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Jerry Garcia concert reviews by Rob Goetz - 5/19/89 - Irvine Meadows

Jerry Garcia concert reviews by Rob Goetz

Jerry Garcia Band ~ Irvine Meadows 

Jerry Garcia concert reviews by Rob Goetz - 5/19/89 - Irvine Meadows

05.19.1989 Irvine Meadows
Irvine, California
5th JGB Band Performance of 1989

May of 1989 was in many respects a month of transition for Jerry Garcia. Having just finished the final Spring 1989 shows with the Grateful Dead, Jerry was strapped into mostly average performances. His improvisation was getting to be a bit predictable and short. He seemed to lack overall enthusiasm in his performances. Despite two above average JGB performances (1.27.1989 and 3.3.1989) and one exceptional JGB performance (1.28.1989) Jerry’s overall Dead performances through mid May of 1989 were not his finest. Ultimately Jerry would bring back Dark Star in the Fall of 1989. Obviously the Grateful Dead did not seem ready for Dark Star’s improvisational requirements through May of 1989. The improvisational vehicles of PITB, The Other One, and Space, while interesting at times, lacked any indication that Jerry was even interested in the complex improvisation required with Dark Star at the conclusion of the Dead’s 1989 Spring Tour. The JGB, on the other hand, showed a very different side of Jerry. In his JGB performances on 1.27, 28, and 3.3.1989 (3.4 unfortunately does not circulate) Jerry’s overall enthusiasm was much higher on average, and the overall typical show for the JGB was above average. Despite the song predictability of the JGB from show to show, Jerry seemed more energetic than in his typical Grateful Dead performance through May of 1989. While I certainly understand that the JGB and the Grateful Dead were two very different bands, I firmly state that Jerry’s best performances whether with the Dead or the JGB occurred when he was impressively improvising. The Grateful Dead through May of 1989 did not feature exceptional or even above average improvisation from Jerry as a whole. In particular, the crown jewel of the 1989 JGB performances into May of 1989 was Don’t Let Go. It was in Don’t Let Go that Jerry expanded beyond the typical and emitted deep improvisation. From an improvisation perspective, the versions of Don’t Let Go on 1.27, 1.28 and 3.3.1989 stretched well beyond any improvisation Jerry had provided in any other Grateful Dead performance through May of 1989. As such, an argument may be made that Jerry’s preparation for Dark Star began not with the Grateful Dead, but rather with the versions of Don’t Let Go within the JGB. Indeed, on May 19, 1989 the JGB put forth another nearly exceptional show. But more importantly, on May 19, 1989 Jerry put forth likely one of the deepest and most psychedelic displays of the late 1980s with a stellar version of Don’t Let Go. The ensuing Grateful Dead shows in the Summer of 1989 were typically more energetic and interesting, and filled with more improvisation (albeit not as deep as with the Don’t Let Gos). While exceptional shows were still hard to come by, above average shows would become the norm. As such, May of 1989 marked the closure of a very average Jerry run, and the beginning of a tremendous Jerry run that some say stretched through 1992, and some argue was Jerry’s last great stand. Based on the 5.19.89 version of Don’t Let Go, I would purport that this was the beginning of that run.

The May 19, 1989 show began with How Sweet It Is. Immediately noticeable is that Jerry sounds very happy. His singing is filled with swells of moans, and the band behind him seems equally exuberant. The first solo has Jerry running through relatively typical progressions, but each progression seems to have that extra bit of note flavor suggesting Jerry was more than testing the waters but avidly swimming. The ensuing Seals solo is very well done. He maintains the nice feeling generated by Jerry and increases the overall intensity. Jerry dives back into his improvisation at the conclusion of Seals’ solo, and creates a nice conclusion to this version. The band sounded very tight and happy to be where they were at this point in the show.

Next is Stop That Train. This version seems a bit more contemplative than the January versions as Jerry’s solo is a bit slower and filled with more direct flavorings than fast progressions. Considering that this was only the second song of the night for Jerry, he clearly was on top of his game and very interested in stretching the norm of at least this song.

Jerry next reaches beyond slow paced improvisation with Get Out of my life woman. The pacing is very bouncy and the harmony from Gloria and Jaclyn is as usual nearly perfect. Jerry’s solo switches from the bouncy groove to a digging bluesy sound. His progressions were filled with sassy note progressions. While not explosive or overly aggressive, this first Jerry solo was well done. Seals’ solo maintains the bluesy sound. Jerry’s rhythm through Seals’ solo is quite pronounced and still sassy and edgy. Seals reaches some nice peaks but nothing overly impressive. Jerry’s second turn begins with some very nice note bendings that leads to a climax filled with fanning and an overall increase in the song’s intensity.

Next is Run For The Roses. The song portion is flawless and the harmonies still shine through. The Jerry solo has some nice runs in it but none that stretch beyond average. Each run through the chords of the jam has Jerry nearly reaching impressive note runs but which fall short of sending this version over the top.

Jerry next reduces the pace with I Shall Be Released. The song is flawless with moaning Jerry vocals backed by beautiful harmony. The first Jerry solo is slowly paced and very contemplative. His guitar expressions is nearly morose, but filled with complicated and very interesting note progressions. Another example of Jerry’s exquisite interpretation of Dylan. The second Jerry solo begins with a faster pace. He drives into a grooving display of improvisation that slowly but surely increases the intensity of the song. The jam ends with a dramatic spackling of notes. Not enough can be said of Jerry’s interpretation of Dylan. This version is a prime example – the singing is nearly indifferent yet filled with emotion, the first guitar solo is slow and careful but interesting, and the second guitar solo provides a different interpretation that culminates in an emotional zenith. For the most part it certainly is ineffable and words don’t do the justice that ears are capable of. This version of I Shall Be Released was the first exceptional song of May 19, 1989.

As if in sarcastic reply to the dark meaning of I Shall Be Released, the next tune is Hope It Won’t Be This Way. Again the song portion is flawless. The Jerry solo is again sassy and bluesy. As a whole though, this Jerry solo doesn’t reach any interesting moments.

Deal ends the first set. It starts out with very accelerated beginning. Jerry’s vocals are a bit hoarse, but again the harmonies compensate beautifully. The first Jerry jam is filled with very nice flavorings and speed. The main jam first theme is a driving jam that reaches a nicely flavored peak. The second theme is a chopping attack that achieves another nicely flavored peak. The third theme starts out slowly but eventually rises to another driving jam that surges and gains speed as it progresses. This third theme peaks with a dramatic cycling of high notes from Jerry that is nothing short of classic Garcia. The fourth theme is a nice descent to the vocal finale. With three impressive peaks during the main jam, this version of Deal was the second exceptional song of the night.

The conclusion of this first set marked another well above average Jerry performance. Despite only two exceptional songs (I Shall Be Released and Deal) the set displayed a happier and more improvisation driven Garcia than the typical Grateful Dead performance through May of 1989.

The second set starts with Harder They Come. The first Jerry solo is quite average, however, as his progressions fail to stretch beyond typical. The ensuing Seals solo is the Jimmy Buffet sounding solo that is nearly verbatim in sound to previous versions. Jerry’s second solo barely increases in pace and again fails to reach any peaks. Not the best start to this second set.

Next is Waiting For A Miracle. This version is quite relaxed but effective. The song is tight, but not aggressive (in striking contrast to the 1.28.1989 version). Jerry’s solo is by no means filled with aggressive or statement flavors, but the calm approach is consistent with the song’s pace. Still, this version is perhaps just a bit too calm for my taste.

Jerry next returns to Dylan interpretation with Simple Twist of Fate. This version is exquisite. Jerry’s first solo is slowly paced and is nearly a tippy toe spinning web. The second Jerry solo increases in pace and is more poignant in its attacking of the notes. Still the pace remains true to the song and is impressive not in the pace but rather in Jerry’s careful and precise note placements. John Kahn provides an extended bass solo as well that couldn’t be better. Kahn’s solo is contemplative funky as his notes reach a soothing yet unnerving zone. As this extended solo concludes, Jerry leaps up and provides a dramatic conclusion to the song. As noted above, this is another mind numbing Dylan interpretation from Jerry.

Next is the highlight of the night and clearly the highlight of 1989 through August of 1989 – Don’t Let Go. This version is about 22:50ish minutes. The vocals are harsh as Jerry’s voice was at best haggard, but the ensuing jam was one of the finest Jerry solos I’ve heard. As a whole the jam is quite layered with numerous themes, but may be summarized as the return of roaring and scalding Garcia. This amazing jam starts out with jazzy theme that Jerry that stretches for a good 4 or 5 minutes that has him racing up and down his fret board with dashes, stabs and sprints, and also slowly developed runs. This is a wide open theme from Jerry that definitely was headed toward a deeper zone. Jerry’s improvisation here was extremely impressive as each mini jam within this first theme reaches small peaks that blur into another mini jam. Ultimately as this theme extends, Jerry paints a deeper and deeper picture. The 2nd theme has him slowing pace a bit and getting less jazzy and more spacey. This theme starts with less note runs but more note bendings and chord blasts. Jerry eventually starts jabbing notes with Seals back and forth lending an agitated or aggressive theme – all the while still opening things up. The 3rd theme has Jerry returning a bit to the jazzy jam by sprinting with a familiar sound – but the jam has changed because now the band is spacey and Jerry is cruising – a very nice contrast (before jam and jam). Jerry starts 4th theme with a retreat to a slower pace again, but with a more wah wah feel that lends psychedelic twist. At this point the band nearly stops behind him wondering where he was going. The pace drops a bit as Jerry nearly stops. Jerry easily could have returned to Don’t Let Go here, but doesn’t. Seals picks up a theme that is groovy but a bit insecure and Jerry pounces on this opening with a demented series of notes that sound nearly frightened. Eventually Jerry twists this direction into a cyclical bluesy groove. This leads to an extended Jerry run that has structure, but barely, and is filled with uncertainty. The 5th theme becomes more grisly in sound as Jerry starts dashing in several directions – each with very interesting progressions. The effect is a trapped or confined feel, as if Jerry was locked in too tight of a parameter. Jerry’s note dashing eventually causes the confines of the parameter to diminish and implode upon itself. This part of the jam is extremely deep and reeks of 1972 Garcia. As this jam ends, the opportunity to reach back into Don’t Let Go presents itself again, but Jerry pushes it even further with a sixth theme. The 6th theme has Jerry switching more reverb on his guitar sound, and while staying at the mid to low range of his fret board just grind the jam in one spot. This was different than the previous theme in that during theme 5 he was dashing to open up the space, here in the sixth theme he pretty much remained in one spot and melted into a grisly cesspool. As he grinded and echoed in this spot, the band furtively came back closer to him. The jam develops into an intense and dark drift with Jerry reaching zones that he nightly nailed in Fall 72. After this melt down he emits some very impressive and well placed note moans and feedback blasts. This aftermath drift lasts for about 15 seconds and is very relieving. The 7th theme starts with Jerry switching reverb effects and continuing the aftermath with a very interesting resurfacing theme. Out of nowhere Jerry switches back to Don’t Let Go. Through 8.19.1989 this was easily the deepest and most interesting space jam of the year.

This Don’t Let Go jam presents numerous points to consider.

First, Jerry’s ability to control the band was extremely impressive. In particular, note the effect Jerry creates between the first and third themes. The first theme was solid jazzy Jerry and the band was directly in pace with him. But, on the second theme he developed a very spacey sound and brought the band there with him. As he opened the third theme he emitted more fastly paced jazzy runs. But, the band was still trapped in the second theme’s spacey theme. As such, we have two very complex examples of jazzy jamming – the first with the band right in pace with Jerry, and the third theme with Jerry jamming away in jazz and the band not in pace with him but rather breaking free of the second theme’s space. This was pure mastery of contrast. This type of control is what Jerry was all about – not only in his peak could he control his own themes, but also that of the band. In many respects Jerry loved cat and mouse, and this was a solid example of it.

Second, as the fourth theme wallowed and was searching for direction, Jerry could have returned to the Don’t Let Go theme, but he didn’t. This is very interesting because it showed that he was truly yearning for a deeper zone. This also occurred after the fifth theme. This type of pushing the jam further and further is what Jerry is all about, but was so absent in his Dead performances through August of 1989. Obviously this would have to change with the approaching Dark Stars of the Fall Tour.

Third, Jerry introduced the midi to his repertoire on 4.17.1989, and through the summer tour began to truly master its abilities. Would Jerry bring the midi to his September JGB tour? In particular, would he present it in the September Don’t Let Gos in preparation for Dark Star?

Fourth, the Dead performances through August of 1989 had some great moments, but none that smacked of a 15 minute all out space jam like this.

Fifth, this was a refreshing and impressive return to the type of deep Garcia jamming that is literally an assault on the listener. There were many faces to Jerry throughout his illustrious career, and this return to all out deep space jamming was a welcome return.

The show didn’t stop at this point. Jerry next started Lucky Ol’ Sun. This is nicely placed due to previous depth and intensity of Don’t Let Go. It is soothing and nurturing. The jam by jerry is equally moving and again is the perfect nightcap to the Don’t Let Go. The theme is beautiful yet sad. The Seals solo is equally impressive as Seals typically shines on this tune generally.

Moonlight Midnight – Jerry’s jam is nicely done with some fastly paced and flavored progressions which nicely increases the intensity. As a whole though, this version is not exceptional, and is doomed to be in the shadow of the Simple Twist Of Fate / Don’t Let Go / Lucky Ol’ Sun exceptional trifecta. Still, it was an above average version that concludes this very important show.

While May 19, 1989 may not as a whole be exceptional, it truly was an important show for Jerry. It was his first incredibly deep jam of the year, and marked the first real indication that he was truly headed toward Dark Star.

Set 1: 7.69
Set 2: 7.925
Show: 7.8075

How Sweet It Is 7.75
Next is Stop That Train 7.75
Get Out of my life woman 7.6
Run For The Roses 7.25
I Shall Be Released 8.15
Hope It Won’t Be This Way 7.25
Deal 8.1

Harder They Come7.0
Waiting For A Miracle 7.4
Simple Twist of Fate 8.15
Don’t Let Go *****9.5*****
Lucky Ol’ Sun 8.0
Moonlight Midnight 7.
Rob Goetz ©

Jerry Garcia concert reviews by Rob Goetz - 5/19/89 - Irvine Meadows


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