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.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

1979-08-12 - Red Rocks Amphitheater

Venue: Red Rocks Amphitheater - Morrison, CO
Tape History: AUD (by Bob Menke, download here)
Release History: None

Set 1
Promised Land, *They Love Each Other, Mama Tried -> Mexicali Blues, *Peggy-O, *Lazy Lightning -> *Supplication, Brown-Eyed Women, Looks Like Rain, Althea -> Passenger

Set 2
*China Cat Sunflower -> *I Know You Rider, Lost Sailor, Don't Ease Me In, *Estimated Prophet -> *Eyes Of The World -> Drums -> Space -> *NFA -> *Black Peter -> Around & Around, E: U.S. Blues

05-29-2011: We're diving head-first into 1979, and we are not starting with their much-lauded winter shows in January or February. This year rarely gets the love its '78 and '77 siblings get. Nestled into the back of the decade, 1979 doesn't boast the career highlight performances that other years have. But listening closely and searching for gems often reveal high-quality shows. 1979 is no different. This particular show at Red Rocks, their second run after beginning in Oakland, signaled an abbreviated stop. Because the rains were coming down hard during the show, the following two shows were moved to the McNichols Sports Arena. Menke's AUD vividly captures what it felt to be there: the audience's excitement commensurate with the band's playing; the chatting and clapping; the howls of wonder at surprising or inspiring moments. It doesn't hurt that Menke's recording was a front of board (FOB) and was remastered by the Mouth Of The Beast (MOTB) crew. Any time the abbreviations FOB, MOTB, combined with a trusted taper's name (Menke, Bertrando, Wise, Moore, Walker/Scotton), you know are in for a beauty of a tape.

The most striking characteristic of the show is the astounding patience the musicians show. In "They Love Each Other," for instance, Jerry doesn't take the first solo and instead gives it to the ensemble. The crowd claps and hoots when he leads the way the second time around. The lines he crafts are precise and exact; not a whole lot of digging around to find the right notes. The groove remains deliberate and at a somewhat slower tempo than expected. All the more to savor the pace. For those who love hearing Jerry in ballads (who doesn't?!) this "Peggy-O" is just for you. Lyrical, sensitive, masterful, Jerry just doesn't let up, turning and turning phrases and shapes wrenching an unmistakable sense of sadness from the melody. It is a priceless performance. Bob kicks it into high gear when they tear into "Lazy Lightnin'." The band responds mightily with the fiery, shifting jam in "Supplication." Had I mentioned "Althea" yet? Third time played? And the exhilarating "Passenger" to end the set? Whoo! And this is only the first set. Straight fire through and through.

Take a special listen to the instrumental passage between "China Cat" and "Rider" to see how beautifully this AUD works. Phil is prominent in the mix, Bob is up there too, and you can hear Brent pushing the guitarists along. It's such a great mix and equalization; each instrument distinct and intertwined with the others. (I judge AUDs by how they evoke a sense of space at the venue and how the music fills it, and this tape does more than an admirable job.) I love the odd placement of "Don't Ease Me In," especially after "Lost Sailor" and before the centerpieces of the show, "Estimated" -> "Eyes." This pairing is one of the most beloved in Deaddom and this particular performance is singular. This "Estimated" was included in the So Many Roads box set. Props must be given to Brent, taking a rip through the changes before Jerome takes his turn. (Is that a slight tease of "Terrapin Station," to my ears, a few ticks before the 11:00 mark?) The whole ending jam just takes the tune to another plane, Jerry deftly riding the wave clear into "Eyes," and then blowing that one up to the upper reaches after the 7:00 mark. I'm not sure what else to write about the remainder of the set. Stick around for "NFA" and a classic cool-down tune in "Black Peter." Leave with a smile on your face to the sounds of "U.S. Blues." This show is extraordinary. Wave that flag!

Lazy Lightnin' ->