Monday, March 27, 2006

Grateful Dead 1985-11-02 (set 2) & more

I've heard the 1985-11-02 show (set 2 mostly) several times, and tonight I watched it (set 2 only) on DVD (audience shot, available at ) and felt like writing this piece. This post will be a little serious as well, so bear with me...

For a very long time I was very reluctant to listening to any of the GD's 80s output. One thing was the fact that it was their 60s & 70s shows that got me hooked. Another was my somewhat strange feeling that the 80s was a dark, strange period of GD, a sort of wasteland, something I can't quite describe. I knew that Garcia's health was bad especially mid-80s, so that was one reason. And I felt drawn towards this great depth of mystery and darkness, but I wanted to wait. I don't remember exactly when or how, but at some point it struck me: Yes. Now. The 80s. It felt just right. I must have been a heavy period of my life, with my mind in the darkness and things in general being difficult. Anyhow, all I remember is that my first encounter with this was very much as expected! The darkness and sadness, and at times brilliant beauty, was there. Just exactly right. And sometimes they fuck up things so bad it's a shame, but usually Garcia manages to pull out all his powers and deliver something truely wonderful filled with truth and beauty, even during this dark age.

1985-11-02 is no exception. I would want to "dedicate" this review to a friend of mine who commited suicide last November, a little more than 20 years after this show.

Set 2 starts with "Iko Iko", a nice and inspired version, although Garcia's voice is kinda shot. Next comes an "Estimated Prophet", wher Weir is certainly in the mood, jumping around and waving his hands in the air. Garcia starts to get his fingers going here, and they jump into a very nice, jammed out "Uncle John's Band". After the last chorus Garcia hints at "Playin' in the band", but quite quickly draws everything down to the minor scale, and hey! A great, and unusual transition into the perfect song. And so damn good executed. Yes, it's the omnipotent "China Doll". And what a version! Garcia suddenly sings good. Really. And his solos are true perfection, pure haunting beauty! This is art imitating life, I suspect. "China Doll" during the mid-80s was something spectacular, and can't really be compared to the 70s-versions. OK, and here's the suicide-link. The working title of this song was "The Suicide Song", according to Robert Hunter (I believe). Reading the lyrics, it's not hard to understand at least that the song is about death.

After that they jam a little bit and Garcia once more hints at "Playin'", but they decide not to, and the drummers get to do their thing. This of course leads into "Space", out of which comes a powerful "Morning Dew". This song never disappoints, does it? At least Garcia's voice is even better now than before, and he sings with a lot of emotion, as well as playing the guitar magnificently and very inspired. All in all, a great "Morning Dew", although not the best one I've heard. After the final climax, not surprisingly, they dive straight into "Throwing Stones". This one nicely segues into a "Lovelight" which of course isn't the same as a 60s-Pigpen-Lovelight, but you gotta give it to Weir for trying. He does really do a good job, no doubt. And he's very theatrical on stage, doing lots of cool moves :)

The "Baby Blue" encore is also nice. Personally, speaking of GD doing Dylan covers, among many I love the few performances of "She belongs to me" they did in 1985.

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