Monday, September 2, 2019

Deadology September 2: Three Legendary Shows

Iko Iko > Morning Dew > Sugar Magnolia, the once-played masterpiece, was fused
together on September 2, 1980, in the War Memorial Auditorium, in Rochester, New York. The band rocked ten shows in this hotbed for Deadhead euphoria from 19731985. This Iko > Dew > Mag  appears as filler on the third disc of Dick’s Picks Volume 25, which features a 1985 show from Richmond, Virginia. I wore out that third disc, spinning the Rochester trifecta hundreds of times. As I obsessed over that delectable “Morning Dew” sandwich, I lost track of the rest of the show. The second set of 9-2-80 was among my first twenty bootleg tapes, and I had only heard the first set in its entirety a few times. My research for Deadology reunited me with a show that I should have known better.
An ordinary Minglewood > Sugaree opener unfolds until Garcia goes off in the third “Sugaree” solo. Perky guitar licks bubble from the onset and multiply in a combustible vacuum. The band follows Jerry into a whirlpool of sublime improvisation that closes with a chord-fanning stampede. The Dead were in the thick of a sensational run. Three nights earlier in the Philadelphia Spectrum  Jerry slayed the City of Brotherly Love with the hottest “Althea” ever, and a killer “Jack Straw” closed the set. The following night in Landover’s Cap Centre, the second set sparkles. I’d highly recommend listening to the Landover Comes a Time > Truckin’. If you combine the first set of Philly and the second set of Landover, you have an immortal show. On September second in Rochester, the entire performance roars, wave after wave of aural ecstasy.
“El Paso” flows smoothly in the aftermath of “Sugaree.”  The outlaw powwow continues with “Friend of the Devil.” It’s a heartfelt and hypnotic rendering. Jerry’s smoldering solo seems to vaporize. “China Cat” makes a rare appearance in the sixth slot. Garcia peppers “China Cat” with clever leads, but the star of this combo is “I Know You Rider.” Before the first jam, Weir sings, “Lay down last night, Lord I could not take my rest,” with enthusiasm usually reserved for the “The sun will shine in my backdoor someday” line. Garcia goes off on a tangent that seems to disorientate the band until Brent’s keyboard round puts the song back on track. In an unusual twist, Jerry sings Bobby’s line, “The sun will shine in my backdoor someday” in a subdued manner, as well as, “I wish I were a headlight on a northbound train.” Another dazzling jam lays this offbeat “Rider” to rest.
The Dead Go to Heaven and close the set with three consecutive tunes from their new album; Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance > Don’t Ease Me. The band’s still in Heaven as they open set two with “Althea.” It’s not as fierce as the 8-30-80 Philly version, but Garcia delivers a meaty solo at the end. If you’re an “Althea” admirer, you should pay close attention to all versions from ’80 and ’81.
“C. C. Rider” and “Ship of Fools” prepares the Rochester faithful for the first of two three-song combos. A spirited “Estimated Prophet” noodles away, and suddenly drops into a dreamy presentation of “Terrapin Station.” Each instrumental interlude seamlessly connects this epic folk original. How did Hunter dream of these rousing lyrics, and how did Garcia and mates develop the flawless score to match? Every bass bomb, cymbal rattle, and guitar lick crystalizes into a royal rhapsody.
The thunderous orchestral “Terrapin” refrain segues into “Playin’ in the Band.” Rippling jam waves crash into Drums. Space develops with funky percussions and jazzy noodling from Brent and Jerry. Garcia and Weir softly strike up a familiar chord sequence and sing, “Hey now, hey now, Iko, Iko, un-day. Jock-a-mo fee-no ai na-né, jock-a-mo fee na-né.”
“Iko” is delivered in a festive, hypnotic style, conjuring up images of graceful ice-skating. The solos within serve to the greater benefit of the overall performance. A bouncy chord riff follows the last round of “Hey Now.” The Boys had cast a transcendent spell over Rochester.
There’s bedlam in the War Memorial as “Iko” segues into “Morning Dew.” This is a period in Dead history when the “Dew” was truly a scarce commodity. It was only played once in both ’78 and ’79, and twice previously in 1980. The entire show was building to this moment, although nothing was predetermined. Garcia sang each line as if it were Holy Scripture, and his voice could heal and comfort the survivors of apocalyptical tragedies. Bobby’s striking rhythm, Phil’s bass bridges, and Brent’s solemn organ grinding all fall into place. Jerry only belts out: “I guess it doesn’t matter anyway,” twice. The last one is as heartfelt as any he’s ever sung. The emotional control, temperature, and texture of this performance makes this one of the most gripping “Dews” .
All ears are on Jerry as he pinches his guitar strings to produce the sound of a lonely robin singing, and Weir strikes a chord that finishes one of Jerry’s thoughts—the group mind flourishes. The band knows where Jerry’s going and exactly what needs to be done, even though this is a unique improvisation. Garcia’s runs are delivered with maximum feeling as they maintain a mathematical quality. The escalating tension is almost unbearable as the band rises to the crescendo. Garcia unleashes a wild torrent of speed licks as the band rolls into chord fanning mode, and then Jerry joins the thundering madness which ends with a mighty bass blast and a final “Guess it doesn’t matter anyway,” blessing from the Reverend, Jerry Garcia.
Rochester Deadheads gyrated to a set-ending “Sugar Magnolia” featuring thunder in the blizzard chord fanning. It’s Go to Heaven time again as the Dead encore with a pleasing “Alabama Getaway.”
Citizens of Boise SUBMIT for you are a conquered people,” growls Phil as the band plays the opening riff of “Wang Dang Doodle” to launch their show in the Boise Pavilion on September second 1983. Somehow, this show had slipped under my radar. I acquired it during a downloading frenzy in 2002. I may have heard it once, and then filed it away in my vast live Dead collection. Wang Dang Doodle > Jack Straw gets the show off to a sizzling start. This was the second performance of “Doodle,” and I prefer it as an opener as opposed to it being attached to another song somewhere in set two. We’re gonna break out all the windows. Gonna kick down all the doors. We’re gonna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long.
After a ripping “Straw,” the set continues confidently and peaks during songs seven and eight with the Blues Brothers’ “New Minglewood” and “Big Railroad.” “Minglewood” is blessed with quality slide guitar work from Weir followed by four rounds of raunchy blues from Garcia. The leftover electricity ignites a relentless romp through “Big Railroad Blues.” Jerry was jamming long and hard on “Railroads” during this era, and this Boise version is right up there with the best. If you have a predilection for “Railroads,” check out the renditions from Worcester on 10-21-83 and 10-09-84.
A typically smoking ’83 “Deal” closes out the set. Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower was returned to the band’s rotation after six years in the closet in Compton Terrace, March 25th, 1983.  Since the Dead were bringing their A game for the conquered Deadheads of Boise, they opened set two with “Help on the Way.” Early ’83 versions of “Slipknot!” were tentative, but this Boise “Slip” is a glorious eight-minute adventure. Even though the band may not have had the synergy and internal communication it once did, Garcia was peaking as a guitarist, releasing his demons in long musical passages.
A fine “Franklin’s Tower” is followed by a generous serving of Estimated > Eyes. Even though I wasn’t blown away by these versions, the jamming is very good, with substantial length. After Drums, Weir leads the band into “Throwing Stones,” but it’s too early for a Not Fade Away cookout. The band opts for “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad” and shreds it to smithereens for Idaho. Black Peter > Sugar Magnolia, and a “Baby Blue” encore finish an extraordinary night. This is a top-shelf ’83 show. Everybody in Boise was Grateful on 9-2-83. 

The next noteworthy show from this date is ordinary on paper yet bombastic on tape. On 9-2-78, almost exactly a year after their legendary gig at Raceway Park, Englishtown, New Jersey, the band packed Giants Stadium for their first gig in the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Over the next eighteen years, Giants Stadium and the venue across the parking lot, Brendan Byrne Arena, would host thirty Grateful Dead gigs. Roosevelt Stadium and the Stanley Theatre were the New Jersey Deadhead strongholds neighboring Manhattan prior to the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Aesthetically, Giants Stadium wasn’t in the same league as the venue where the Dead played their last show, Red Rocks, or the sight of their next gig in front of the Great Pyramid in Egypt, but the band always delivered high-energy performances in the swamplands of New Jersey.
“I dare say that every one of us is exactly where they want to be right now. Ladies and gentlemen, the Grateful Dead,” bellowed promoter John Scher. A rowdy “Jack Straw” opener sets the tone for 9-2-78. The band hammers the jam with an aggression that matches the violence within the lyrics. During the ensuing “Friend of the Devil,” Jerry sings, “I ran down to the levee but the devil caught me there. Took my fifteen-dollar bill and vanished in the air.” Perhaps that was an inside joke between Jerry and a member of the band or crew, but his ensuing guitar solo is no joke. Garcia keeps turning the melody line over with searing intensity—quick-picking Jerry on his game.
A rambunctious Scarlet > Fire initiates set two. Garcia and Lesh attack the between-verse “Begonias” solo and there’s more brute force on the road to “Fire.” Garcia peels off squawking/squeaking runs that are backed with surging sonic intensity from Phil and the drummers. Time disappears as the band mesmerizes itself with this motif until Jerry’s licks set off the smoke alarms and the beat glides into “Fire on the Mountain.”
The 9-2-78 “Fire” debuts the “Almost ablaze still you don’t feel the heat” verse. After a sensational run of “Fires” in May ’77, the jamming became mundane on certain versions. The extra verse gives us a double dose of Jerry’s “Fire” creativity, since the outro solo is structured and ends with a predetermined “Begonias” riff. The extra solo also gave Jerry the option of building on what he did in the first solo or taking the second solo in another direction. There’s an abundance of jamming on the 9-2-78 “Fire,” and this Scarlet > Fire is worthy of top ten consideration.
The ensuing Estimated > Eyes matches the force and length of the Scarlet > Fire. This pre-Drums segment is an impressive display of virtuosity that borders on arrogant. The joy and discovery of these combinations is absent; this is just sheer dominance on display. Make no mistake, this is a great show with a unique sound, but it’s performed with a touch of hubris—individual virtuosity over getting into the spirit of the song. Perhaps there was high-grade blow backstage before set two.
The downside of this show, and too many from 1978, was the quick post-Drums kiss-off. On this occasion it was Space > Sugar Magnolia. During ’76 and ’77, the band took great pride in exploring new song segues within the framework of a distinctive, larger presentation. In ’78, the band stepped on stage and performed confidently, but some of the elusive group magic was missing. There are spectacular ’78 shows, like their performances from Red Rocks in July, that can rank up there with the best of ’77, but that type of brilliance was the exception. Imagine how awesome the Egypt shows might have been if they’d made that excursion a year earlier, after Englishtown. 
For more on 9-2-68 Sultan, Washington, 9-2-79 Augusta, and other shows from this date, checkout Deadolgy: The 33 Essential Dates of Grateful Dead History

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The 8/29/80 second set opening Greatest Story Ever Told is the hottest post-hiatus version you'll ever hear.


  In honor of the anniversary of Music Mountain, here’s chapter two from my latest work, The Grateful Pilgrimage: Time Travel with the Dea...