DP21 review by Ramble
Beginning notes: I was initially quite excited when
this release was announced, as 1985 was my year of highest
attendance. However, I found this release a disappointment, and
haven't had much interest in it since. In the interest of freshness,
I have not looked at the set list (although I naturally remember the
more remarkable aspects); I'll just play it and see how it goes.
The band starts out pretty
sweet -- 'Dancin in the Streets' definitely has The Groove on it --
but Jerry's guitar is almost inaudible for a long minute, Brent is
too loud. This must be the roughness they're always disclaiming
about. they start again with 'Cold Rain', and things go a little
better. The band moves slightly in and out of sync, like cars on a
freight train crossing the switching yard. I think it's gonna be a
good show! :-)
One thing must be said: the
audience is just Not There. Ah well, no matter; sterile though it
might be, we might not otherwise hear Jerry's clear invocation of
the 'Spoonful' riff, which Bobby answers by playing the 'Rooster'
riff. Jerry seemingly shrugs; it's Bobby's call, so we're treated to
Brent's throaty Hammond warbles and Bobby's stinging slide, much
better here than we're used to. Jerry's solo is more conservative
than usual, prompting Bobby to try harder -- a true group effort, if
not an especially notable one.
'Stagger Lee'. I've never
quite understood the preference for 1978 versions of this or
Minglewood; by the mid-80s, Jerry had crafted considerably more
interesting guitar parts, and it's marvelous to hear how casually he
tosses them off between & under verses. Mickey seems to be
locking into Jerry's thoughts ... well, this IS the Grateful Dead
:-) Not much happens for the second solo, so they cut losses and end
'Me & My Uncle': this
song easily springboards into 'Big River', seemingly picking up some
steam on the way. Phil seems especially keen, and someone throws
some open high-hat behind the first guitar solo. But Jerry seems
rather more thoughtful than fiery; though he cuts forth with some
fine, toothy runs, the band seems more ready than he does.
BEW: The solo is sweet and
finds the band all hitting together and in the same way; this train
is rolling! Now we see them go through the dynamics together:
energetic, smooth, soft, delicate. Yep, this engine's purrin', and
'Jack Straw' seems the perfect follow-up -- Brent chooses the clicky
piano sound, which seems to work. Mickey's evidently been waiting
for something like this, and so has Billy. Phil even treats us to
some quiet bombs in the solo and the final chorus, easing up to a
gentle halt for the closeout. They then ease out with 'Don't Ease Me
In'; I guess Jerry wasn't quite ready to leave the stage, and Brent
fills the Richmond Coliseum with his happy soloing and dangerous
rumbles. Jerry sings & plays with enough passion to make this
'It's got to be FUNK' a
voice says -- what the heck was that? Never mind; here comes 'Samson
& Delilah', a little sedate after the break. Like 'Minglewood'
and 'Stagger Lee', Jerry likes to fill this with some busy phrasing
behind the verses, although he's slow to do so here. I'm not
thinking this will knock out DP-18's S&D for listening pleasure
.... it picks up in Jerry's second solo. The mix shows Bobby's
slash-and-burn slide, Phil is bouncing off walls, and Jerry finally
gets some heat going just before they cut out for the final chorus
... and Jerry digs in on 'High Time'.
'You told me good-bye / how
was I to know?
You didn't mean 'good-bye' / you meant 'Please -- don't let me go'
Jerry's voice, of course,
had changed a great deal since 1970. - but he pours his heart into
this, and convincingly so. Bill & Mickey show sensitive
emphasis, bringing out the emotional highs and lows. Often Jerry
strains at his notes, but poignantly so. A nice performance.
'He's Gone'. The general
feeling is as if they didn't want to leave the gentle warmth 'High
Time' brought them to -- and they don't; it's more of the same. This
might be about the point where some start getting restless. Perhaps
the drummers wish for something a little more aggressive by now?
Hard to say. Phil comes in recalling Jerry's set one suggestion, and
before you know it, Bobby's singing 'Spoonful'.
Maybe it's the mix, but
drummers don't sound too keen on the directions this set has taken.
Not so with Brent, who stokes up the Hammond again to spit and growl
around Bobby's vocal. I guess the drums finally get the memo,
because suddenly they come crashing in on Jerry's solo. The
excitement quickly fades on the final chorus, and the band goes
exploring for other musical possibilities -- when Jerry suddenly
turns a corner, and starts 'Comes A Time'.
Wow! Even on this sterile
SBD, we can hear the audience sigh a cheer of appreciation. And
we're right back in the sweetness of 'High Time', pure and vibrant
and fresh again. The band largely lets Jerry carry it -- Bill &
Mickey find a minimal groove, but don't hesitate to step in for
dramatic effect, and the solo finds Jerry RIGHT ON this song tonight
-- we're in the 'ballad slot' without having paid any drumspace
dues. Bobby finds good use for his '85 sound, and Jerry works his
'85 voice for maximum effect until he's just too sad to sing any
more; he's GOT to play. And he does.
This ends rather sooner
than it should, however, as Phil seems to have other designs -- some
train wreck of miscommunication. But if they must fall, at least
they fall together, and after some atonal scrambling actually manage
to Get the Groove Back! Tragedy narrowly avertedly, we then find
them broaching the 'Lost Sailor' theme. And so this unusual show
begins its most unique moment.
They've had six years of
practice, and it shows: changes, dynamics, harmonies, everything as
tight & intuitive as you could want. They make the opening swell
for 'Saint' but then just sorta drop out for the Drums -- not what I
would call an organic transition. Bill & Mickey don't even sound
as charged as I would expect after a setload of ballads.
In short, it sounds like a
bad idea -- or possibly a good one that got shortchanged, as if the
original plan was to go out on a Sailor>Saint but Jerry signaled
that he wasn't gonna make it through another song without a bathroom
break :-) Either way, I'm almost unmindful of the Rhythm Devils'
workout in this set -- a bathroom break indicator if ever there was
And then the Beam comes in.
Jerry joins, and Mickey turns off the Beam and returns to the drums,
giving us a monotonous tribal beat. Does it fit with the other
musicians' sounds? I'm not sure. Eventually he stops, and we're left
with Jerry's lonely soliloquy amid Bobby's weird sounds. This soon
infects Jerry, and we're soon on the Last Train to Weirdsville ...
until some nice chording brings us back out again. It winds in &
out of some more mysterious suggestions before heading down the
'Saint' path. Phil joins in gently and Brent trills an electric
piano. Mickey & Bill must have sneaked on stage, because
(without warning) Jerry riffs into 'Saint' and the drummers suddenly
start playing. And so we found ourselves in a 'Sailor > Drums
> Space > Saint'. The question: did it work?
To my ears: No, not really,
but it certainly generated some interesting changes in the set
structure. For one thing, Jerry's solo section of 'Saint' takes a
more gentle, airy feel -- they haven't forgotten where they were
five minutes before. This builds up nicely, although the drums &
Brent sorta disappear at the climax. This vastly robs the following
section of momentum, but then they largely recapture it anyway. For
another: normally, S>S would mean the end of the first set or
lead into Drums, neither of which is an option here. So what do they
What else, after a set of
mostly ballads? They ROCK THE HOUSE DOWN! True, the beginning of
'Gimme Some Lovin' is botched so many ways I can't begin to
enumerate them. But that simply can't stop them -- this train has
gotta roll. Having been largely tied down for the past 90 minutes,
the band just ROARS. By the chorus, we're sold; by the second
chorus, we're singing, by the third -- well, somehow they bring it
down again, and Jerry's singing another ballad, 'She Belongs to Me'.
Now, how did they do that and make it sound good? The drums come in
for the second verse, although they don't sound too convinced. By
the guitar solo, they seem to be getting it; by the second solo,
we've forgotten we were ever listening to anything else. Jerry's
phrases soar and dip, whether vocal or instrumental, though the band
seems largely stoic until the final choruses.
-- and Bobby's guitar
promptly says 'Remember the Melkweg?' as he strums up the Gloria
chords. WHAT?? What sense could that possibly make? Unless of
course, you ve been wanting to get your ya-ya's out. Not satisfied
with the band's buildup during the spelling lesson, he makes them do
it three times before letting the chorus rip. Too bad we can't hear
the audience here, as this is possibly THE definitive Audience
Participation Song, but the band is not exactly dull listening in
itself. Bobby himself has little idea what to do in between the sing along
parts, but it's fun to hear him try, and the band clearly improvises
the arrangement -- not that this hurts the results in the least. The
end is not the most glorious of finales, but it's appropriately
goofy -- as is the 'Day Job' encore, after all that's gone before. I
mean: really -- who could take it seriously now? G-L-O-R-I-A !!
(keep your day job)? Right .... and never trust a prankster!
Women, High Time, Comes A Time, Gimme Some Lovin, Gloria.
Conclusion: Yep, Jerry
stole the show. By and large, set two comes across as a catastrophe
that became something else entirely, and thusly yielded wonders we
might not otherwise have experienced. This was largely due to the
insistence of one Jerome Garcia, but the best parts show the band in
full sympathetic support. Not a perfect show, but one with some
mighty fine moments in unexpected places.