Posted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 1:31 pm Post subject: 1987-06-21 (Listening Club)
Sorry for the late posting of this. I got behind and hopefully this will never happen again. I understand there are deadlines for a reason, mainly so Zephyr can wake up Saturday mornings and eat bagels and lox and read our reviews.
I was a young dad, working as a hatter in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Summers were the busy season, so I wasn’t able to get time off to catch these shows. Family trips to shows before (Laguna Seca) and after (Telluride) kept the flame alive for me that summer.
1987 is a really interesting period in the band’s history. In the aftermath of Garcia’s diabetic coma in ’86, all members got a hard look at Mr. Death. Garcia found himself staring in the face not only of actual death but also artistic death, as a consequence of severe, ongoing hard drug use. The rest of the band nearly lost a beloved friend as well as their main source of income artistic expression: The Grateful Dead. In late ’86 the entire group set about putting things to right. The result is a full year of scorching shows and amazing collaborations. Garcia was getting back his basic chops, so jams were short; but the band’s desire to get everything just exactly perfect led to tight focus and close listening between members.
Songwriting, thin throughout the mid-‘80s, was at an absolute nadir in ’87. No new original songs were introduced in 1987. The newest tunes were debuted in December ’86: When Push Comes to Shove and Black Muddy River. Neither of these tunes gets played this night.
As a consequence, however, of their collaboration with Bob Dylan, 1987 saw the beginning of the “Dylan-slot” in the 1st set. Weir started playing All Along the Watchtower the previous night, and had debuted Masterpiece a week earlier. After the Dylan gigs in July, Garcia began playing Knocking on Heaven’s Door in August and Weir introduced Queen Jane Approximately and Maggie's Farm in September. In March of ’88 Weir completed his Dylan repertoire by pulling out Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again.
So for most attendees the only new tune at this show might have been Masterpiece. Then again, Walkin’ Blues was a song that had only been played a handful of times in recent history; once in ’82 (with Boz Scaggs), four times in ’85, and twice prior in ’87.
Set two sounds better than set one. Everybody is clearly audible and sounds good; Garcia’s backing vocals are especially nice and Phil has tremendous presence in the recording. This recording can be cranked louder and louder and always sounds better and better.
6/21/87 - Sunday
One: Alabama > Jet; West L.A.; Walkin' Blues; Far From Me; Cumberland > Mexicali; Box; Don't Ease
Two: Smart Women; Fingers > Saint; China Doll > PITB > Drumz > Masterpiece > Pete > Stones > NFA. Brokedown
Set one is no great shakes. Far From Me is horrible due to Mydland’s voice being shot, and Promised Land is entertainingly botched due to Weir forgetting many, many words. Otherwise, though, the set is well played if not well selected. To wit: any set that offers West L.A. Fadeaway as its biggest number is a set that needs recalibrating.
Set two is much finer fare. The Women are Smarter gets things rolling by laying down a velvety-smooth groove. They then step straight into a sprightly Crazy Fingers. This is a fine version. Garcia does much better than average with the lyrics and Lesh provides tasty punctuation throughout. Both the mid-point instrumental and the outro are crisp and clean. Next up is a really nice Saint of Circumstance. I think it was on this tune that I started noticing Hart’s contributions. He is providing exceptionally good fill percussion throughout this show.
This top-notch set-opening trio achieves true awesomeness when they drop into China Doll. SWEET! Garcia is again sounding exceptionally good, both in voice and on guitar. A pre-drums session with both Crazy Fingers and China Doll was exceptionally rare (offered up only once before and once after). It is the showgasm outro into Playin’ in the Band that really put a smile on my face. They take their time, and although nothing really stands out as must-hear material, they nonetheless deliver a very good jam.
Drums happen. Space has a nice ‘breathing’ quality as Garcia, Weir and Mydland dance around each other at a three-quarter tempo. Lesh joins in for the last four minutes, giving the mix a sturdy understructure.
The plunge into Masterpiece is a great change of pace and keeps the colorful surprise-element going. You can almost hear the smiles on their faces as they charge through the tune. Garcia is clearly reveling in performing backup vocal chores on this JGB chestnut, and Mydland’s fiddle-synth sounds are wonderful. (The doorbell sounds at the beginning are a bit of a head scratcher….). The Black Peter that follows is excellent, but it is the finale that nailed down my five-star rating for this show.
Throwing Stones/Not Fade Away got played so often back then that it was positively yawn-worthy, but there were nights, like this one, when the Boys absolutely crushed this combo. Throwing Stones gets the full treatment here from Lesh and Hart. It is bongo-insanity welded to bone-grinding bass all the way through. The instrumental break, in spite of being a set-piece, is fantastic. A gasoline-soaked Not Fade Away then takes this volcanic outpouring to an even higher level. Garcia is screaming as he shreds the [CENSORED] out of it. Five minutes of rock and roll never sounded so good.
The bop-bop clap-a-thon brings everything back down from a furious boil, leading to the perfect ending of Brokedown Palace.
Hooray for the Grateful Dead.
I thougth that I couldn't make the review but a big storm prevented me to go to see a movie ... so I derssed up my Grateful Dead T-shirt ... I waited 2 months for the delivery .... but that's another story! The summer storm is getting really bad with lightning and the wing is getting really wild. So here I am next to the window ....
Now the review:
The source: I think that this source is labeled as a sdb, but with the crowd noise and laughs I think that it has to be a matrix or a bad sdb, anyway I don't dislike this source ... so I did put the headphones and the show rolls on!!!!
Alabama Gateway: the show starts with energy, and this is a standard opening song which is not one of my favourite, but notthing to say it is a clean version > Promised Land this song is a Bobby mess from the beginning from the 1st verse you hear his vocals low, then each verse the lyrics are missed. At one point Bob says "what are you laughing" (or something like that) ... who knows who he is reffering to. Il like the AG>PL combo ehpecially the hihg paced transition with Bob vocals but this time it was ... let's say a mess.
West LA Fadeaway: another "worm up" tune, I think that Jerry changed a bit the lyrics but I didn't get just what he said ... I'll read the other reviews ... maybe he just missed some words: who knows. I like the Brent's SWHS, SWHS organ sounds.
Walking Blues: I like those cosmic blues Bobby tunes at the beginning of the shows and the sound effect with his voice adds the acidity I love to the song. The sliede guitar pumps with Phil's bass on and on. A solid version of the song. Up untill now the best one of the show.
Far from me: Brent's song ... a good tune but I just get the feeling that he is hardly followed by the band, no solos or jams. It seems to me that the rest of the band just plays his song like ... you know ... the bands that play at marriges. Brent has an interesting voice indeed.
Cumberland Blues>Mexicali Blues: good and smooth tunes. Notthing strikes me in this versions.
Box of Rain: I love this song ... I have to admit that I am biased here. Phil's voice is on here he seems to sing the song with no effort and doesn't push it too hard. Sweet Jerry licks ... not bad ... very fluid ... yes Phil sings it just easily. For right now Phih had the best vocal ... uh ... he missed a line ... doh ... now Jerry helps him out ...yes ... the crowd agrees with my review.
Don't Ease me in: Well yet another Don't ease me in ....
MSWS: I have fun with this song it is a "summer song" ... for now it is "very OK" ... nice Brent organ jam ...
REVIEW INTERRUPTED ... SORRY
Alabama Getaway starts out this set here at the Greek, which seems to be a place the band played well. It is a fair effort that picks up steam, not bad at all for an opener. This segues into a completely expected Promised Land, which is torpedoed by vocal issues by Weir, first it seems they are mechanical issues, but I think they throw him off his game and it sounds like he starts forgetting lyrics too, at one point he asks the crowd who they are laughing at. The rest of the band takes it in stride though, and energy still remains. West LA Fadeaway is really nice, if you are a fan of this song, this is a really great version. Jerry and Bob both sound decent, and excellent mood is created. Also a chime or triangle or something brings in the song at the beginning, I liked that too. Some subtle vocal effects too used pretty well also which appear in some other songs. Some people don't like Walkin' Blues by the GD but I do, this is a good one, propulsive and fun, Bob sounds great. Next is Far From Me, which teeters precariously between being decent and falling flat. The rest of the band bails Brent out, particularly Jerry's axe. Next Bob says "We're thinkin..." and "One at a time please" when fielding requests, and they come up with the always welcome Cumberland. This one is fine, with cautious Jerry not wanting to take all the glory. This theme carries over to Mexicali Blues, another good choice in setlist, this show is shaping up to be sweet. Then there is a brief sound effects swoosh into a pretty kick ass Box of Rain, well sung by Phil except for when he forgets a line. Otherwise excellent.
Don't Ease Me In rounds this one out, Brent's organ sounds fantastic on this well-mixed and lovely source we have, it says sbd but the audience is well represented too, in a good way.
Man Smart Woman Smarter kicks off the action, and it is a nice jaunty version of this well worn song, with more killer organ. This is followed by Crazy Fingers, a big gamble that is richly rewarded with unexpected Jerry greatness moving him brightly. Next is Saint of Circumstance which is a smashing version, the band crushes this one, color me impressed. After this we get a sweet sweet intro to a well executed China Doll. Playin in the Band is thrown down, and this show is becoming a serious contender for best show I've heard for a long time. My notes say nice Bob, Jerry, and Phil. An upbeat Drums moves it along with some drum circle rhythms, some of them nice and hypnotic, and then we get a very good atmospheric acid trip type Space, fun listening. This ends with some alarm bell chimes abruptly after that and goes into the odd but awesome choice of When I Paint My Masterpiece, loved it. Black Peter is superb too just to cap it off, the harmonizing took it to another level, everything, sound, recording quality, mix, execution, it all comes together in this show, and it rolls through Throwing Stones, a barnburner with an impressive climax. The momentum keeps going into NFA which is great at first but then goes into mmmbob and the chant, but you can't have everything. A pretty good Brokedown Palace caps this one off.
I know the Greek is a good venue, but I was really impressed by this show, the second set is spectacular with very minor blemishes and I will be listening to this one again for sure. I was not expecting that level of Jerry in the second set either, great stuff.
Greek Theatre - University of California
6/21/87 - Sunday
One Alabama Getaway [4:24] > The Promised Land [4:02] ; West L.A. Fadeaway [6:33] ; Walkin' Blues [5:31] ; Far From Me [4:03] % Cumberland Blues [4:49] > Mexicali Blues [4:57] ; Box Of Rain [4:45] ; Don't Ease Me In [3:22]
Two Man Smart (Woman Smarter) [7:38] ; Crazy Fingers [8:09] > Saint Of Circumstance [7:17] ; China Doll [6:20] > Playing In The Band [9:44] > Drums [8:#29] > Space [13:26] > When I Paint My Masterpiece [3:55] > Black Peter [8:40] > Throwing Stones [9:15] > Not Fade Away [7:#21]
Encore Brokedown Palace [5:14]
A short review to say the least.
First set was pretty good. Mostly average to my ears. The highlight was West LA Fadeaway. Garcia nails the solo in this song.
Promised Land features a great lyric flub in which Bob replies, "What are you laughing at?"
Far From Me has some weird Brent vocals.
Set 2 is pretty explosive. Women Are Smarter starts off the set nicely. Brent shines during this one.The set really takes off during Crazy Fingers. Saint comes out of nowhere. It is very welcome though. This is a great Saint. The jam part is very hypnotzing. China Doll is pure bliss. Excellent vocals, excellent instrumentation. This is a grade A+ Doll. PITB rises out of the ashes of Doll. High eneregy. Holy shiznit!!! The jam near the end of PITB is worth the price of admission alone. Drums is electronically hypnotizing as normal. Space has some excellent whale calls, and weirdness mixed together. Masterpiece shines though space. This is such an excellent version. Black Peter is good, but after the predrum portion almost a let down. However, don't think this a slouch for a Black Peter. The predrums was that intense. If this Peter was in an average show it would be a standout. Even after I have said this, I must say I enjoyed this a lot. Throwing Stones continues with the energy. Very good. Nice guitars. Fun percussion during NFA. After an exhausting NFA chant the band returns with Brokedown Palace. Strong vocals
I give this show 4 stars. It deserves 5 but I broke it down like this. First set is 3 and second set is 5.
I would give this show 4.75 stars based on how much I enjoyed the second set, Jerry's cup of goodness runneth over. Some minor vocal flubs in a couple of tunes are very forgivable.
Also, little details like the Victim-Foolish type transition swoosh at the end of post Mexicali Blues dead air going right into Box of Rain, Brent pulling off a killer Showtime at the Apollo type organ fill at 7:30 in Throwing Stones, and the successful use of some fairly subtle vocal and other boosting effects by Healy I think throughout the show add to the x factor. That along with the great mix and recording make this one a keeper. Jerry sounds so great in the second set too, he is full of life and he sounds really good.
I give this show 4 stars. It deserves 5 but I broke it down like this. First set is 3 and second set is 5.
I'm glad we all were dazzled by the second set. It's a beaut. I give the show 5 stars in keeping with my reviewing policy that says "first sets don't count."
It's too bad our reviewing club is down to 4 from 11. Where'd everybody go?
This is a good question. Although the debut of the listening club didn't have 11 either. Hmm...
I feel bad for all the people that didn't get to review the last show, 6 21 87 Greek, the last show was a perfect summer show, a true gem in the second set. I was steeling myself for an uninspired post coma show but was pleasantly surprised. Thanks again dogstarz for picking a great show.
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