Saturday, January 21, 2006

Grateful Dead 4/2/89: Tape 2, Side B

Ten days before I fell in to the tender trap that is the Grateful Dead, the band rolled in to Pittsburgh, PA to a flurry of gate crashers and tear gas. In deep contrast to the activities outside the Civic Arena, inside the venue, the band was pulling out all the stops for those who were lucky enough to make it inside. I'm not sure exactly how or when I acquired the tape of this concert, but I believe it was sometime during the summer of 1990. And as one of my first live recordings by the band, I treasured it and listened to it countless times over the next few years. The post "Space" segment from the first show had a tremendous impact on me and helped to fuel the ever growing obsession I had with live concert recordings by the band. This segment of the show wasn't "perfect" in its execution by the band, but what they lacked in precision they made up for with sheer heart. Here's a blow by blow commentary on side B.

Band Grateful Dead
Venue Pittsburgh Civic Arena
Location Pittsburgh, PA
Date 4/2/89 - Sunday
set 1
Iko Iko ; Little Red Rooster ; Dire Wolf ; It's All Over Now ; We Can Run ; Brown Eyed Women ; Queen Jane Approximately ; Tennessee Jed ; The Music Never Stopped
set 2
Shakedown Street > Man Smart (Woman Smarter) > Foolish Heart > Drums >Space > The Wheel > Dear Mr. Fantasy > Hey Jude > Around And Around > Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad > Turn On Your Lovelight
Encore It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

Space>The Wheel>:: After a nice melodic Space, Garcia gently tumbles in to The Wheel. This was one of my first favorite songs by the band. The opening sequence feels as if you are slowly rolling through a beautiful field of wind blown grass. Before we know it, they're in to the first verse and moving ahead at a nice pace. The lyrics "If the thunder don't get 'cha, then the lightening will" always had a familiar ring with me, stroking something deep inside my psyche for sure. Garcia's descending guitar riff again brings to mind the undeniable sense of rolling along as if propelled by some invisible wave of love. Drops quickly in to->

Dear Mr. Fantasy>Hey Jude>:: Brent's smoky vocals and grinding B-3 organ help to increase the momentum behind the band and things really start to pick up. The backing vocals by the band add fuel to the fire and Garcia's tone is spot on. And in true Grateful Dead fashion, just as they've built a thing of beauty, they crush it just as quickly. As Mr. Fantasy begins to fade, Jerry plays the notes from The Beatles Hey Jude chorus and the band falls right in to place. A brief hush falls over the crowd as they strain to make sure they are in fact hearing those familiar notes and Garcia plays it once more to reassure them. With that, the crowd howls with delight and the band stumbles in to a pitiful re-telling of this once jubilant refrain. The bands backing vocals can only be described a horrendous. Realizing their snafu, they don't linger long. Before you know it, Jerry plays the opening riff to Chuck Berry's "Around & Around" through the stage monitors as the rest of the band winds down with Jude.

Around & Around>:: Let the juggernaut begin. This is where the band really shows what they are made of. Played to perfection and building the momentum with every note, Bobby plays his roll as rock star to the extreme and does all the vocal acrobatics he can muster. The drummers come to life and the pistons start to create a frantic friction that is intoxicating. Some wonderful Garcia licks and a smooth key modulation are the icing on the cake. The train is leaving the station and the steam is starting to make our toes sweat. Did I mention that Brent is fucking awesome? Well, he is. You can really tell when the band is having fun and it's infectious fever is passed around the venue. Turning on a dime, we splat right in to->

GDTRFB>:: Oh, shit. This is a rare treat indeed. Phish learned everything they know from this type of playing. The "catch me if you can" feeling is in full swing and a race to the end of the song is the name of the game. The boys are really smokin' along at this point. Another perfect rendition played at a break neck pace. Garcia's having a ball and his guitar playing is as bubbly as his vocal treatment. Bobby and Brent add some wonderfully strong backing vocals. At 4:30 in to the song, the volume is kicked up for one last ride around the park. Punching the "We Bid You Goodnight" segue section and playing it with a supreme confidence the band have got to be proud of themeselves at this point. Tumbling back to Earth, we feel the pull of gravity and ease gently in to->

Lovelight: This is high-stompin' fun played with whimsy and full throttled abandon. Bobby's veins are popping out of his neck as he growls his vocals and the band is right there with him every step of the way. Another volume bump and in to the stratosphere we go. The tempo is blinding at this point. Bob's milking every extra bar he can get out of the song and the instruments are precise and pointed in their delivery. If you ain't dancin', you're dead. Smiles all around. Bobby's shredding his vocal chords at this point. The finale explodes with Quaalude thunder as we fall on to the gigantic air cushion placed "just exactly right" to catch our fall. And as a cherry on top, Mickey gives us one last bashing of the drums to remind us we're on top of the world. Take THAT you fucking pigs!
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