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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 the Greek Theatre.

8/17/89 ~ Berkeley, CA
8/18/89 ~ Berkeley, CA
8/19/89 ~ Berkeley, CA

Grateful Dead February 1989 concert reviews by Rob Goetz

8/17/89 ~ Greek Theatre ~ Berk, CA

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08.17.1989 Greek Theatre, Berkeley
Thursday
46th Show of 1989

8.17,18 and 19.1989 were the final Greek Theatre shows for the Grateful Dead. Whether the band knew this at the time these shows were performed is unclear. All Greek shows held the possibility of rendering something unique and special, but as with all Grateful Dead shows, the possibility of the uninteresting and mundane was also alive and present.

8.17.1989 started with a Hell in a Bucket that despite being a bit sloppy (likely due to technical difficulty and not musicianship) had some great moments. Weir’s signing throughout is very lively and filled with emotion. The main jam has a very choppy and thick Weir rhythm wherein Jerry carefully places a lead. The lead doesn’t quite reach exceptional status, but it lends a lot of promise for the remainder of the evening as it is rather fluent and reaches the necessary areas. The vocal finale has some great Weir yelps (for a phenomenal Weir vocal finale for Hell In A Bucket listen to 12.31.1984) and a nice Jerry finale.

A relatively rare Sugaree emerged from the Hell aftermath (i.e., as of 8.17.1989, this was the seventh Sugaree in 46 shows). Jerry’s guitar had some very funky echoey-reverb action that sounded very similar to the Waiting For A Miracle sound he was to perform on 8.26.1989 (which was a stellar version). While this version is in the notorious “laid back West coast charm”, the second jam really nails a nice period of improvisation. The second jam starts with a cyclical climb that quickly reaches a plateau where Jerry races in and out of frantic themes. This was no meltdown peak (see 5.19.1977 for that), but the required delirium is attained. The first jam is rather careful, and the third is a transition to the vocal reprise.

Next is Walkin’ Blues. Continuing with the very relaxed sound, the first Jerry jam meanders but doesn’t match the intensity from Weir’s singing. The Mydland solo is nearly ferocious as it tamely wanders before massive blasts of energy and sound. The band was really beginning to gel at this point. Weir’s solo rides in perfect timing and doesn’t miss a beat. Jerry takes a third turn here as well that is mostly rhythmic. All in all a pretty odd and weird main jam as no real explosive peaks are entertained, but in their own weird way, some nice zones are met. East Coast Walkin’ Blues was typically a scream fest and an energy fest, while the West Coast versions were tamer but weirder.

Jerry’s second song selection was Jack-A-Roe. This is another well done version of a tale of love, despair and destruction. Jerry’s solo’s inbetween the verses dramatically increase in pace and tension, but still fall just shy of exceptional. The vocals from him as well are meaningful and passionate.

Four songs into the final Grateful Dead Greek Theatre run ever, and each tune was getting better and better. The set had really developed an identity and despite the non exceptional versions, the show was cruising along very nicely.

Weir next chose Queen Jane. Jerry’s first guitar solo matches the confused and frustrated lyrics to a tee. Weir’s vocal presentation verse to verse increases in intensity so that by the end of the third verse (Now when all your advisers) Jerry’s rhythm is more of a fast paced strum. Mydland’s following solo has the “fiddle” effect that while a bit loud in the mix is actually pretty complicated and sounds interesting. Jerry’s ensuing solo is fast paced and filled with intensity, but not the type of intensity that smacks you in your face. Instead it is almost a tender lamenting of whomever Queen Jane was supposed to be. The drumming throughout this version also was well done. The vocal finale is not as exasperated as some versions (see 4.15.1989 for an exasperated Queen Jane vocal finale) but perfectly matches the tone of the song and even night for that matter.

During the tuning for the next song Jerry teases Here Comes Sunshine which was barely audible but if one listens closely he’ll hear it.

Candyman is next and matches the overall relaxed theme of this set. This version is slowly paced and filled with passionate delivery. The main jam has Jerry laying out a complicated and psychedelic series of notes that culminates with a rapid surge toward the bliss of the song. The vocal finale is very well done. While still not quite exceptional this version is very above average.

Breaking from the dreamy and relaxed feel of the set as a whole, the band next enters The Music Never Stopped. This version is quite tight. The drift portion of the main creates a very wide open space. Jerry carefully starts the drift slowly and in a complicated manner. This builds to a nicely done zenith. At its peak the band transfers to the strut portion of the song which is slightly flubbed. The main strut portion has Jerry emitting very hot licks. The strut gains a lot of steam and surges into a finale with Brent literally going crazy on the keys. Jerry also emits a strong surge to end the jam. As with the previous songs, the strut is not slammed in your face but is more relaxed in its delivery.

Another above average version completed, the band finishes this strong first set with Don’t Ease Me In. This version is also strong as Jerry’s vocals, while a tad haggard, fill the void nicely. The guitar solo is a bit tame, but as with the previous songs, matches the relaxed feel of this set.

As a whole the 8.17.1989 first set was not directed to the type of listener that likes slamming and direct Dead. Instead it caters to the listener who appreciates careful, precise, and laid back Dead. After listening to the whole East Coast and Midwest 1989 Summer Tour, it is clear after listening to the 8.5,6,7.1989 and now 8.17.1989 shows that the band did indeed present a more relaxed and laid back approach in the Golden State.

Set 2 opens with a very relaxed and laid back Touch of Grey. Again the band nearly seems asleep onstage, but a close listen reveals that they are very much in synch and providing very above average music. The main jam on this version is not overly impressive but it certainly grows on you and suggests that Jerry was still on.

Next is Women Are Smarter. Weir and Mydland trade verses, and the overall feel is more laid back Cajun than say the cocaine induced screamfest of 9.17.1982 (assumptions of course). Jerry’s solo is extended and starts out very nicely with swinging and choppy progressions that add tempo and flavor to this version. But, this stalls and the remaining 2 minutes of his solo is rather typical. Mydland jumps in and does a standard, and well done, solo for him. Jerry returns for a conclusion solo, which is average at best. 1989 was not the best year for Women Are Smarter, but the band perhaps felt differently considering how often it was performed.

The chaser to the Women is Ship Of Fools. This chaser has a nice Jerry solo that surges nicely, but the overall feel of the song is tired and lethargic. The band was still in synch, but just not sounding very interesting.

On some nights in the bands career they really could pull this kind of show off. The kind where everything is very relaxed and extremely laid back – see 7.18.1976. The type of show where every change in chord is a seeming emotional gush filled with over embellishments. But the risk for the listener is that if the band is not extremely “on” it almost becomes boring and sleep inducing. 7.18.1989 comes to mind wherein the band attempted the slow paced and overly contemplative show theme, but in my opinion failed because Jerry sounded more lethargic than inwardly focused. 8.17.1989 obviously was attempting to pull this theme off. The first set was above average but not exceptional. The second set began with a nice Touch, but the Women was a bit lethargic, and now the Ship of Fools was also a bit dull. In my opinion this kind of show almost requires a more improvisational second set opener than structured songs (e.g., Scarlet >>). 8.17.1989 was rapidly approaching an overall “nice effort” status. But, the next tune was Estimated, and Estimated provided a very nice platform for the mood of which the band was clearly enveloped.

Estimated is calmly presented, and is quite slowly paced. The sound is quite spaced out. The Jerry led first jam (his first real improvisation opportunity of the entire concert) starts out nicely and quickly reached a wide open platform. Jerry carefully crafted a jam that was certainly building upon itself. But…just as it was starting to truly get interesting and Jerry was gaining a steam of momentum, Weir abruptly ended the jam and returned to the song. Clearly this flub tarnished the version. The outro jam from Jerry, as expected, is very wide open and less interested in finding a song and more interested in relaxing in the middle of space. The first theme is a slow Estimated jam that doesn’t really go anywhere or build into any peaks. The second theme is a true interzone type jam as he had clearly left Estimated and now was out in the middle of improvisation land. This second theme had some nice progressions but as a whole was more of a punt than a strong voicing from Jerry. As the attempt to send the band in any direction stalled, Weir started an Eyes sound, and Jerry quickly followed suit. The actual transition to Eyes is impressive as Jerry led the band on a nice spiraling jam that dropped into an Eyes spacey intro. This intro was short lived.

The 8.17.1989 Estimated was an interesting Estimated for several reasons. First, Jerry was truly amassing into an impressive jam during the first Estimated jam but was abruptly cut off by Weir. Second, the second theme in the outro jam was the first truly improvisational opportunity of the night for the band (MSN in the first set is not the same as Bird Song or Let it Grow). The opportunity was squandered to a degree. Jerry had the opportunity to truly lead the band in a more open space but chose not to. This was a contrast between the Jerry Garcia Band performances and the Dead performances. In the JGB Jerry was taking the risks and opportunity to send the band deeper. Mainly this was accomplished with Don’t Let Go. The 5.19 and 6.10 versions, in particular, show Jerry playing cat and mouse with the JGB and sending them in opposite directions resulting in amazing improvisational jams that reeked of 1972. But the Dead performances of 1989 were just not on the same level. This Estimated opportunity is another example of Jerry having the opportunity to send the band deeper, but instead opting for the familiar. In many respects, through August of 1989, 1989 was a tale of two Jerrys – the JGB Jerry which was pursuing deeper and deeper jams, and the Grateful Dead Jerry that seemed content with nearly formulaic music. While I understand this may be a rather stark distinction, the overall tendencies apply in my opinion. With the understanding that in less than two months the band would be performing Dark Star, I find it very interesting to see that from an improvisation point of view, the Grateful Dead did not seem prepared and did not seem to be preparing for the complexities of what was to come. I don’t rule out the opportunity as well that choosing to play Dark Star in October was to be spontaneous. But, I find it interesting in listening to the entire Summer Tour to see that the PITBs were not getting a bit deeper than usual (sans 8.5.1989), and the Other Ones were not getting deeper, and the Bird Songs not getting deeper. It was my guess that as the Summer Tour progressed there would have been trends that suggested the band was heading somewhere new. Outside of bringing back And We BYGN, I just don’t hear any trends through 8.17.1989. The trends I do hear were in the JGB performances of Don’t Let Go. And the JGB trends were not just slight or implied – Don’t Let Go had become a monster and through August of 1989 was the most interesting aspect of Jerry’s performances. Jerry was heading into demented and mesmerizing waters with Don’t Let Go in 1989. As such, while not outwardly preparing for a new sound with the Dead, Jerry was heading into uncharted late 1980s water with the JGB, and obviously this trend was to spill over into the Grateful Dead. The question was when – perhaps seconds before the first 1989 Dark Star.

The Eyes is well done. The first jam has Jerry flying through complex progressions and delivering a very impressive reading. The second jam builds from the first jam but adds more tension and mini peaks. As the song ends, the follow up jam into the drums is also flavored nicely and has numerous mini-peaks.

The Eyes of the World was the first exceptional song version of the night and was to be the highlight of the show.

The Space segment starts with numerous low notes from jerry that layer into a theme. This theme is not particular angry or frightened, but is rather complacent. The second theme starts with Jerry switching midi tones (the flute sound) and rising to higher notes, before emitting the waterfall gushing sound. Weir joins the sound at this point. After about 20 seconds of waterfall, the stage nearly goes silent for approximately 60 seconds. Jerry finally returns for the third theme which has more reverb and echoey flute sound. This theme does not really develop any direction and sounds more like random notes. A fourth theme has more direction. Jerry starts in with very low grumbling notes accompanied by a marked Weir rhythm. Jerry slides the jam into a faster tempo that began to sound like The Wheel. A fifth theme has Jerry emitting bizarre blasts of notes before starting a spiraling sound. This sounded more like midi experimentation than layer jamming. The pacing of his notes was impressive and the sounds quite interesting, but Weir wasn’t taking the bait. A sixth theme has a minor meltdown sound mixed with feedback. The pacing of this theme also increases nicely and the overall feel is that Jerry was truly mastering his new sound. This calms, and as expected, enters the Wheel – but not until the midi is switched off. Interestingly, as Jerry is literally about to begin singing the Wheel, he is the only person on the stage. As such, he switched back to the Midi sound (thereby demonstrating an ability to fluidly switch back and forth between the midi and non-midi sound). The post space jam barely wanders and is more sound filling from Jerry. Eventually the band returns and Jerry reenters the Wheel. All in all, this Space had some interesting moments, and some flat moments. Of note was Jerry’s fluidly exiting and reentering the midi sound; thereby suggesting that the midi sound likely was soon to appear in regular songs (as accomplished on 7.15.1989 with China Doll, and 8.4.1989 with Stella Blue.

The Wheel suffered from extreme technical difficulties. The chordal jam is horrendously botched suggesting monitor problems. Jerry maintains the sound, but a second attempt to regain the sound is also flubbed. Never giving up, Jerry and Brent do the instrumental bridge before “Small Wheel.” Perhaps because of the technical problems, the singing from Weir is also very out of tune. Clearly this version was below average.

The band (Jerry Phil Brent and the Drummers) enter an extended Wheel jam with Brent taking the lead, likely while bob was fixing whatever problem he was having.

Interestingly, this seemed to snap the band out of the dreamy relaxed laid back sound of the entire evening.

Jerry enters Gimme Some Lovin next with Weir’s guitar sound still absent. This version is average at best as the band sounded as though their impetus to finish the show was quite diminished. Obviously the band was having monitor problems as indicated by a premature “Hey” before one of the verses that was almost funny to hear. The Jerry lead is at best average.

In perhaps an attempt to inveigle the audience, Jerry next enters GDTRFB. This version actually isn’t bad as Jerry seemed to put forth more effort than usual. The first jam has some very nice flavored leads, and the second jam gains some steam but doesn’t quite max out like some others (see 8.22.1972 for a jaw dropping second jam within GDTRFB).

After a long pause at the end of GDTRFB, the band selects Good Lovin. Not surprisingly, this version sounds tired. The band had likely given up on this particular show and based on the technical problems, it had become more of a formality. Brent took a verse (ala Women Are Smarter), the Jerry solo was average at best, Brent took a turn during the vocal finale (singing “hey baby, I wanna know, will ya be my gir?” Weir answers “No!”), but the final Weir screaming actually sounds ok.

The band averagely encores Quinn.

Clearly the first set was the highlight of this concert. The second set had some good moments (the Eyes) and some bad moments (the Wheel), but no consistently interesting moments. Overall this was the prototypical Summer Tour show with a near above average performance.

Set 1: 7.68

Set 2.1: 7.34

Set 2.2: 6.94

Set 2Sum: 7.14

Show Sum: 7.41

Hell 7.5

Sugaree 7.6

Walkin blues 7.7

Jack a Roe7.75

Queen Jane 7.8

Candyman 7.8

Music Never Stopped 7.8

Don’t Ease 7.5

Touch 7.6

Women 7.1

Fools 7

Estimated 7

Eyes 8

Space 7.4

Wheel 6

Gimme Some 6.75

GDTRFB 7.5

Good Lovin 6.8

Quinn 7


Rob Goetz ©

Grateful Dead February 1989 concert reviews by Rob Goetz

8/18/89 ~ Greek Theatre ~ Berk, CA

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08.18.1989 Greek Theatre, Berkeley, California
Friday
19th Show of 1989 Summer Tour
47th Show of 1989

After a relatively average show the night before, band starts with a very lethargic and dull Cold Rain & Snow. The band’s timing was frequently off during the main portion of the song, the jam portions were barely attempted, and the harmonies were at times way out of tune. The only bright spot of this version was the occasional brilliant rhythm guitar licks from Weir.

After a long pause, Weir started the chords to Minglewood Blues. Weir’s singing is lively enough, and the first solo from Jerry achieves a nice increase in tempo and tension. But, the main jam falls short. The Brent solo is average at best, and the ensuing Weir solo (despite his very impressive rhythmic licks throughout this song and the CRS) doesn’t achieve above average status either. Jerry’s solo comes in a few seconds late as well, and sounds distracted.

A pretty poor beginning to this performance.

Jerry’s second song is Row Jimmy. Jerry forgets a lot of the vocals, and his timing through the song is off. Notably during the solos, his leads seem to have little direction, and instead of progression through the structure, he seemingly relied upon the band to shift him. To top all of this off, the harmonies were way off at times as well. This was one of the flattest and most lethargic Row Jimmys that I’ve heard.

Next, Weir launches into Masterpiece. His singing is very well delivered, but Jerry’s instrumental portion (while not flubbed) has little to no flavorings or signature progressions. In addition, as with every version since July 10, 1989, the vocal finale is flubbed.

Masterpiece had developed into a poor trend. Through 8.18.1989, the band has performed 11 Masterpieces. Here are the rankings (in my opinion)
2.10.1989 – 8
3.30.1989 – 8
4.06.1989 – 7
4.12.1989 – 6.5
4.30.1989 – 6
6.21.1989 – 7
7.04.1989 – 7
7.10.1989 – 7.5 (flawed vocal finale)
7.17.1989 – 6.8 (flawed vocal finale)
8.06.1989 – 7.2 (flawed vocal finale)
8.18.1989 – 6.9 (flawed vocal finale)
Spring Tour Average – 6.875
Summer Tour Average – 7.066
Through 8.18.1989 average: 7.082

As such, the band had obviously fallen into the gap of forgetting how to nail the ending of the song. Mainly the problem appeared to be a timing issue as to when Jerry would sing the final “when I paint” and when Weir would return with his final “my masterpiece.” The lack of precise timing added an awkward and unsettling sound. In addition, the band had not provided an exceptional version after March 30, 1989. Oddly, the Masterpieces from the Summer Tour were barely better than the Spring Tour versions (7.066 vs 6.875). Perhaps the band would improve this great song through with the impending Fall 1989 Tour.

Keeping the momentum at the same pace, the band lays another lemon with Built To Last. Jerry’s first vocal “There are times” is sung horrendously out of tune. The song portion itself seems very labored and the jam has no flavors.

At this point, this performance was aiming to rival 2.11.1989 as the worst show of the year – a tough task – and so far 8.18.1989 was a better performance.

Next the band attempts Victim or the Crime. Again, Weir’s signing is well taken, but the band’s rhythm throughout this version has timing issues, and at one point Garcia is absent for about 30 seconds. The main jam, which has the potential to go virtually anywhere, stalls quickly. Jerry’s progressions lack fluidity, and he far too often falls back into main theme of Victim (which typically is Weir’s role in the main jam).

Alas, out of muck of Victim flies Bird Song. The song portion is a bit slow, but flawless. The first jam theme from Jerry involves a polite meandering that is moderately paced. The band quickly matches his pace and delivery suggesting that they were happy to see him finally awaken. As they catch up with him Jerry abruptly entered a second theme, that begins with a driving force, but quickly stalls. The drummers fiercely try and keep the tempo afloat but Jerry had switched to a low note simple theme. The drummers’ gambit worked to a degree as Jerry did return, but his ensuing jam had little flavor. The third theme is fragmented. It starts out with progressions, but quickly wanders into note stabs, and ends with strumming. The strumming leads into the peak of this jam which is relatively standard Bird Song fanning for this era. Of note, the band played very well during this entire jam. Weir’s rhythmic blasts sound impressive. But, without a solid Jerry lead, this version is at best average.

 

After a brief pause after Bird Song, the band next started Promised Land. Weir’s singing of the first verse suffers from timing problems, but the band mustered up enough energy to actually make this version not all bad. The Mydland solo is very effective, and the finale jam has Jerry in particular laying down some interesting licks. While not exceptional, it suggested that maybe the second set would be better than this dismal first set.

The second starts with Aiko Aiko. Aiko starts with a lot of energy. The first jam from Jerry starts with some very flavored progressions from Jerry that are not extremely complicated (but better than most of the first set). But, this jam stalls near its conclusion and aimlessly drifts into the next verse. Mydland takes the solo after the next verse and presents a very hot and edgy progression. This led to the vocal finale, and there were no other jams out of this. Despite the very energetic vocals from Jerry and the great Mydland solo, this version lacks a stabbing Jerry guitar presence.

Weir influences the momentum next with Looks Like Rain. The overall pacing of this version seemed slower than most. Weir’s singing is passionate and filled with angry pleadings, but the Jerry presence behind him is at best passive. The guitar solo from Jerry is short in length and does not feature a dramatic surge back to the vocals. The vocal finale is well sung from Weir and despite two rhythm surges from Jerry, the rhythm is mostly too passive. Still, the Weir screams raise this slightly above average.

Terrapin Station is next. Jerry actually does a nice job on this version. The first space (just before “since the end is never told”) actually gets pretty far out there before Jerry lassoes it back in. The “Inspiration” segment seemed to have more of a punch than most versions, and the instrumental finale has some punchy moments as well. Weir’s harmony on “some rise, some climb” is, however, way off. Despite that harmonic Weir flub and perhaps a bit too much Brent during the instrumental finale, this version has more high points than low points, and as such, was the first nearly above average tune of the night.

Despite only three songs into the second set, the band recessed for the drum solo.

Space comprised Weir, Mydland and Jerry. The first seven minutes involves barely layered jamming that wanders to and fro without any real interesting stuff. It is not disjointed, but it doesn’t really have much direction. The result is a relatively boring extension of time.

Jerry starts of all things Crazy Fingers out of Space (the first Space Crazy Fingers of 1989). This version starts out with a very slow pacing, and Jerry’s vocals tend to drag a bit. But during the mid verse instrumental portion, Jerry managed to increase the pace and develop some nice progressions. Weir blows the return to the vocals with an ½ second timing flub. The outro jam had potential as the band created a pretty wide open groove for Jerry to dance within, but the jam as a whole does not create any tension or marked effects (see 8.4.1989 for a great 1989 outro with very flavored Spanish licks). While the outro jam as a whole lasted about 3 minutes, it really developed little steam or flavor.

This stumbled into I Need A Month Off (aka I Need A Miracle). Weir’s vocals are not extremely convincing and sound a bit forced. Jerry’s first guitar solo is not as bad as I guessed it would be but is not nearly slightly above average. After a major flub that landed them into the “I Need A Miracle…every day” segment, Weir produced a few late 80s screams before Jerry started a very tame outro jam that perhaps increased in tempo (lasting a full 55 seconds) before Jerry abruptly stopped and landed in Stella Blue.

Stella Blue is surprisingly strong. The singing is not the best (see 6.18.1974 or 9.7.1973 or 8.22.1972 or 10.15.1977 for tear jerking singing from Jerry on Stella Blue), but the first guitar solo is very well done. In fact, the little jam reaches quite a peak and Jerry fans its conclusion. Actually, this emission of energy was so out of place considering the rest of this concert that it almost sounded odd. The outro jam starts out with some delicate note holdings from Jerry before he slowly began to increase the pacing. The jam reaches a nice plateau where Jerry drops in familiar Stella progressions. But the jam really is only interesting in its pace, as Jerry’s guitar runs are a bit hackneyed and not filled with much flavor.

This transfers abruptly into Throwin’ Stones. This version is a bit dull as the Weir vocals sounded a bit tired, and the Jerry rhythm was very calm (see 4.13.1983 for a superb Throwin’ Stones>Good Lovin’). The Weir vocals during “On Our Owwwwwwnnn” was expectedly out of tune and difficult to hear, and the following Jerry instrumental lacks real flavor.

The band seemed to be running on autopilot.

This wandered into not a Jerry tune, but rather Turn On Your Lovelight. Despite a flub leading into the Jerry led instrumental portion, this version emits some nice energy. The Weir vocals are very passionate and the overall feel is that the band found some otherwise missing energy. Not a bad version – but not exceptional either.

The Band encored Black Muddy River > And We Bid You Goodnight. The River is well done. The Jerry vocals are appropriately haggard, the harmonies are in tune, and the guitar solo from Jerry has more stabs in its presentation than usual. Oddly, this above average version was the best-performed song of the night.

As the crowd cheered, the band decided to do the third And We Bid You Goodnight of 1989. The 7.17.1989 version was exceptional, the 8.6.1989 version was average, and now this version was at best average as well. It seemed out of place considering the relatively flat performance that had just ended to pull out such a special tune. This version is really not all that different than the 7.17 or the 8.6 versions.

Overall this was a poor show. The DHTCompendium Volume Three suggests that this was the best of the three shows. I must disagree. But, each reviewer has their own ears. The band didn't sound exhausted, but they sounded tired. The long summer tour was about to be over, but not before one last 1989 Summer PITB>UJB.

Set 1: 6.8
Set 2.1: 7.3
Set 2.2: 7.0625
Set 2sum: 7.18125
Show: 6.990625

CRS 6.75
Minglewood 6.75
Row Jimmy 6.25
Masterpiece 6.9
Built To Last 6.7
Victim 6.75
Bird Song 7.0
Promised Land 7.35

Aiko 7.25
LLRain 7.25
Terrapin 7.4
Space 6.8
Crazy Fingers 7.0
Miracle 6.7
Stella 7.1
Tstones 6.75
Lovelight 7.25
Black Muddy 7.6
AWBYGNite 7.3


Rob Goetz ©

Grateful Dead February 1989 concert reviews by Rob Goetz

8/19/89 ~ Greek Theatre ~ Berk., CA

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08.19.1989 Greek Theatre, Berkeley, California
Saturday
20th Show of 1989 Summer Tour
48th Show of 1989

The Grateful Dead on 8.19.1989 – the final show at the Greek Theatre was also one of the finest Greek shows ever

On 4.17.1989 the Band finished the Spring Tour and, except for a fantastic NFA, the Band sounded listless and rather uninterested. On 8.19.1989 the Band performed the final show of the Summer Tour, and the Band came to play. Indeed, this was a special night for the Dead. Not only was the Band performing for the final time at the Greek Theatre (the location of the most recent Dark Star at that point in time – a record soon to fall), but this was to be their seventh exceptional show of 1989 (through 8.19.1989). Luckily, the first set (through Loser) is available on vcd. The weather must have been a bit cool. The whole band is wearing long sleeve shirts and pants. There was daylight at the beginning of the show.

Get In The Groove And Let The Good Times Roll starts out this final Grateful Dead Greek Theatre performance. This version does not suffer like the forced and unconvincing version on 8.6.1989. Instead, this version flows and provides a very relaxed feel. The vocal finale has extremely fine screams from Weir. The vcd shows the band looking pretty serious. Not too many smiles, although when Weir begins his in tune screams at the end of the song, Jerry creaks his head and smiles.

After the two second gap following Good Times Roll, the band did not enter Feel Like A Stranger but rather Jack Straw. Lesh is omnipresent on this version. The main jam starts with a sprint and reaches a very fine peak, but what pushes this version beyond above average and into exceptional are the massive Lesh bombs throughout. Indeed, at the apex of this jam Lesh delivers a crushing bomb of the kind rarely heard past 1976. The tension delivered by Jerry during this final jam is desperate in sound. In 1978 the Dead threw out Jack Straws with an emphasis on all out strumming and excessive passion. The result was a surrendering of the desperate theme built within the lyrics. On this version, Jerry’s instrumental captures the desperate feel. The progressions stab in opposite directions as if he were truly attempting to escape from an approaching threat. The theme climaxes with an appropriately placed strumming matched with perfectly timed slamming from Lesh. This a complicated Jack Straw – and with each listen it gets more and more interesting. But, that was to be a recurring theme for the night. The vcd focuses on Jerry for the most part. During the main jam Jerry has his left side facing the audience, and his front addressing Weir and Lesh. His head was lowered and his eyes peering above his glasses. Again, the band looked very serious.

Next, oddly, was not a Jerry tune, but was We Can Run (the first Brent before Jerry or Bob ever). Typically, this tune is difficult to assess because there is no guitar solo to speak of, and it is pretty Brent heavy. But this version stands out as being better than most. The rhythm throughout from Weir is particularly flavored, and harmony from Jerry is notably in tune. Oddly, this version had me singing the harmony in my head for a bunch of hours after hearing it. I doubt this tune could be performed better than the 8.19.1989 version. The vcd focuses mainly on Brent. As the tune ends, Jerry leans over and smiles directly in front of Brent’s face. Brent also is smiling.

So far, a great start to this final Greek Theatre performance. The band was definitely in a careful yet expansive mood. The personality of Lesh (on this night – agitated?) and Garcia (inquisitive?) was clearly present. The Band was at a cross roads here. On many 1989 performances the Band started strong. Which path would retain them on this path? What would Jerry pull out of his sleeve?

Jerry next chooses Tennessee Jed. The choice of Tennessee Jed was a bit peculiar. Typically this was a tune reserved for the late first set (e.g., this was the first time in 1989 that it had appeared as the first non-intro Jerry tune). Its function seemed to be a bridge between the middle first set songs (Weir’s bluesy songs such as Minglewood, Rooster, and Walkin’ Blues; and Jerry’s middle songs such as Row Jimmy, BEW, Built To Last). I think the placement of Jed in the beginning of the first set forced the band to break free from their formulas. Indeed, Jerry’s first post intro tune was almost always a “structured song” and not a “song with a main jam.” This placement of Jed (a “song with a main jam”) so early in the set forced the Band to expose their prowess and limitations earlier than usual.

Jerry’s gambit paid off. This was a very laid back Jed. The inbetween verse noodling from Jerry is flavored, and Weir and Mydland take turns with showey instrument splashes. The main jam develops carefully and is filled with very nice Weir smacks. As the jam proceeds, Jerry fluently starts an ascension that features a series of perfectly nailed high notes. A closer look at the zenith of the Jed jam shows Jerry slowly developing a cyclical note progression. Weir slowly drops into this note spiral and creates his own cyclical web. The result is a beautifully timed cascade that ends with another appropriately placed Lesh bomb. This was an example of elegance with age. A younger Grateful Dead who was feeling the buzz of being in the midst of a special show likely would have driven this Jed to an exasperated blitz, but this older, wiser and indeed more elegant Grateful Dead instead chose to present their ability to dazzle without speed but with note placement. Brilliant. The vcd suggests that the band was beginning to loosen up a bit. Inbetween the verses Jerry is smiling quite a bit. During the main jam, Jerry again has his head lowered and he appears to be in heavy concentration. As the song ends, he and Weir raise their guitars in unison.

Added now to the evenings theme was bold expression – as Jerry’s Jed placement and finale demonstrated that formulas were to be forgotten.

Next the band entered All Over Now. Again the band was shying away from exaggerated expression. In many respects, this seemed to be the August California intent. Nearly all of the shows were presented in an overall laid back style. It didn’t always work. In fact, when it didn’t work, the laid back sound quickly turned into sleepy time for the listener. But so far, on 8.19.1989, it was working very well. All Over Now was not the exception. Weir’s singing is not hysterical or paranoid, but more reflective. Jerry’s harmony is very well done. The first Jerry solo is in two parts. The first has low note grumblings that are slowly paced. There isn’t so much of a layering to this but more twisted and gnarled sounds. Beneath this first Jerry theme, however, is a phenomenal series of chords from Weir. The second part is more traditional All Over Now jamming but again at a reduced and relaxed pace. Jerry’s presentation has much flavor. Indeed, what Jerry accomplished with this first jam was not so much of an in your face attack, but an affirmation of the pacing and display presented by Weir in the singing of the first verse.

The main jam has Mydland emitting a very bluesy and well done keys solo. Indeed, this solo is a fantastic example of what he typically provided to the Band – a seemingly benign keyboard riff that out of nowhere reaches an unsettling sound that just barely hangs on to the song’s main riff. Mydland didn’t always achieve such results, but it seemed as though it was a frequent goal of his. When he did nail achieve this, the result was that Weir or Jerry would have a starting point not so much based in the traditional sound of the particular song but a starting point from a peculiar vantage. Brent’s additions were both marked and subtle. His subtle additions often go unnoticed – I recommend the listener to listen to this Brent solo closely for 1) the unsettling sound it creates, 2) the rise in tension it delivers, and 3) the effect it has on Jerry’s solo. Jerry’s solo represents a slight increase in tempo as he shuffles or skips through progressions. The band’s chord changes are heavily punched, and Jerry’s spinning around them creates a great sound. Here the band was truly showing its versatility because this tune was typically a faster paced song with an emphasis on punching out the chords. On this version the band delivered an exceptional reading that seemed more focused on a relaxed bluesy feel. The band must have been impressed with their abilities thus far into the set. The vcd panders back and forth among the band members. Again, the band looked pretty serious with occasional smiles.

Jerry’s next tune was Loser. His singing and the pacing was so slow that the vocal delivery nearly sounded like a man on death’s door. This version is pretty well presented with no flubs, but perhaps was a bit harsh. Of note is the complex and very intricate Weir licks throughout the song portion – he was really on during this performance. For example, listen to Weir’s rhythm as the band heads into the jam portion. The jam has some nice note extensions from Jerry, and the main points are securely presented. There are flavored licks from Jerry similar to the 7.7.1989 version, and the surge back into the chorus is stomps (but not as intensely as 7.7.1989). Through the jam, Weir delivers very impressive licks as well include a few guitar screams. This version should not be discarded as average. As with the All Over Now and Tennessee Jed, a closer listen reveals quite a bit. The vocal portion of this version is ugly and ragged as Jerry’s vocals are dry and forced. The band’s rhythm through the song matches the haggard delivery with a choppy sound – hence the amazing Weir licks. But the jam reveals the tenderness of this song. After Weir’s intro, Jerry’s instrumental springs into a driving force. He hits the high notes with abandon but also with tenderness. This is not the typically harsh and cutthroat Loser, but more of an understanding and even empathetic Loser. In many respects, I’ve always found the best Losers to be such double imaged personas – where the song portion is ugly, mean and at times disgusting, but the jam portion is insecure, raw, and dripping with passion. Indeed, it the bridge out of the jam, “Last fair deal…” that presents the combination of both parts. The vcd perhaps catches this contrast a bit better because Jerry’s labored face is captured during the song.

 

Unfortunately, the vcd cuts off at this point.

Weir pulls out Stuck Inside of Memphis next. This is one of the finest versions of Stuck Inside that I’ve heard – certainly from 1989 (it easily rivals 4.15). Weir’s singing from verse to verse develops and deranged and even sinister sound. Jerry matches this as his rhythmic notes transfer from a nurturing feel to an agitated pain. Jerry’s solo and Brent’s solo, as well, are exceptional. Weir really carries this song with his vocals. There are so many verses, and he manages to truly make it interesting verse to verse. Clearly, this is accomplished with a gradual ascension in tension and desperation as the song proceeds. Indeed, the first verse of this version is barely sung by Weir with a marked disinterest. In contrast, the final version is nearly all vocal wail. Based upon other versions of this song in 1989, this task was easier explained than accomplished. The Band was truly on fire.

This very impressive final first set ever at the Greek ends with a chanting of “we want phil” followed by Box Of Rain. After listening to this version about 20 times in a row, I am left thinking that it is inbetween average and above average. The big problem with this version was a clash in the overall pacing. While Lesh and the drummers presented at a brisk pace, Garcia and Weir returned to the relaxed pacing. While no major flubs develop, the song sounds a bit out of place.

Despite the Box, this first set, in my opinion, earned an exceptional ranking of 8.118. This was best first set since July 15, 1989 which had a first set rating of 8.118.

In comparison to the previous 47 Grateful Dead Shows of 1989...
2.10.1989 had a first set rating of 8.9
7.07.1989 had a first set rating of 8.8
4.28.1989 had a first set rating of 8.7
4.03.1989 had a first set rating of 8.55
4.15.1989 had a first set rating of 8.4
6.21.1989 had a first set rating of 8.22
7.15.1989 had a first set rating of 8.118
8.19.1989 had a first set rating of 8.118
6.19.1989 had a first set rating of 8.08
3.30.1989 had a first set rating of 8.0

Interestingly, if Box of Rain had achieved an exceptional rating of 8.0, the first set as a whole would only jump to 8.2, if it achieved a ranking of 8.5 the first set ranking would have been 8.26, if it had been the finest Box of Rain ever and no other version could even think of matching it (a 10 ranking which I’ve never administered), the first set ranking would have been 8.45. This suggests two things – 1) that the flat Box of Rain at the end of the set did not tarnish the first set as a whole; and 2) that 2.10, 7.7, 4.28, and 4.3.1989 first sets were truly ephemeral.

Also of interest, there was no first set jam tune (e.g., Let it Grow, Bird Song, Deal, etc.).

The final second set of the summer tour and the Greek Theatre starts with China Cat. The summer tour of 1989 produced some great China Cat Riders (most notably 7.17.1989). This China Cat is extremely well done. A very nice groove is developed out of the final verse wherein Jerry carefully establishes a moderately fast pace. He emits traditional China Cat progressions but in a very interesting way with spinning and dashing. At that point, though, the feeling was not hysterical and agitated, but comfortably careful. Lesh and Weir, in particular, add fantastic rhythm licks during this 60 second stretch. Lesh and Weir were all over the place. Jerry fluently switched this calming pace to one of more stress and faster pacing with a highly expressive note spattering. At this point he starts climbing up and down his fret board leaning ever closer to the China Cat finale. Eventually he reaches a point wherein progressions are flying left and right and are filled with quick dashes and methodic reclimbs. Lesh and Weir seemingly were playing in desperation with Jerry as Jerry was teasing quite a bit. The sound began to get a bit delirious, and just at the right moment the band slammed into the China Cat instrumental finale. Weir deserves honorable mention due to the very colorful rhythm he was providing. While perhaps not as well done as the 7.17.1989 China Cat (not many are, and in my opinion 7.17.1989 was one of the finest China Cats ever), this version is easily exceptional. The band created a lot of energy during the climb to the China Cat instrumental finale and it bursted in a very impressive manner.

The transition to Rider is brief. The Rider itself is surprisingly not exceptional. The first Jerry solo stumbled from the start and didn’t quite develop a theme. The main jam is a bit more directed by Jerry but doesn’t quite amass into an above average jam. Interestingly, as Jerry and Lesh were crunching out the finale to the Rider, one can hear marked Playin’ In The Band notes. While not making up for the average Rider, the transitory conclusion to Rider is sweet to the ears.

Indeed, PITB is next. The song portion is about as slick as it gets. During the inbetween verse instrumental, the band slams through the chord changes and exude a very forceful sound. The first theme begins with a thick wah wah sound above the familiar PITB initial space generated by Lesh Weir and Mydland. Quickly, though, Jerry started a flavor ridden series of notes the band rushed toward and mimicked. Hearing the whole band all play the same note cycle was rather interesting. Jerry exited this, and entered the second theme. This was a deeper sound with Jerry nailing high notes and holding them, followed by mid range note grinding. Of note, Weir’s rhythm through this was very impressive as he was leaping and diving around Jerry’s progressions. Jerry was really flying here. He was holding high notes with long bends and quick dashes before holding new notes. It was a tension filled jam, as it seemed Jerry was pushing the edge of the PITB frontier. It was one of those Grateful Dead moments where Jerry was hitting high notes, and the band underneath him was playing calmly – as if lending the stage to him. Note the moment captured by Jerry at the 6:10 to 6:40 time break. Eventually this bliss ended, and Weir and Jerry started odd timings of their note progressions suggesting a transition path. Jerry presents a few odd notes here, but the transition was brief before Jerry started strumming the chords to UJB. This PITB space was rather fast clocking in at four minutes and fifty-two seconds, but Jerry did reach some fine moments. Yet another classic PITB, albeit a bit short.

Uncle John’s Band rolls in with a nice gallop. The opening jam has Jerry sidestepping the main progression and almost teasing the opening of the song. It was very well done. The song itself is flawless in classic 1989 style.

Indeed, Playin’ Uncle Johns Playin’ had become one of the finer aspects of 1989. Through August 19, 1989, the Band had performed four versions of PITB > UJB > PITB:
4.28.1989 had a PITB > UJB > PITB ranking of 8.25
7.10.1989 had a PITB > UJB > PITB ranking of 7.95
7.17.1989 had a PITB > UJB > * of 8.325 (* was not PITB but SOTM)
8.19.1989 had a PITB > UJB > PITB ranking of 8.0
Summed Average Through 8.19.1989: 8.13

As such, this sandwich of songs was astonishingly successful for the Grateful Dead in 1989.

The first inbetween verse lead from Jerry on the 8.19.1989 version of UJB is filled with very fine rhythm from Bobby and has Jerry floating above the massive gush of the rhythm and decorating it with flavor filled sprinkles of delight. The band had a calm yet determined sound. The final jam reaches a nice attack phase from Jerry stretching the band in an agitated manner. Jerry presents a series of high note blasts that seemingly are struggling for life. This version had an exasperated feel of desperation. Jerry’s ability to transform a simple song into the surreal was well intact. After the vocal finale, the transition to PITB is flawless and seamless (similar to, e.g., 11.17.1973).

The PITB reentry has little intense jamming and is more of a calm drift into the drums segment. But, this drift is well done, and is quite relaxing to hear. While not technically impressive, the band’s ability to even make a drift interesting is impressive.

It was at this point that I realized this performance had evolved into the kind of Grateful Dead performance that is timeless. The songs blend into each other despite tuning breaks, the jams explain the meaning of the songs, and overall feel is that the entire set list comprises but one song.

This PUJBP may not have been the best of the year (see, e.g., 7.17.1989), but the band certainly sounded tight and relaxed. The jams didn’t necessarily develop into exceptional moments, but overall the jam was above average – which marks the overall Summer Tour, and distinguishes it from the Spring Tour.

After a pretty dark drums segment, one of the years finest Space segments begins. At first the stage only has Weir and Jerry. A bizarre and baron landscape theme emerges with a lot of Weir feedback and splashing water sounds. Mostly this is just chaos, but in the background one can (maybe?) hear faint Other One themes from Jerry. Jerry starts a second theme with a switch to a flute sound. It creates a bright sounding noise. Jerry provides quick repeating progression dashes. Weir still provides feedback rhythm. Next Jerry switched to the horn sound, with Weir still providing weird feedback. Behind a non Jerry waterfall sound, Jerry enters his tinny bell sound. The progressions from Jerry eventually became longer, but still absent was a layering sound. Of note though, this truly was interesting to the ear. An unsettling and nervous sound was slowly growing as if an impending storm was on the horizon. Jerry next switched to the grumbling angry sound. This agitated grumbling meandered into a definite Other One theme (very brief, but present). This was easily one of the finer Space segments of the year as Jerry mixed in various midi tones and Weir provided very interesting and unsettling rhythm.

The Other One truly starts out as a space-hybrid. Jerry switches to traditional guitar sound here and dives into a deep Other One theme. The pacing is timid and slow as if to formally announce the entrance, and the contrast with Weir’s bizarre feedback--sleet sound is very interesting. Jerry switches to high horn sound. Weir next begins a spacey note driven sound that is eerily similar to the 9.17.1982 space. The band collapses around this and evolves into a massive feedback laced exploding eruption. Jerry matches this with zig zagging progressions, and Mydland as well – tough to say if Lesh present. A jaw dropping moment as the band created yet another gigantic moment.

Out of this crater, the traditional Other One escapes. Jerry does a brief Other One dance before Lesh delivers a slamming Other One bass roll. The crowd goes crazy. The ensuing jam has Jerry doing traditional Other One march, but in a bit of a shy timid manner. Following this is an impressive variation on the Other One march as Jerry blends his notes into a blurring sound. Very complicated and impressive. As Jerry’s theme ends, Lesh pounces with another Other One bass roll. Could this show get any better?

Out of this the band enters the first verse of the Other One, complete with the distorted Weir vocals sound.

The post first verse jam has Jerry entering a classic Other One sprint jam. This version is truly exaggerated and frantic. The theme has the band chasing Jerry through his various and fast direction changes. What makes this version so special is that Jerry truly sounds exasperated in his approach. It sounds like he was escaping or avoiding an impending doom. Eventually this dies down and Jerry dives into a dramatic pace change that lands into the second verse. Yes, the show got better.

After the second verse, the band enters what seemingly was the late 80s transition to a new song, but Jerry was not quite finished with the Other One. Indeed, the band had two more massive moments left. Jerry starts down a path that was not frantic but more angry. Lesh matches his theme with perfectly timed bombs. Mydland increase the tension with a pace ascension, and the jam develops into an all out sprint. Eventually the sound collapses around itself.

In the aftermath, somehow, Jerry develops another Other One attack. The band quickly follows and ___another___ all out sprint ensues. Lesh ends it with well timed bombs. This easily was one of the finest Other Ones I’ve heard.

In the aftermath, the crowd goes crazy. The band deserved applause. They deserved to take a bow.

 

Jerry wanders the band into Wharf Rat at this point. The first thought upon hearing Wharf Rat after the monumental Other One that had just finished is nausea. Adjusting the gears of ones mind from utter chaos to pure chord strumming is difficult to digest. The band splendidly captured such contrasts throughout their history (see, e.g., 9.28.1972 with the Other One Bobby McGee). Despite taking a few seconds to adjust, the Wharf Rat sneaks in and deserves attention.

The Wharf is slowly presented and sung carefully by Jerry. The harmonies during the “I’ll get up and fly away” are poignant. Throughout the song Weir throws in very impressive rhythm licks that add a lot of flavor. The main jam permits Jerry to finally return to expansive progressions, and he takes advantage. Behind a driving rhythm Jerry meanders up and down his scale progressions in a reflective manner. There was no anger or pent up jam enthusiasm during this main jam, but rather more pondering. As such, no 2.10.1989-esque sizzling moments occur. Wharf Rat could always a wide range of interpretations from Jerry. On 2.10.1989 the band sizzled the jam, on 9.23.1972 the jam was all about mourning, and on 8.19.1989, the jam waxed a pondering stance. Each type has its place, and after the dramatically passionate Other One, the 8.19.1989 Wharf Rat fit perfectly.

As the final Wharf Rat notes evaporate, Weir starts NFA. Indeed, this long show was destined to come to a conclusion and this was to be the exit. Jerry pauses before diving into the jam, giving Weir the center stage for a few moments. The first jam after verse one has quick fanning from Jerry but little exploration. The main jam after verse two features a rapid increase in tension and pace from Jerry as the band creates a surging jam. The rise up the path is filled with dashes and sprints from Jerry that sizzle. Weir, of note, also delivered a very nice rhythmic display during this. While not as long as the 4.17.1989 version, this version of NFA sans Throwin’ Stones was well done.

After an extended crowd singing of NFA the band finally returned to the stage for the year’s first Foolish Heart encore. The song portion is rather rough. The rhythm has timing clashes, and Jerry forgets some of the lyrics. Still, the band holds it together. The roughness, however, blends into beauty with the first Jerry solo. Jerry’s progressions are complicated and the meandering transforms nicely to the structured finale. After some heartfelt “foolish heaaaart” bellows from Jerry, Brent provides a very well done key solo. Jerry steps up for the final 1989 Summer Tour lead. This transitions quickly to a marked pace decrease before the final verse. The sound slowly drops, and the crowd cheers the final Grateful Dead notes at the Greek Theatre.

This was a very complicated show. Off the top of my head, here are a few of the highlights:
Jack Straw – Jerry zig zags and Lesh bombs
Jed – Choice of Jed
Jed – finale jam with Jerry and Bob
All Over Now – Brent solo and effect it had on Jerry’s solo
Loser – Weir licks throughout
Loser – contrast of the ugly song presentation and the tender jam portion
Memphis – Weir’s deranged vocals
Ccat – the Jerry led jam
PITB – the depth of the space
UJB – main jerry jam
Space – the plethora of different themes
Space – the Weir feedback presence nearly throughout
Other One – the explosion at the transition of Space and the Other One
Other One – the first Lesh Bass roll
Other One – the second Lesh bass roll
Other One – the post first verse desperation jam from Jerry
Other One – the post second verse all out sprint jam
Other One – the post second verse all out explosion
Other One Wharf – the seamless transition to Wharf
Wharf – the reflective but complicated main jam from Jerry

Overall though, if I had to pick one tune that truly stood out, of course it would be the Space Other One. It easily was the most aggressive and colorful version of the year, and perhaps of the late 80s. Indeed, it was 19 minutes of some of the finest Dead jamming around.

Of note, the streak of non-exceptional shows occurring with Let The Good Times Roll came to an end on 8.19.1989.

Mostly though, what really grabs me about 8.19.1989 is its timelessness. It is the kind of show that proceeds song to song and the listener barely knows the song has changed. It is as if the entire show was one song with numerous components. This is rather difficult to describe. It is one of the great things about exceptional Dead shows. Each song is not just an element in the whole picture, but rather a necessary and vital organ. Perhaps as I have more time to reflect on this show (I’ve been reviewing it for the last 5 weeks) I’ll be able to describe my rather ineffable feelings.

Bravo to the band for the special farewell to the Greek Theatre. Next was the JGB tour with Weir/Wasserman as opening act.

After that was the 1989 Fall Tour – and all its raging glory.

Set 1: 8.118
Set 2.1: 7.91
Set 2.2: 8.1
Set 2sum: 8.005
Show Sum: 8.06

Let The Good Times Roll 8
Jack Straw 8.25
We Can Run 8
Jed 8.5
All Over Now 8.3
Loser 8.1
Memphis 8.5
Box 7.3

Ccat 8.3
Rider 7.25
PITB 8.1
UJB 8.15
PITB 7.75
Space 8.1
Other One 9.25
Wharf 8.15
NFA 7.75
Foolish Heart 7.25


Rob Goetz ©

Grateful Dead 1989 concert reviews by Rob Goetz

 

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