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.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

1978-02-05 - Uni Dome

Venue: Uni Dome - University of Northern Iowa - Cedar Falls, IA
Tape History: AUD (Unknown, download here)
Release History: Dick's Picks 18 (June 200)

Set 1 [missing from tape]
Bertha -> Good Lovin' -> Jack Straw -> Good Lovin', El Paso, TN Jed, Minglewood Blues, Friend Of The Devil, Passenger, Deal

Set 2
Samson & Delilah, Scarlet Begonias -> Fire On The Mountain
, Ship Of Fools, Truckin' -> Drums -> The Other One -> Wharf Rat -> Around & Around, E: U.S. Blues

02-18-2011: As promised, here is the companion piece to the previous post on 02-03. This is a second set-only tape. The audio quality is good, all instruments are fairly well equalized, though Phil is low in the mix. Adjust your equalizers to make up for this sad fact. This set appeared in its entirety in DP 18. There's some raging playing in this winter 1978 tour. I haven't posted my review 01-22 yet, but you can rest assured it's one of the Dead's very best shows between '78 and '80. As we saw with our previous review, the second sets are reserved for blazing jams. This show is no different.

"Samson" opens up the proceedings. Bob apparently forgot the words to the first verse, and Jerry just took off in spite of the song. He gets inside the verse chord structure and spins continuous melodic phrases off of the center. He never runs out of ideas and never repeats himself. It's truly inspirational playing. The story is that a mic broke and was being repaired while the song was going on. They say that Jerry used his guitar to signal the broken mic and then thank the technician, then Bobby yells "Wooo!" to see if it was working, and then the band goes back into the song. And they do, back into the chorus and re-doing the first verse. The minute the opening chords to "Scarlet" resounded, I had a feeling this would be special. And seeing how the set opener went, I felt pretty confident that the band was going to dive head-first into this sequence. And boy do they deliver! One of the very best "Scarlet" -> "Fire"s I have ever heard, easily in my top three. The tempo is brisk and energetic. Jerry takes two runs through before "the wind in the willows" lyric, and the rest of the band, Rhythm Devils notably, get on board the Jerry Train. At this point, the band begins to expand the post-verses section, disposing of the framework but keeping the chords. When the band is on, as they are here, it is wonderful to hear them spontaneously invent a new song. Towards the end of the jam, as they're nearing "Fire," Jerry creates a descending scale that he milks for all its worth, with Keith accompanying him on the Rhodes. What's beautiful about Jerry's way of soloing is that he is always aware of where the song is, so he can still solo as the song and its structure move forward, here irrevocably towards "Fire."

Keith and Phil, followed by the drummers, lead the transition into the second tune of this pairing. It's an invisible segue. It takes about five and a half minutes before Jerry begins singing. The groove here is thick and invigorating. His solos are inventive and dynamic, with his lines containing register contrasts based on modal scales. The chromatic fills and joining notes make his solos potentially never-ending. And with his skill and patience, it is no surprise the way his playing moved the audience. He is at his five star best here. Because the band isn't rushed (opposed to lazy) and they follow their ideas as a collective, they create exceptional moments are heretofore unheard sounds. The ending jam in "Fire" is one of those. When Jerry plays the ending melody across the song's two chords, the band begins to amp up the energy, and watch him go! Jerry again takes off and the band lets loose and follows his lead. Phil is dialed into every note from Jerry's guitar and, like a kite, Bob keeps the tune grounded as the rest of the group flies around him.

After the intensity and emphatic playing of the first part of the set, "Truckin'," a high-energy, rousing tune, feels like a cool-down. After "Drums," we pick up in focus where we left off with yet another superlative '78 "Other One." Here the band gives Jerry a roiling unsteady bottom to frame his solos and lines around. They are circles within circles, or the feeling of tumbling down a hill with your eyes closed. After the verses, there is a manic build to a solar flare of a Jerry peak, similar to the 1978-10-21 version (or vice versa?) A stellar "Wharf Rat" serves as a "everything is going to be okay" song, and then the set ends thunderously with "Around" and "U.S. Blues."

The Grateful Dead were on a roll in their winter '78 tour, with some of the most inspired playing of the year coming in the two nights (so far) reviewed here, 02-03 and 02-05. They are both essential components of any Dead collection. I'm withholding a Stealie for this particular show because it's only the second set; it feels like a great piece of an even greater whole, but the problem is we don't have the whole.

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