“Greatest Story” gets the engines pumping to start set two. The “Going where the wind don’t blow so strange” bridge was added to “He’s Gone” in the second hole. It wasn’t all that smooth on this night, but the “He’s Gone” bridge was an essential addition to what would become a Dead anthem. A leisurely paced “Next Time You See Me” was a prelude to the evening’s main course.
It’s “Dark Star” night, and Jerry’s euphoric noodling dominates early. The Hamburg rendition is one of the prettiest you’ll ever hear. Jerry’s leads sparkle, shimmy, and pile on top of each other—a parade of loveliness. The good vibrations lead to a “Feelin’ Groovy” jam. Garcia’s steaming and streaming. The cheerfulness must dissipate, as the Dead need to slip into the black hole of “Dark Star.” The music floats serenely, nothing too abstract or weird, and then Jerry triumphantly leads them to verse.
Garcia’s garrulous guitar picks up the conversation where he left off before verse. Garcia discovers water in space, and he goes for a scuba dive. As his licks snorkel on, Phil’s bass rapidly bubbles below. Weir and Garcia exchange funky rhythm runs. Billy’s intense drumming introduces a swinging jazz segment. The gripping jam proceeds fluidly until it lands in “Tiger” space. Every movement succeeds without anything being overbaked. As if they’ve satisfied their mandatory allotted European “Dark Star” time limit, the transition to “Sugar Magnolia” happens precisely at the thirty-minute mark.
Take a look at Howard Weiner’s latest novel, COVID Blues, a tale of almost famous musicians pursuing their muse in the thick of a global pandemic.