Tuesday, August 01, 2006

10-16-89 Brendan Byrne Arena, East Rutherford NJ

(This picture by one Jim Anderson, used here without permission, is in fact from October 8, 1989 at the Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA) Deadhead Alexandra H. lent me her CDR of the 2nd set from this night -- all it says on it (Sharpie-wise) is Bobby's Birthday, but I searched deadlists.com and figured it out. See, I'm Deadheaded enough to know that Bobby's birthday is October 16 (because I love the 10-16-81 acoustic set at the Melkweg, Amsterdam, also billed as a Bobby's birthday show), and I recognized the oft-flatulent Brent Mydland keyboards that could only come from the 1980s, so I just searched every 10-16 show from the 1980s until I found one that had a Dark Star into Playing. And the year turned out to be 1989. The same tour that most of Without a Net was culled from, and I should've known, because they share a keyboard sound that I swear is right out of (fellow Marin County boys) Huey Lewis & the News. Now I think Mydland was a pretty great player, but because of that keyboard sound alone, this is one of the toughest Dead eras for me to get into. I also think it's why so many wise-guys from my generation hated the Dead -- here we were turning the very punk age of 19, and this really popular supposed nostalgia-rock act that played stadiums sounded like THIS?? Forget it! But after all, this is the Dead, and any time you listen for more than 10 minutes, especially in a second set, they will probably rip your head off. Here it comes about 10 minutes into "Dark Star," when they start recklessly fast and near-atonal polyphonic ensemble runs that can only mean one thing: a late-period "Playing in the Band" jam. And from there they simply don't stop -- the set is a continuous piece of music that runs like this (get ready, newbies): Dark Star > Playing in the Band > Uncle John's Band > Playing in the Band > Drums > Space > I Will Take You Home > I Need A Miracle > Dark Star > Attics Of My Life > Playing in the Band Reprise, E: And We Bid You Goodnight. Now, the Brent factor strikes again with "I Will Take You Home," one of his tunes that he plays here solo, out of Space. I have to say it, this is a pretty wretched piece of heartland power-ballad schlock. All the 1980s Seger fans in the audience like it though, and that's a lot of people. Then "I Need A Miracle," not my favorite song but an improvement, then seamlessly right into another "Dark Star" tease (they were doing a lot of 'em in the late 1980s), then that totally weird lifetime lullaby "Attics Of My Life," an American Beauty classic which had a surprise resurgence in the late 1980s, another quirk of that quirky decade, and then, that oh so playful close with the "Playing in the Band" bookend reprise trick, another quirk of the later part of their career. This certainly wasn't the only time "Playing" had been thread through an entire set. I don't know, I'm actually actively looking for Grateful Dead shows that I DON'T want to make a copy of, and you'd think a Brent-heavy '89 show would be one of 'em, but I'm afraid this one is a keeper, just for the sheer audacity and playfulness of a 2nd set medley (not to mention some truly scorching music in fits and starts).


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