Venue: Broome County Arena - Binghamton, NY
Tape History: SBD
Release History: None
*Half-Step, *Jack Straw, TN Jed, Mexicali Blues -> Me & My Uncle, Friend of the Devil, *New Minglewood Blues, *Dupree's Diamond Blues, Passenger, Dire Wolf, *The Music Never Stopped
Samson & Delilah, Sunrise, *Scarlet Begonias -> *Fire One The Mountain -> Good Lovin' -> *St. Stephen -> *Drums -> *NFA -> *Wharf Rat -> *St. Stephen -> *Truckin', E: Johnny B. Goode
11-20-2010: The last show of the '77 fall tour and of the upstate New York three-show run. All three gigs are outstanding, and in my opinion, rival the much admired May 07, 08, and 09 gigs. I'm aware it sounds heretical to say that, but I'm hoping to show why I feel that way through these reviews I'm uploading. I've had this tape for a while and I am continually amazed by how the band does not take a single moment off. Yes, there are flubs and mistakes, but the drive is always there. You can feel it in every song.
Any time "Half-Step" opens a show I'm going to take special notice and be absurdly happy. The jam in the coda section is lengthy - approximately two thirds of the song - and has impressive peaks all around. This was a fiery tune for the year, with many takes being considered absolute highlights: Alabama (05-17), The Mosque (05-25, with "Jack Straw" following too, one of their most underrated shows ever), and Winterland (06-09.) This take on the famed Jerry tune is a top fiver for the year (and therefore ever), with Englishtown (09-03) and Boston Garden (05-07) right up there too. The energy carried onto "Jack Straw," which burned with hot intensity. I'm not sure if the great segue between "Mexicali" and "Uncle" amounts to anything since the back-to-back tunes are a bit of a letdown. They must have dug the "Minglewood"/"Dupree's" pairing from two nights before because they repeat it here too, and it's just as tasty. Love the "Dupree's." The chord progressions suits Jerry's lyrical soloing style perfectly. "The Music Never Stopped" gets pretty out there as far as this song typically goes, and unfortunately, its return to the verse groove is completely botched. Jerry valiantly tries to make up for it, but the momentum feels lost. Phil's playing in "Samson" raises the bar for the rest of the band. The "Scarlet" feels a bit too loose, with lyrics missed and the structure a bit vulnerable. Jerry, as he is prone to do, jumps in to rescue the tune and boy does he deliver. Segueing into "Fire" take its sweet time and the suspense this creates is really enjoyable. The botched lyrics in "Fire" don't help though. Funny how that's endearing as soon as Jerry starts ripping. The rest of the second set certainly makes up for the lackadaisical beginning of it. Impressive "St. Stephen," "NFA" (with "Truckin'" teases) and one of the very best takes of "Wharf Rat."
Three straight shows in May and three straight shows in November. All six shows are top gigs for the year, perhaps excluding 05-07 (its "Half-Step" notwithstanding.) A very special year for the Dead, even the missteps worked and the inspired jamming was smooth and clean. Lightning Skull for my highest possible honor.
For a number of years I've been keeping a Grateful Dead notebook. Eventually, I began writing impressions and capsule reviews of shows I have in my collection. I've adopted the style Dead archivist Dick Latvala used for the sake of organization, but also as a small tribute to the man. This blog will be an online version of that notebook. Feel free to leave comments or to email me. I want this space to be an open forum for all Deadheads.