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, December 18, 2011
Venue: Rosemont Horizon - Rosemont, IL
Tape History: SBD (AUD by Greg Holtz, download here)
Release History: None
Half-Step -> Feel Like A Stranger -> Franklin's Tower -> Little Red Rooster, When Push Comes to Shove -> Queen Jane Approximately, Don't Ease Me In
Sugar Magnolia -> Bertha -> Playin' In The Band -> Uncle John's Band -> Drums -> Space -> Playin' In The Band -> GDTRFB -> Morning Dew -> SSDD, E: Touch of Grey
12-18-2011: This '88 Spring tour began lifting the band after Jerry's diabetic coma in '86. There seems to be a malaise settling on the band in the few performances in '86 and the overextended '87 tours. In '88, the cobwebs are beginning to be swept away and the energy is reaching for consistency.
Here we are, just past the midway point in the Spring '88 tour. First show of a three-night run at the Rosemont. They waste no time in getting to it by opening with "Half-Step." Although Jerry's voice sounds tired though, his guitar does not. They build to a hard, stirring peak after the coda section. The drums are turned up pretty loud in this recording. The heavy kick drum sound is way up front. You can hear how they and Brent urge Jerry to scale his solo ever upwards by stacking up fills and climbing through the keyboard's register. The drawback to this is that Phil is less clear in the mix. Hearing this level of interaction, wish such an up close sound is magnificent. The crowd appropriately responds with wild cheers to Jerry's "Half-Step" peaks.
They go even more wild as "Stranger" starts up, a perennial early first set favorite in this era to signal great things to come. I love the crowd's reaction at Bobby's line, "Let's get on with this show!" When Jerry takes off near the 4.30 mark, hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen. The solo with envelope filter lasts about two minutes, and it's non-stop melodic variations, hitting the changes even though he's creating new phrases and lines on the go. It's an incredible solo that only gets better as he shuts the filter off and goes clean. Bobby's playing under his solo is great too, helping rein him in to end the song. And we go straight into "Franklin's" after this?! Whoever doubted if they were feeling it this night, here's your proof. Unfortunately, the rest of the first set isn't even close to living up to this amazing trifecta. "Rooster," just like "Wang Dang Doodle" or "Walkin' Blues," is a rally killer. It's not that I don't like the blues, but these tunes slow momentum and alter the vibes of the sets they're in. And Bob's grating slide gets on my nerves. Dylan tunes (other than "Watchtower", and especially "Desolation Row") that are not encores have the same effect. I don't know what came over the band!
I get a feeling they're making up fort his with the way they begin the second frame: "Sugar Mag" to open followed by a rollicking "Bertha," that's a way to start! (Note that they did not go into the "Sunshine Daydream" section of "Sugar Mag". It will surely reappear before the show's over.) Although a relatively short version, "Playin'" goes places quickly, with Jerry going into overdrive leading the group to the cosmos and back to Earth to play in "Uncle John's Band." I rarely comment on "Space," but this one is odd and magical. It's basically an unaccompanied Jerry solo, with Bob occasionally chiming in. There are a lot of hints of other tunes in this jam, namely "Dark Star" and "Slipknot!" before the rest of the band enters and they maneuver their way to the conclusion of "Playin'." We get a special treat after a short of but hot "GDTRFB," a fantastic "Morning Dew." Brent and Jerry are completely in tune, using the subtle changes in melody to great dramatic effect. The Rhythm Devils also do a good job, as in "Half-Step", of pushing Jerry to reach higher levels. Take a look at Jerry's central solo, how there are peaks and descents in each line as he's reaching the chord change. Textbook Garcia. They end it with a brief rock n' roll "SSDD" and encore with their hit single "Touch of Grey."
This is the kind of second set that the opening three tunes of the show deserve. Yes, it's an uneven show, as many of them are, but there are great cuts in here and some inspired playing. Just serves as a reminder that even the least obvious shows in the least likely yeas have something to offer.