerry that increases the pace. Eventually Jerry leaps from this theme to a more intense cycling of notes that should be regarded as a peak. The jam is very well done but perhaps a bit short lived. Jerry surges the band back to a calmer ground only for a few seconds before returning for more complicated note cycles – peak number 2. As this ends Jerry drifts at a fast pace back to lower notes on his fret board. Instead of mounting another surge he opts for a return to the song. This version had some nice moments as Jerry nails the jam pretty well, but the peak moments are a bit short and not as intense as other versions (see 7.19.1989).

As the set closes, I have to say that this may be the only first set where the highlight was the Mama Tried Mexicali.

Set 2 opens with a bang with Truckin. This version is brisk and filled with rhythmic flavorings from Jerry. The song marches along and is pretty well done. The jam portion is interesting. First, the instrumental ladder jam out of the “Get Back Truckin’ on” is nailed perfectly by Jerry. The fingering pace is consistent throughout and it is flawless. The band underneath this is a bit quiet. But, after he concludes, the after jam is very tame is mostly just a transition to Wang Hang Poodle. Jerry does throw in some nice note bends after it is clear what the next song would be, but it was too little too late in my opinion.

Dang Pang Noodle starts out calmly. Weir’s singing is nearly tame, and the Jerry rhythm doesn’t add much zest to this version. The band doesn’t sound tired or lethargic (see 7.18.1989 for tired and lethargic) but perhaps a bit too careful. The version on 7.2.1989 (out of a Playin’ Crazy Fingers set 1 opener) is mean and delirious. Weir’s screams are deranged and Jerry’s rhythmic improvisation is like the insane sidekick of the guy screaming about “Wangs and Noodles.” This version just doesn’t reach that insanity. As such it is unconvincing. The jams by Jerry are equally too tame.

Jerry calmly exits Wang Dang and wades into Crazy Fingers. The overall pacing of the second set was most geared for a slow improvisational tune like Crazy Fingers, and Jerry ate it up. The singing by him is sage and soothing. His inability to hit notes like he could early in the 70s sounds all the wiser on a song like this (and To Lay Me Down). The first Jerry led solo wanders nicely and retains a chipper flavor. Unlike recent versions of Fingers, this jam does not stall but fluidly enters the transition back to the reprise (which the band does not flub). Jerry sounds very relaxed on this version. The outro is entered with a very slow pace. Jerry’s note spackles shuffle up and down and create the Spanish-esque march flavor. Lesh provides some nice bombs here as well accentuating the bolero feel. This duel between Jerry and Lesh is surprisingly extended. While Lesh keeps up with his Fingers shuffle Jerry keeps up with the “on guard” sound. Eventually the pace drops beneath them, and Jerry transitions into of all things Cumberland Blues (a very odd second set selection; similar to 9.27.1972). This version of Crazy Fingers furthers the argument that the band was getting more and more ready for the improvisational requirements of Dark Star. The extended jam demonstrated that the band was not avoiding extended drifts but almost greeting them with open arms.

As mentioned Cumberland was a bit of a surprise. Like the previous version on 7.17.1989, Jerry does a nice job of mixing in countryish flavor to his jams while maintaining a brisk pace. This version doesn’t have the same vocal bliss on the 7.17 version and the jams don’t create as much exuberance. Still this is not a bad version – just not exceptional.

As Cumberland stops, Jerry starts Eyes of the World. This version is filled with an up-tempo pep. Jerry’s voice sounds strong through the lyrics. The first jam has Jerry bouncing through his progressions. The rhythm does a great job of backing him. This first jam is longer than usual and provides Jerry the opportunity to improvise a bit more than usual, but the resulting jams are not overly impressive. The second jam has Jerry proceeding again through his typical Eyes runs. In the middle of this jam brent takes a turn with Jerry strumming a nice rhythm. At the conclusion Jerry again enters a few themes. Mostly these note runs are pretty typical and not too impressive. Of note, however, is Lesh who is all over this version with very chunky bass grumbles and bomb droppings everywhere. As noted, except for Lesh, this version is rather standard.

The space segment is mostly just Jerry displaying a new midi sound that sounds like an electric horn. Jerry creates a nice series of note runs that almost sound like an old Church hymn for a little while (O Come Let Us Adore Him????). Jerry’s ability to create interesting note runs out of nothing was definitely alive on this night. The second midi sound is the angry “close encounters” sound. Weir was accompanying him at this point. Both at first emit sound loud and bizarre sounds, but Jerry immediately switched out of it and entered the Wheel. While a rather short version of space (6:55), it was the most interesting part of the second set.

This was the third Wheel in four shows (7.17, 7.19, and now 8.4.1989). The band sounds rejuvenated as the instrumental runs on this version are quite alive and passionate. Jerry in particular provides numerous interesting little note runs that add character to this version. The outro jam is a bit short though and does not groove on the nice themes created during the Wheel.

As hinted immediately at the conclusion of the wheel, the band entered I Need A Miracle (which, incidentally, was the most common phrase of the year in 1989 outside of Dead shows). Weir’s singing is barely matched by a Jerry rhythm and the sound is a bit lacking. The jam by Jerry is very standard. The outro jam to Jerry’s ballad barely increases in pace and by no means should be characterized as sizzling. At best, it is only a transtion.

This transition sounded as though it might go into Black Peter, but abruptly entered Stella Blue. As could be predicted this is not the finest version (for 1989, I recommend the 4.3.1989 version of Stella Blue). Jerry’s vocal timing is just fine but it is very slow on the 8.4 version. The band tries to up the tempo with pronounced rhythm at times, but Jerry seems content to sing his ballad slowly and drain every inch of energy out of it. The jam after the bridge is very standard. The outro jam, however, is very interesting in that Jerry once again introduced his midi sound to a song. The 7.15.1989 China Doll was flubbed due to technical problems, but the 7.19.1989 Other One sounded pretty good. Here, the Stella outro sounds very nice with the midi sound. As with the Other One from 7.19, this is not jaw dropping in thematic creation, but it is very impressive to see how Jerry show by show was improving his craft with the midi, and now including it in his songs. As the Stella finale ends, Jerry switches back to his regular sound. As the sound from the band drops to a near silence Jerry emitted some odd sounding notes that hinted Truckin. It was an odd sound. Weir immediately started Sugar Mag. As noted, this was a pretty flat Stella, but the midi conclusion made it quite interesting.

Sugar Magnolia is pretty solid in the song portion. Weir’s singing is strong and the Jerry led rhythm maintains the pace without error. The SSDD instrumental, however, strays a bit. Jerry starts with a nice note picked theme, but it quickly (30 seconds) strays into very calm chord strumming. Brent provides some hysterical keyboard sounds, and eventually the band musters the energy for one last push to end the SSDD instrumental. Oddly Jerry was absent in sound from all of this suggesting that he was having technical problems. Perhaps he was trying to switch back to the midi sound. The SSDD vocal segment has some nice vocals from Weir, and a nice note led rhythm from Jerry, but again not so much so as to raise this version beyond average.

The band encores with Baby Blue which is sweet but unnoteworthy.

After the two week vacation, the band sounded a bit rusty on this show.

Set 1: 7.3
Set 2.1: 7.2
Set 2.2: 7.14
Set 2sum: 7.17
Show: 7.23

Bertha 7.35
GSET 7.4
Althea 7.7
Mama Tried 8
Mexicali 8
Never Trust A Woman 6.8
Built To Last 6.75
Queen Jane 6.75
Jack A Roe 7.15
Cassidy 6.95
Deal 7.35

Truckin’ 7.2
Wang Dang Doodle 6.75
Crazy Fingers 7.5
Cumberland 7.4
Eyes 7.15
Space 7.75
Wheel 7.3
Miracle 6.8
Stella 7
Sugar Mag 7
Baby Blue 7
Rob Goetz ©

Grateful Dead February 1989 concert reviews by Rob Goetz

8/5/89 ~ Cal Expo ~ Sac., CA

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Monday
40th Show of Year
9th Show of 1989 Summer Tour (12th if you count the 3 June Shoreline Shows)

The final three shows of the 1989 Summer Tour began on a Monday in rural Wisconsin at easily one of the most pristine places to see the Dead --- Alpine. Sadly, the band would be barred from Alpine following the final show, and would not play Alpine again until without Jerry in 2002. The Garcia Band would play Alpine in September 1989.

7.17.1989 is for the most part (the Row Jimmy, Masterpiece, Push, and MNStopped are omitted and replaced with the 7.19.1989 West LA, Desolation, and Deal) presented on the DVD Downhill Free Here. The DVD is very appealing because it does not mar the songs with annoying psychedelic side effects.

Let the Good Times Roll starts out the concert to a dusk setting. I've really grown to like this opener and this version is just as great as most. The harmonies, which really make the song, are all in synch and the band seems happy. The finale has very nice series of Jerry notes, followed by a Brent falsetto, followed by Bobby falsetto screams that suggest the evening as a whole may be special.

Feel Like a Stranger immediately follows. The DVD shows Jerry almost prancing on the stage with a big smile on his face. Based on other videos I've seen of the band (particularly 1984 and 1985) Jerry seemed very healthy and happy. His eye contact with Brent is nearly incessant through the Stranger, and Jerry was smiling a lot. The main jam is perhaps a bit short. There is only one main theme, but Jerry does a good job of creating a groove. The jam is not overly impressive, but the band sounds quite in synch and relaxed.

Jerry next delivers Built To Last. As with the progression of the other new Jerry tunes, notably Standing On The Moon and Foolish Heart, Built To Last was on a roll. The previous version of Built To Last (7.9.1989) was a highly exceptional version, as was the version on 7.17.1989. Jerry's vocals were now confident and his inflections on certain phrases suggested that the song was beginning to take its own form. Weir's note progression through the song encourages the contemplative edge of the lyrics. Truly, it now was a Grateful Dead classic. To highlight the previous comment even moreso, Jerry chose it as his first tune of the night on 7.17.1989. As with the previous versions, Jerry's singing is confident yet suspicious, and the band's rhythm is completely in tune. Another fantastic version of Built To Last. On the DVD, as the song ends Jerry turns to face Kreutzman who puts a thumb's up --- Jerry smiles in return.

Next is Me'n My Uncle. Weir's singing is a bit relaxed in comparison to the vicious early 70's versions. But, as with the rest of the scene, the music and the band had changed over the years. Late 80's Me'n My Uncles were not so much about attacking the listener but seemingly moreso on the careful presentation and nice improvisation by throughout the song. All stats included, MAMU had only been performed 4 times in 1989 (the previous version on 5.7.1989 which was above average but not exceptional). Jerry's rhythmic improvisation during the song portion is perhaps a bit repetitious, but the main jam has Jerry taking nice improvisation leaps and creating a nice tension filled ending. The song's finale does an adequate of pouncing on the ending "Left his dead ass there by the road." Not the best but not the worst version. If anything it sounded a bit too polished and not gutsy enough.

Jerry immediately drives the band not into Big River or Mexicali, but Cumberland - a bit of a surprise. The harmonies and jerry's singing are perhaps a bit rough, but this Cumberland has a swift pace and the enthusiasm seems to be very present. On the DVD, Jerry is smiling nearly through the whole song. Jerry's first solo is very fast and lifts the band from a fast pace to a faster pace. The second jam has an even faster pace and high note squeezes (ala Europe 72 versions) and high note bends that reek of Southern Blue Grass Roots. On the DVD, as the second jam starts, Jerry and Brent are each bobbing their heads while staring at each other. The finale harmony sounds better than the harmonies at the beginning of the song - and as a whole the Cumberland was a success.

This sandwich, MAMUCumberland, featured two songs rarely played by the band as of 7.17.1989. The MAMU was a bit too clean for my taste (not enough room for error), but the Cumberland sounded great.

Weir's bluesy rock tune is All Over Now. I've always really liked the Dead's version of this tune. Another great tune for Jerry to harmonize Bob. Bob's singing is a bit hysterical but not as much as other versions. The first Jerry solo is crackling and very complex while sounding simple - pure Jerry at his best. The main jam starts with Brent organning his guts out with gushing keyboard solo. Mydland's solo reaches some great areas and is interesting in its melody - more than just the typical energy rising organ runs, but really creative. Jerry jumps in at this point and provides a rhythm in Weir's absence (it must have been his turn). Finally Weir returns but the jam had stalled a bit. The final push of the major jam was lost and the chord pounces didn't sound completely on the ball (1.. 2.. 3.. (slight pause) ___4___ (bang)). Because of this messed up solo, this version is below average. The DVD failed to shed light on whether Weir was having technical trouble during the finale jam.

Row Jimmy is also a bit bittersweet. The song itself is sung nicely by Jerry but is almost a bit too fast. This leaves a hurried feel to a sung meant to be played very slowly. The jams are nice as Jerry reaches some nice points and leaves the solo relaxed enough not to kill the version. But, these jams are at best average and by no means are transcendental. The finale is marred by some flubs and the overall effect of the song is lost. This was removed from the Downhill From Here.

Masterpiece is next, which also was removed from Downhill From Here. The harmonies between Jerry and Bob sound great, and the song for the most part is nailed. Of note, Brent was beginning to sing harmony at times. But during the Jerry solo the rhythm's timing is off at one point, and as Jerry creates the push to the "When I left Rome" segment, Brent overplays his keyboard drowning Jerry's notes out. Better versions exist. The energy just isn't as sizzling as in other versions (for example, see the 7.10.1989 version which is incredible except for the last 10 seconds).

Jerry's next tune is When Push Comes To Shove. This tune gets a bum rap I think. I think the lyrics are just fine, but the jam segment is a great pad for Jerry to improvise within chordal structure (just like West LA Fadeaway). Apparently the evidence is against my contention because this was to be the final When Push Comes To Shove. This version is not bad as Jerry sings nicely and the band provides a swinging rhythm. The jam has Jerry running through his scales but not really providing an impressive display (unlike the 6.19.1989 version; sans the Weir effects). Shove is also omitted from Downhill From Here, as is the ensuing Music Never Stopped.

This rather up and down first set ends with Music Never Stopped. The previous version of this was played on 7.10.1989, which was very well done (despite the slightly rusty transitions during the final jams). It appeared that perhaps the band intended on keeping this tune in their repertoire. This version starts out with a slick and slappy rhythm that adds a sarcastic twinge to Weir's presentation of the lyrics. Jerry mostly directs this approach, as his rhythm is choppy and direct. The often changes in tempo of this song make it fun to listen to and the 7.17.1989 version rises to the task. The band leaps into the drift segment after the final "Music Never Stopped." Jerry starts the drift with soaring notes that must have cascaded into the Alpine Valley breezes. This jam starts out slowly and barely increases in pace, until Jerry starts the ascension. The rhythm clearly responds and Weir starts to emit very nice note blasts as well. Jerry finally reaches a zenith and starts repeating the same cycle of notes permitting the band underneath him to switch to the overdrive segment of the song. As they do this Jerry effortlessly switches gears as well. Unlike the 7.10.1989 version, this transition was flawless. The finale is an all out jam with Jerry repeating cycles of high end notes along side Weir's signature MNS finale bars. As noted, the set as a whole was a bit up and down, but what a great way to end it.

The second set begins with one of the finest China Cat's I've ever heard. Throughout the song the band is tight, not over anxious with their complex parts, and as a whole just let the song develop. Jerry's singing is subdued and not aggressive. Brent's keyboard fills the gaps nicely and does not mimic or ape the Weir / Garcia parts. The jams in-between the verses are confident and flubless.

The highlight of the show (tour?) happens during the instrumental finale to China Cat. Jerry slowly set the stage for an incredible peak at the finale of the instrumental jam. After the final verse, he slowly works through a series of notes cycling back and forth. On the last run, however, he surged deeper - and the band instantaneously followed. As the pace suddenly began to increase, the jam was now in full gear and surging ahead. As the band set a very fast pace Jerry began a series of note cycles high up on the fret board that began to make the sound delirious. Not only was the band cooking, but Jerry was teasing the ultimate finale. For about 20 seconds Jerry dances his notes in this zone and at any second within it the band could have entered the structured finale. But, Jerry didn't and instead dove the band deeper into the jam with a return to the middle portion of his fret board. This was short lived, but the effect was to reset the jam and the tension filled within the jam.

The beauty of the Grateful Dead is endless, but one aspect that I truly enjoy is their ability to create tension not from what they are doing but from what they are not doing. In this instance, the tension was from Jerry teasing the finale of Ccat and making the listener nearly beg for the finale.

Of course Jerry starts another attack, and this time he skips through his notes to a very high-end series of spackles. This time Jerry has returned to creating the platform for a monstrous finale. He almost plays rhythm and assists the band in creating the right sound from which to spring. Of course, the ultimate result of this minor segment is more than just adding a cool sound. Jerry, by switching from improvisational lead to rhythmic lead once again assists in creating tension. The listener upon hearing this can't help but ask, "Where's Jerry?" You hear him but you don't know what the hell he's doing. One thing you do know is that he will pounce, but the question is when?

As the jam surges forward, the pace begins to envelop the sound. Brent is freaking out on his keyboard. Lesh is dropping short lasting but impressive bombs, Weir is nearly fanning his guitar, and the drummers are pounding away about as fast as possible. Jerry, on the other hand, was still racing through his rhythmic notes ever ever ever increasing the tension. Sure enough the sound could have been likened to the Hoover Dam about to explode. Still, with all of that pace and tension, Jerry was still dancing through his rhythmic improvisation.

Just as the sound was literally about to implode from too much pace, Jerry springs out of the blob of hysteria and starts another improvisation surge toward the ultimate goal - Ccat finale. The band was forced to keep the pace underneath Jerry and the job must have been tasking - they were going on 60 straight seconds of pure all out jam pace. As the improvisation hits a zenith Jerry perfectly leaps onto the structured finale. After all of the tension that led to that point, the structured finale is soothing. Yet, a bit unnerving because of its intensity. Jerry Garcia - the ultimate teasemaster.

From beginning to end, this China Cat instrumental jam provides one of the finest 3 mintues of Dead jamming I've heard (actually 2 minutes 48 seconds). I think it definitely ranks among 8.27.1972 and 11.19.1972, except of course, Jerry provided the lead instead of Bobby.

And, the DVD does a fantastic job of focusing on Jerry's fingers throughout the main portions of this jam (and on Weir's and Lesh's). I recommend buying the DVD just for this 3 minute jam --- the remainder of the show is gravy.

The ensuing Rider was doomed to be in the shadow of the epic China Cat, but it still was exceptional. Jerry's first solo is a bit tame and he sounds distracted (the DVD suggests that Jerry was having no technical troubles as he stood in one place through his lead). The final jam, however, is literally blistering as Jerry scorches through his jams. Easily one of the finer Riders of the year. Easily one of the finer Chiders the band had done.

The band immediately launches PITB. The song is tame and the timing of all the instruments almost hypnotic. On the DVD the band looks serious and in full concentration.

The first theme of the jam features Jerry doing very timed and rhythmic PITB melodies while Lesh and Bob take turns emitting signature runs. Lesh, in particular, opened a bit of a solo. This intro was very standard for this era, but this intro is nicely done.

From this Jerry opened up a very nicely paced PITB theme that was a bit typical but certainly enjoyable and certainly impressive. Jerry really starts to fly and the band is equally in pace (reminds me of Star Wars as the Millennium Falcon flies through hyperspace).

Just as the band begins to hit a nice stride Jerry opens the third theme by altering the pace of the jam with a new melody. The band quickly follows suit, but not necessarily in Jerry's direction. For a few moments Jerry is going one way with his new theme while Weir emits very funky wah wah blasts.

The fourth theme starts with a slow drive by Jerry. The band slowly calms behind him and they start into a drifting type jam. Mydland influences the direction by providing a tension filled melody. Jerry pounces on this and sends the jam towards a desperation sound. Jerry reaches a point where he nails some chilling note cycles. As these cycles are finished the jam starts tumbling from the tense back to familiar PITB. Another of Jerry's fine skills was the ability to reach a zenith point in a jam and effortlessly run equally as fast in the opposite direction - complete fluidity.

The fifth theme has Jerry returning to familiar PITB jams. This lasts for about 30 seconds.

Jerry next opens the sixth theme by altering the effects on his sound and slowing his pace a bit suggesting a desire to search for a new song. Upon reaching the desired sound, he starts a timed note progression that almost sounds like a march. At this point PITB had certainly been exited, but no new song was clear. The pace gets quite delicate as the band is playing very slowly while Jerry is delicately (yet very quickly) spinning transition webs. At times the sound is PITBish, and at times not.

Eventually Jerry starts the seventh theme which is a extremely impressive drift starting with an increase in pace, followed by a decrease in pace that lands directly in Uncle John's Lap. In his review for the Compendium, Brian Dyke purports that instead of typical B scale drift into UJB, Jerry chose a G scale drift. Either way, the transition was very sweet.

A stunningly complex PITB for this era. Jerry's ability to flip themes at such short notice was uncannily on on 7.17.1989. His mastery of pace changes was also clearly still present. For the most part, the DVD shows Jerry hanging his head throughout these jams.

The UJB is the band flexing its muscles. Unlike the angry version of 7.10.1989, this version is more of a tale. The overall pace is slow, and Jerry's solos are crisp and direct. His first jam is flawless and demonstrates his unique ability to create melodies out of nothing. As the song reaches the main jam the pace rises. The main jam starts with the structured jam, but Jerry breaks free and starts his own interpretation. Basically he presents a pattern of very fast sprints followed by five or six lengthy notes. The intensity dramatically rises as the band rhythmically creates a storm cloud underneath Jerry. Jerry makes the storm even more intense by joining in the all out strum session that effortlessly breaks into the bridge. The DVD shows Weir rushing forward and backward in unison with the rhythm. After the final vocals, the band launches into another rhythmically driven UJB outro theme. But Jerry, instead of joining in on the jam begins to drift back towards the confines of PITB (for a truly breathtaking glimpse of UJB back to PITB listen to the 11.17.1973 transition). The band does little to resist as the sound drops into a slow but extremely impressive Jerry drift that lands into the strumming of a G chord, followed by C, followed by D, by C, and by G --- Standing On the Moon. This was a very fine reading of UJB. As noted, it is not as aggressive as others, but more soothing. It certainly fits in perfectly with this truly amazing pre drums second set of 7.17.1989.

Standing On The Moon is a masterpiece. Rumor has it that there was a full moon that arose behind the stage just as Standing On The Moon started. The DVD does not confirm this as its focus is on the stage. The band's confidence with the song was very evident. Jerry's singing was direct, heartfelt, and meaningful. This was, in my opinion, the first exceptional Standing On the Moon. The previous versions all lacked for some reason or another (even the previous version on 7.7.1989 which was a great success didn't have the ephemeral feel that this version has). The outro jam starts slowly with melodic contemplative note runs, but the jam builds and hits a point not of intensity but perhaps melancholy. Jerry drifts the jam downward and to a standstill. The song ends and the there is silence for about 3 full seconds before the start of drums.

This must have been another impressive moment for Jerry. Once again in his exquisite career he had written a new song, developed the music, struggled through the rough early versions, altered its complexion, and, on 7.17.1989 watched his labor turn into fruits. The DVD shows that the lights dimmed to near darkness as the song concluded, but my guess is that Jerry likely was smiling.

After the drums, Jerry starts the space out only with one of the drummers. His first Space theme is relatively happy in tone and shows off his newfound mastery of the midi by switching between a horn sound and a bell sound. Weir arrives and starts providing a few feedback blasts and wah wah blasts. Weir's effect is to make the sound as a whole a bit eerie. Jerry next starts a series of waterfall sounds. The third theme has Jerry's guitar sounding like the bass on Seinfeld. His pace increases and soon Jerry is flying through his lead. This jam is rather impressive. Through the third theme Jerry switches to the flute sound and continues the incredibly fast picking. The notes with this sound tend to blend together lending a nice psychedelic effect. Jerry switches back again to the Seinfeld bass. A fourth theme is started with a very odd sound from the midi. It quickly switches to the 7.15.1989 Close Encounters midi sound. Sure enough Jerry starts another interesting Close Encounters jam. The fifth theme has Jerry attacking the high end of his fretboard before emitting more waterfall sounds. The sound and feel is gushing, and at this point the entire band is onstage with him. After the waterfall is complete, Jerry switches guitars and starts a nice drift accompanied by a massive cymbal splashing that blends into the Wheel. A rather impressive Space considering the second theme's pace, and the Close Encounters jam. As had been the trend through this Summer 1989 Tour, the Space segments were getting better and better.

The DVD unfortunately clips about 4.33 minutes of the Space. What is missing is the third theme to the beginning of the Close Encounters theme.

The Wheel is well done with nice vocals and nice jams, but as a whole is not really above average. None of the jams are flubbed, but the jams won't force you to hear them either. Jerry hints at Gimme Some right as the outro jam to the Wheel starts, and the resulting transition is about 10 seconds in length.

Gimme Some rolls in and Brent's vocals sound a bit strained. The band seems very enthused, but this by no means is an exceptional version. The jam within the song starts with Jerry missing a note and the resulting lead from him is at best average. The outro jam fails to gain momentum before landing into GDTRFB.

GDTRFB was making its fourth appearance in 1989. The first was on 4.2.1989 (an above average version); the second was 4.13.1989 (a below average version); the third was 8 days previous on 7.9.1989 (which was above average; came out of an at best average Gimme Some; and featured tight Jerry solos that by no means were overly impressive). This version is better than the previous three, but just barely better than the 7.9.1989 version. The first solo by Jerry is tight and well directed, and Weir even adds a China Cat intro theme. At the close of the second verse, Jerry raises his guitar high and leans toward Brent, as if to introduce his turn. Brent's solo cooks. Jerry's jam follows Brent and starts at a fast pace and gets even faster. The band kicks in rhythmically but there is not the sense of overwhelming jam that other versions of GDTRFB almost need to be exceptional (see 8.22.1972 - by the time the band is at the peak of the second jam the feel of the jam is extremely intense; whereas this version while definitely including fast jamming doesn't have the extra feel of a special moment).

After the outro jam Jerry and Bob start the chords to NFA. Absent an entry jam, the band launches into the first verse. In-between verses, Jerry opens up a strum session as he fans through nearly each and every chord before opening up the space for an extended jam. This jam is short-lived however as opens the jam complete with extended feedback, but instead of expanding, the bands drops back for the second verse. After the second verse, Jerry does open up an extended jam. The first them is a typical NFA jam that lasts a long time. As a result Jerry builds up a lot of pace and the band underneath him starts to get restless. The feel of the jam was that it would blow at any second. Instead Jerry started fanning low notes resulting in a gurgling or drowning sound to the jam. Jerry leaps from this into very high notes with the band returning to familiar NFA chords. Jerry starts the second theme which is still traditional NFA but his improvisation is more pronounced during this theme and the jam as a whole is much more interesting. Despite a frantic attempt by the band to return to NFA, Jerry persisted in jamming in the opposite direction. The thought of the band pulling a rubber band one way and the Jerry the other is rather appropriate. Finally Jerry lets go, the jam or rubber band snaps back onto the band, and Jerry delicately starts the NFA chords. More easily written than performed. The NFA ends with an extended vocal delivery by Bob, Jerry and Brent. This NFA had two very nice extended jams. The crowd bridges the gap between the NFA and the encore with extended singing of NFA. The DVD shows the band in high sprits as smiles abound.

The first encore is Bid You Goodnight. This was the first Bid You Goodnight since 12.31.1978 (which someone once said was 756 shows earlier than 7.17.1989). Obviously this version is marred by the vocal restraints of the band, but from a sentimental aspect, it couldn't have been sweeter. A real treat for the crowd. And, this was the beginning of the re-release of songs that seemingly had been retired…

The band leaves the stage, but returns much to the surprise of nearly everyone for a second encore. This time the band pulls out Johnny B. Goode. Jerry's solos are very well done and Brent has a nice solo too.

A very fit ending to this great show. Interestingly, the set list provides that Weir had only one song wherein the verses were sung only by him - PITB - until the JBGoode encore. Clearly this was Jerry's performance. The Good Times Roll, Built To Last, and Music Never Stopped were all exceptional. The Rider and UJB were exceptional. The NFA had two very well done jams. The Bid You Goodnight marked not only a very nice conclusion but also the beginning of the re-release of retired songs. The PITB featured a very complex series of jams from Jerry, as did the post drums Space. The Standing On The Moon was the finest of the year, and marked the first exceptional version. And, and, and the China Cat Sunflower finale instrumental jam was easily one of the finest Jerry led jams of their career. For those who challenge the notion that the Dead was as good in the 80s as they were in the 60s/70s (as I used to), check this show out.

The show rating of 7.74 is a bit deceiving. Typically my goal is to flesh out the "exceptional shows" which comprise performances averaging better than or equal to 8. But 7.17.1989 was one of those shows that despite the dips in the first set and the post drums second set, the band truly made it evident that this was a special night.

A very nice audio mix of this show would be: LTGTR, Built To Last, MNStopped, Chider, PITB>UJB>Moon; Space, NFA, Bid You Good, JBGoode.

The stage being set, the band would return the next day and continue the 1989 Summer Tour - in rain.

Set 1: 7.445
Set 2.1: 8.45
Set 2.2: 7.63
Set 2: 8.039
Show: 7.74

LGTR 8.25
Stranger 7.25
Built To Last 8.25
MAMU 7.15
Cumberland 7.8
All Over Now 6.75
Row Jimmy 6.95
Masterpiece 6.8
Push Comes To Shove 7.25
MNStopped 8

China Cat 9.5
Rider 8
PITB 8.75
UJB 8
SOTMoon 8
Space 8
Wheel 7
Gimme Some 6.8
GDTRFB 7.6
NFA 8

Bid You Goodnight 8
JBGoode 8
Rob Goetz ©

Grateful Dead February 1989 concert reviews by Rob Goetz

8/5/89 ~ Cal Expo ~ Sac., CA

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8.5.1989 Cal Expo, Sacramento
Saturday
44th Show of Year
16th Show of 1989 Summer Tour

Ticket Stub - Grateful Dead - 8/5/89

After a rather dull show on 8.4.1989, the band spiced up the beginning to 8.5.1989 with One More Saturday Night. This version is not bad. The singing (screaming) from Weir is very enthusiastic and the Jerry rhythm is present throughout the song. But the first Jerry solo is a bit distant and not very pouncing. The main jam is mostly a Brent solo which is average. The vocal finale is at best average as the band seems a bit complacent. Weir’s screams don’t sound too convincing (for a very convincing OMSNite Weir scream, see 5.26.1972).

After a brief pause, Jerry starts Cold Rain & Snow. This version is very laid back. Jerry’s singing barely raises the tempo from verse to verse, and his structured jams don’t raise the tempo either. While flawless, this version lacks energy and is quite sedate (for a recent CRSnow that is literally the opposite of sedate, see 7.4.1989).

Brent takes a turn next with We Can Run. While for the most part flawless this version is a bit flat as Jerry’s guitar throughout is uninteresting and not filled with flavor, unlike the recent 7.15.1989 version which was exceptional (mostly due to Jerry’s flavorings throughout).

Jerry’s 2-spot is Stagger Lee. His voice sounds a bit haggard on this version, and throughout Brent rhythmically matched Jerry’s guitar licks identically. The pace is perhaps a bit too fast and as such sounds forced. While flawless, the band doesn’t sound to interested in this version. Jerry’s first solo is filled with a lot of reverb but little impressive note runs. As Jerry ends the song with “Look out Stagger Lee” bellows, his voice sounds very hoarse. The ensuing guitar solo is very short and quickly reaches the conclusion.

At this point the band sounded tired and uninterested. Jerry’s voice was a bit hoarse, and his jamming was lacking the typical Jerry signatures that make each version so interesting. This was the fourth show in a row that began predominantly in an average manner.

Weir attempts to salvage this set with Memphis Blues. His singing is markedly energetic and filled with inbetween word exclamations (e.g., ha!). The first Jerry jam is a bit typical, but was perhaps a bit more interesting than the previous songs. Weir’s signing through the conclusion of the song consistently raises the tempo verse to verse, and it causes Jerry to get a bit more involved. By the songs conclusion Jerry was providing a pretty nice rhythm behind Weir’s screams that makes this a slightly above average version.

Jerry maintains the first set with a very fine version of Row Jimmy. Jerry’s vocals sound a bit crisper and not as haggard, and the band behind him seems very tight. The first Jerry solo explodes from the end of the verse and splatters in various directions before landing back into the next verse. The main jam starts with a tame but interesting Brent solo. Jerry surges from it and provides another nice display of note progressions. While this version is by no means exceptional, it was definitely an improvement over the first five songs of the night. The Jimmy ends with a well done vocal gallop through the “I say Row…”

This relatively average first set ends on a very high note however with Let It Grow. The song is fast paced and well delivered by Weir, but Jerry out of nowhere wakes up for the jam is really on fire. The first 3 minutes of the jam is laced with Jerry fannings of his notes and driving note runs. As this comes to a conclusion he switches to the more timed structured jam which is very well done as well. This jam is atypical from the rest of the show in that Jerry provides interesting note flavors and runs throughout. In so doing, he was able to create interesting ripples in the jams that create interest. Clearly this was the highlight of the set as it was the only exceptional version of the set.

After the very hot Let It Grow, my expectations for the second set were quite high. But, I was disappointed when Hey Pocky Way started. While this tune is pretty catchy and Mydland’s hysterics can be interesting to hear, after a lackluster first set this song choice was a bit of a bummer. The version itself is mostly average. Jerry has a first jam that really takes off nicely. He nails a series of interesting progressions, and suggests that perhaps this would be an exceptional version. On the main jam Jerry again provides a slowly paced but very complicated jam that builds nicely into quite a bit of tension. He rises and falls numerous times before switching to rhythmic improvisation. Brent steps up at this point and provides a nice organ solo that does not match the solo emitted by Jerry. Still a very well done version.

As this song ends, the band immediately enters PITBand. The jam starts out with the typical intro space as the band slowly grooves into the mood. But immediately present is Jerry who presents numerous runs of notes that are very complicated but retain the innocent nascent PITBand sound. Eventually he slowly crafts the jam into the second theme which is a bit gloomier. The pace drops to a near creep. At this point Jerry starts theme three which is a complex and fast paced run through some progressions. Inbetween each cycle Jerry threw in signature flavorings that added a lot to this theme. The band through this was still caught in the pace drop of theme three, and just as the band caught up with Jerry in theme 3 he opened up a beautiful and odd sounding fanning of notes that led that finished with Jerry darted again, but not with a pace change but rather a demurring sound – almost a shy sound. Classic Dead cat and mouse. In many respects this PITB jam reminded me of 10.16.1974 for its very deep themes that seemingly have Jerry all alone being followed by the band. Jerry’s demur led to a climbing theme from Jerry. The band was still sloshing in the sweeping PITB notes and Jerry was jumping into a more structured setting – the contrast is striking and very interesting. Eventually Jerry’s structure drops him and the band into a cyclical grinding that is the opening of I Know You Rider. Jerry doesn’t shy away from this and instead opens up a ho-down groove jam that has country flavor oozing out of its corn stalk. The Rider is among the finest of the year. The Jerry jams are nearly scalding in the approach and the note progression pace. But perhaps more interesting is the feel of Jerry’s jams as he seemingly attacks the jams and bounces off the rhythm like a motor boat crashing over waves (I understand that perhaps description can be taken too far, but with some of the finer Jerry jams typical descriptions just don’t cut it). All in all, a fantastic version out of of all things PITB.

 

Of note, the PITB was particularly deep and in my opinion one of the deepest improvisation jams of the year for the Dead. With the Dark Stars looming, it is jams like this that clearly indicated that the band was getting very ready (really…quite really).

The Rider falls into the grasp of (up to that point) 1989’s finest Terrapin Station. While the song is mostly typical, this version reaches exception for its inbetween verse jams. First is the jam after “strength, not disaster.” Jerry’s guitar work here is sweeping but slowly paced lending a dripping sound. The second jam, after “shed light, not to master” begins with a very hypnotic drift that reaches a deep space. Jerry starts a slow ascent back to the song that spirals into twists its way back to the verse. At the flip of a dime, Jerry could still get way out there and effortlessly sail back to structure. The Terrapin instrumental finale is relatively typical but interesting in that Jerry switches through numerous different sounds in his presentation (none midi).

All in all this first half of the second set on 8.5.1989 was completely unexpected considering the lethargic first set. Jerry had smoking moments during the Pocky and Rider. The Terrapin was very interesting and deep. But, the PITBand was about as deep as it can get. Clearly one of the finest of 1989 – career??

The Space begins with Jerry providing a midi based flute jam backed by Weir. This jam is somewhat atonal. Jerry switches to his dark sounding growl and opens up a Close Encounters jam. The Jerry notes were definitely layered ontop of each other and Weir’s notes too. This theme extends for a few minutes and features a slowly paced but consistent jam. As it concludes Jerry continues with the dark sounding grumbling. This switches to a horn sound. Jerry takes off at this point and races through various themes. As this concludes Jerry next switches his sound to the “gushing waterfall” sound. The Space at this point stalls as Jerry presents few notes and the sound freezes for about 3 minutes.

Out of this Jerry starts the chords to Standing On The Moon. This version was expected as Jerry likely wanted to share the emergence of his new classic with the Californian crowd. But, this version seems a bit forced. Jerry forgets a few verses, and the pace doesn’t seem to glide but rather drags. The outro jam from Jerry, however, is spectacular. He presents surging note progressions that slowly build on each other and eventually climax into a high note pitched cycling. The drift down to the next song is even impressive in that the band is nearly silent. Jerry wanders into Throwing Stones. A bit of a sloppy SOTM that was immortally saved with one of the finest SOTM outro jams of the year (was 7.17.1989 better???).

Throwing Stones is delivered very well by Weir. The band’s rhythm doesn’t sound tired or sloppy either. The “On Our Owwwwwnnnnnn” bellow from Weir, however, is tough to hear (this version is more out of tune than most). The ensuing jam, however, while a tad slow, has very interesting Jerry flavorings spackled throughout. The theme eventually rises in pace and develops a nice head of steam as it slams to a stop for the final verse – “picture a bright blue ball.” The band does a nice job of finishing this with an impressive vocal finale.

NFA is well done as well. The post second verse jam has Jerry getting way out there. He opens up numerous themes and plows through them. Some of the progressions are fast paced, some slow, some filled with bending notes, others with fanned notes. Each jam, however, is filled with interesting Jerry flavorings on his simple note progressions. As with 7.17.1989 this was a very impressive version and is an all out jam by Jerry.

The show ends with the encore US Blues. Jerry rises to the occasion on this version. The jam is an all out march through the notes that climaxes in a surge that shuffles breathlessly into the “back to back” verse. Jerry’s scream of “you can call this song the UNITED STATES BLUES” secures that this was one of the few exceptional encores from 1989.

While the band struggled a bit to break free from an average sound in the first set, the second set sizzled. In particular, the PITBand was easily one of the finest of the year.

With but one more show at the Cal Expo (8.6.1989), the band faced just three more shows for the summer of 1989. Afterwards Jerry would venture out solo with an extended Garcia Band tour, followed by the legendary Fall 1989 Tour that served as the gateway to Dark Star.

Set 1: 7.24

Set 2.1: 8.525

Set 2.2: 7.81

Set 2sum: 8.16

Show: 7.7

OMSN 7

CRS 7

We Can Run 7

Stagger Lee 6.8

Memphis Blues 7.25

Row Jimmy 7.5

Let It Grow 8.15

Pocky Way 7.6

Playin 9.5

Rider 9

Terrapin 8

Space 7.25

SOTM 8 (soley due to the outro jam)

Throwin Stones 7.5

NFA 8.15

USBlues 8.15

 


Rob Goetz ©

Grateful Dead 1989 concert reviews by Rob Goetz

8/6/89 ~ Cal Expo ~ Sac., CA

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8.6.1989 Cal Expo, Sacramento
Sunday
45th Show of Year
17th Show of 1989 Summer Tour

This being the final show before the final 3 shows of the 1989 Summer Tour, the Band had reason to be happy. The Summer Tour as a whole had been quite successful. Despite only 3 exceptional shows (6.19, 6.21, and 7.7.1989) numerous shows had been very above average (including 7.10, 7.15 and 7.17.1989) in contrast to the Dead Spring 1989 Tour. Jerry, in particular, had a lot to be thankful for as of 8.6.1989. He had now achieved great strides with his new midi (and was even starting to introduce it into some songs), the Jerry Garcia Band had displayed some incredible moments (see 1.28.1989 and 5.19.1989, and more to come in August/September 1989), he had a new pursuit of deeper jamming (see the 5.19.1989 Don’t Let Go, and the PITB from 8.5.1989), and he had still the Fall Dead Tour, a whole JGB Tour, and four more summer Dead shows to pursue this interest even further. Yes, Jerry and the Dead had a lot to be thankful for ---- which really translates to the listener being quite lucky.

August 6, 1989, began with Let The Good Times Roll. It started with a vocal flub and this version seemed a bit strained (not nearly as flowing or relaxed as 3.28, 7.17 or 6.21.1989). The vocals are pretty well done, but there is an element of hesitancy throughout. It just doesn’t have the relaxed and flowing feel of other versions. This was the fifth Let The Good Times Roll of 1989. Four of the five were show openers (5.6.1989 started the second set). On 3.28.1989 the following song was Franklin’s Tower, on 4.8 the following song was Wang Dang Noodle, on 5.6 the following song was Hey Pocky Way, and on 7.17 and 8.6, the following song was Feel Like A Stranger. Interestingly, through 7.17.1989, when the band performed Let The Good Times Roll, the band had:
Not delivered an exceptional show
Not delivered a below average show
On average, delivered a solid above average show (7.49 average)
The 3.28.1989 show was exactly above average (7.5)
The 4.08.1989 show was slightly below above average (7.32)
The 5.06.1989 show was slightly below above average (7.40)
The 7.17.1989 show was in between exceptional and above average (7.74)

As such, Let The Good Times Roll was a double edged harbinger through 7.17.1989. On the one hand, Let The Good Times Roll signified the avoidance of a below average show. On the other hand, Let The Good Times Roll signified the avoidance of an exceptional show. Would this trend hold true for 8.6.1989?

As noted, following Good Times Roll is Feel Like A Stranger. Jerry’s rhythm at times during the song is absent and during the transitions he is about a ½ second off. But, the main jam is very interesting. Jerry developed a theme that slowly built and was filled with fast plucking behind a very relaxed rhythm. Eventually Jerry reached a nice peak with a repeating cyclical structure that generated a lot of energy and tension. Excellent Jerry led jam here.

Feel Like a Stranger shuffled into Franklin’s. The 1st jam was fastly paced with very nice progressions and angled and sharp progression turns. The 2nd jam was again very angled and well progressed. The 3rd jam started with a cyclical climb that was very complex and flavor ridden. It reached a great plateau for Jerry to meander through his high notes at an accelerated pace. Unlike the 7.10.1989 version where Jerry resorted to more strumming during the jams, on this version he was inclined to picking notes than strumming. The 4th jam was a slow drop to the final verse. The vocal finale is filled with near 50 year old gasps for air filled with not only cigarette tar but mostly in tune screams. All in all a great version as Jerry certainly demonstrated that his abilities were alive and present. Unfortunately, this was to be the highlight of the first set by a longshot.

Next is Walkin’ Blues featuring a sinister and deranged vocal presentation from Weir. Jerry’s solo was equally sick, very sharp and perhaps even evil. But, Mydland’s solo was slow to take off, and Weir’s solo didn’t even really begin. Despite the great start to this version by the end it had fallen apart.

Ramblin’ Rose followed and was nearly exceptional except for a significant technical flub during Jerry’s guitar solo. Just at its inception his sound vanished and didn’t return until the last 3 seconds of the jam. This certainly tarnished the version. Brent filled in the gaps but the version was ruined.

Masterpiece was a very calm version as Weir’s singing didn’t display exuberance. Jerrys solo started out flat but ended nicely with several flavored runs. As with nearly every July and August version, the ending was flubbed.

Bird Song ended the set. The song portion was very tight and well done. The jam started out with Jerry tickling the pace by adding little dashes of pace followed by slow moments. This reaches desired a pace and Jerry next emited solid progressions of flavor. The band nicely caught up with him and added some great rhythmic waves. The second theme was more driving and reached a sprint and tumble kind of jam. Each cycling created more tension. But, just as it was about to blow wide open, Jerry slowed the pace to a near creep thereby avoiding what could have been a grand zenith. The third theme started with innocent note spatterings developing into rapid note runs. Underneath Jerry the band was still operating pretty slowly. This theme stalled quickly. The 4th theme had Jerry entering the familiar chordal strumming jam portion. The pace picked up very fast with the band right behind him. This march had Mydland emitting crazy piano runs that almost hindered Jerry’s effect. Of note, Lesh got very involved here. But this didn’t develop into a peak for Jerry – just mostly intense chord strumming with no zenith. The 5th theme was descent to the reprise. All in all, some nice jamming but no real zeniths to speak of as each theme got close but didn’t quite break through.

As this first set closed, the band had visited some great moments, but also visited some stalled moments.

The second set started with Scarlet. The band sounded very tight and a very nicely developed first jam set an aggressive tone. This jam built to a very nice peak, and flawlessly dropped into “wind and the willow.” The jam out of Scarlet was very relaxed and laid back. Jerry improvised nicely on top of the relaxed band rhythm. Jerry’s meandering was pleasant to the ear, and despite its tame pacing was complicated. Quickly the band seemingly had exited Scarlet. Jerry provided some very well done meandering here. Near the transitory jam conclusion Jerry started a nice cyclical theme filled with nice flavoring that the band slowly began to spin around. The result was a very nice cascade as the band started spinning around Jerry’s theme faster and faster. As it concluded Jerry flawlessly switched to the Fire wah wah. This was not the most intense version, but like the PITB from 8.5.1989, a very interesting and complicated version from Jerry.

This was the 6th Fire On The Mountain of 1989. The first four Fires of 1989 had mixed results (3.27 and 4.6 being barely above average, and 4.16 and 5.27 being below average). The fifth was the amazing and exceptional version portrayed on 7.7.1989. On 8.6.1989, the band was to deliver the second exceptional Fire of 1989. The band emitted a soothing sound during the song portion that was relaxed but very tight. The first jam was quite extended as Jerry started a long jam that slowly worked its way from being a timid Fire jam to a raging Fire jam that ceased just short of an all out fanning session. This was an impressive display from Jerry. The second jam started out with a very slow pace as Jerry sounded as though he was searching for the desired reverb sound. As he located it, the jam gained pace and quickly provided a flavor ridden note cycling. This was a great sound from Jerry. From this point, Jerry leapt into about a 3 minute jam wherein he just soared in pace and note delivery. This was nothing short of brilliant. The third jam also had a quick rise to a rapid pace and featured an extended drift spiral that slowly ground a hole in the middle of his fretboard. This lasted about 2 straight minutes. Jerry flawlessly switched to the structured note conclusion at the conclusion of this third jam. Alas, another classic Scarlet Fire had elapsed.

Jerry sounded very in synch with his abilities through two songs of this 8.6.1989 second set, and it was to stop with the next series of songs.

Sampson was next, and despite the song portion being rather sloppy (especially during the transitions) the Jerry led jams get downright nasty and are very well jammed. This version suggested that if the band had rehearsed this tune a few times, the Fall tour could have a great tune to jam off of.

The pacing of this second set was slowed down next with Ship of Fools. This was a surprisingly well done version. The pace didn’t put listener to sleep and the Jerry led jam has surging ascensions. This easily was one of the better 1989 Fools.

The band clearly was feeling cocky with their abilities at this point because they next chose Man Smart, Woman Smarter. This was typically a poorly done tune in 1989. As with Sampson, the song portion is sloppy, but the Jerry led jams sizzle. His jams are extended and his interplay with Mydland was very impressive.

The drummers started their portion at this point, and the question of the set was whether Jerry could keep his momentum up for the final half of this second set.
The Space segment is very complex. Jerry provided layered theme progressions that built into an angry sounded theme, a calm retrospective theme, and a return to another angry sounding theme. 

This Space was mostly him alone with the angry horn sound from his midi. The transition to Take You Home is marked as Jerry switched to the flutey / horny sound and Brent keyed the theme.

Take You Home was average. This was the 13th time the Dead had performed Take You Home in 1989, and it still was rather elusive in grasping just how to rate it.

Out of Take You Home, Jerry started the Other One. The entrance was spacey and there were no real peak jams before first verse. Of note as well was the absence of a driving Lesh force. The Other One still, this deep into 1989, had yet to really establish itself. The post first verse jam was very extended, and despite a calm and virtually absent rhythm portion, Jerry presented an extended jam. This extended Jerry jam was impressive as he covered a lot of ground. At the 5:25 point Jerry entered a fantastic jam that was very deep and probing (indeed it sounded like a 1972 dive into deeper pastures). The band rallied around this and a nice jam was developed that unfortunately didn’t reach a similar zenith. This was an interesting Other One not because of its overall rating, but because of the inbetween verse jam from Jerry, and because the rhythm section failing to deliver interesting punches. After the second verse Jerry emitted a very interesting descent that landed into Wharf Rat.

The Wharf Rat ballad was a very fine reading. The main jam had Jerry building a theme that culminated with interesting note bends and blurs. While not as sizzling as the 2.10.1989 Wharf Rat, this version was at the upper end of above average.

Weir ended the set with Lovelight. This version sounded a bit hurried. Jerry’s jam was extended and very complicated as he spun cyclical webs throughout the rhythm. This was impressive. The vocal finale was well done as Weir and the band gain a lot of steam, but the band and Jerry were about 2 beats off as the song ended lending an awkward sound.

Paying homage to 7.17.1989 (and giving to CA what it gave to the mainland) the band encored JBGAWBYG. JBGoode sizzled as Jerry’s lead was on fire throughout. He clearly he could still jam like the old days – fanning, strumming, lightning fast leads, all in a 40 second span.

The Bid You Goodnight vocals were a lot harsher on this version than the 7.17.1989 version, and the element of surprise was lost. Once JBGoode started, it was pretty clear that the band was going to give the crowd what it gave Alpine.

As such, the trend of nearly above average shows with Let The Good Times Roll was sustained on 8.6.1989. The overall performance on 8.6.1989 was just below above average. Despite an average first set, the second set was mostly a success. The Scarlet Fire was the highlight of the show along with a surprisingly well done JBGoode. With only three shows remaining in the 1989 Summer Tour, the band had reason to look forward to the Greek Theatre. It was to be their final three shows ever at the Greek.
Set 1: 7.26
Set 2.1: 7.88
Set 2.2: 7.41
Set 2sum: 7.65
Show: 7.45
Let The Good Times Roll 7
Stranger 7.85
Franklins 8.3
Walkin’ Blues 6.9
Ramblin’ Rose 6.5
Masterpiece
Bird Song 7.25
Scarlet 8
Fire 8
Sampson 7.5
Fools 8
Women Smarter 7.9
Space 7.5
Take You Home 7
Other One 7.25
Wharf 7.7
Lovelight 7.35
JGB 8.1
Bid You Goodnight 7
Rob Goetz ©

Grateful Dead 1989 concert reviews by Rob Goetz

 

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