Reviews

The Dead in Fine Form: 'Grateful Dead View from the Vault Vol. III and IV'

Fans of the Grateful Dead all have their favorite era, but in 1987 and 1990, the San Francisco outfit was playing some of the best shows of its career. These two volumes are proof positive of that.


Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead: View from the Vault III

Label: Shout! Factory
Release date: 2013-08-13
Amazon
iTunes

Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead: View from the Vault IV

Label: Shout! Factory
Release date: 2013-08-13
Amazon
iTunes

During July 1987, Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead teamed up for six dates on the East and West coasts. These gigs afforded the Dead the chance to play on its own each night, then take to the stage with Dylan. Two of those gigs are captured in the newly reissued View from the Vault IV, featuring the venerable San Francisco act Oakland Stadium on 24 July and Anaheim Stadium on 26 July. Volume III, also out once more, finds Jerry Garcia and Co. at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California on 16 June 1990.

The group that took the stage on the latter date was in fine form, sounding better than it would be just a few weeks later when it rolled into Pittsburgh for an 8 July gig at Three Rivers Stadium (seen on the first volume of the View from the Vault series). As good as the 8 July gig is, the 16 June date captures the group having fun and going for the throat, taking to the stage with a booming, unapologetic reading of “Let The Good Times Roll” and moving, without pause, through “Truckin’”, “Touch of Grey”, “Mama Tried” and “Big River”. Not only is it a kind of greatest hits night, it’s the hits played at maximum capability.

The Dead was guilty of some sketchy vocalizing but here everyone, including Garcia, is in fine voice and the guitar interplay between him and Bob Weir is priceless. Garcia never really lost his touch as a lead player on this night he was playing near the peak of his powers. Covers, including “I Know You Rider” and “Big Boss Man” shine beside band standards such as “Estimated Prophet”, “Sugar Magnolia” and “Friend of the Devil”. But it’s the closing reading of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” that’s perhaps most affecting on this collection; the sextet finds nuance after nuance in the Dylan masterpiece which seems to have been written expressly for an outfit just like it. Hearing Garcia who, like Dylan, doesn’t have a classically beautiful voice, emote as he does here is a firm reminder of how the Dead captured our attention and maintained our interest for so many decades.

The two sets from that night are augmented by a 3 October 1987 gig at the same venue with “My Brother Esau” and “West L.A. Fadeaway” fitting in nicely with tracks such as “New Minglewood Blues”, “Candyman” and yet another Dylan composition, “When I Paint My Masterpiece”. This set, along with a visible lyrics option and photo gallery comprise the extras on the DVD.

The Oakland and Anaheim dates found on Volume IV are also evidence of a band that was in fighting form. Coming just weeks after the release of what would become the Dead’s most commercially successful studio album, In The Dark, the two dates are particularly fascinating when you consider that a year before Garcia had emerged from a coma and had to re-learn guitar. He’s especially vibrant during “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo”, “Deal” and “Uncle John’s Band” during the 24 July gig and “Iko Iko”, “West L.A. Fadeaway” and “Shakedown Street” from 26 July.

Keyboardist Brent Mydland, who possessed a good but anonymous voice (as in, you could hear him on a thousand beer commercials and think he had a good voice but if left in charge of fronting a band, you’d probably find his singing too generic) delivers on “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and “Tons of Steel”, a tune that in many others contexts does little to excite but breathes in a way its studio counterpart never could.

Given that this disc offers two full shows there’s not much room for bonus material (aside from, once more, a visible lyrics option) but that hardly matters. Fact is, this is prime Dead and if one were to only snag one volume of View from the Vault it might as well be this one.

Naturally, each iteration of the Dead has its own dedicated fans but these releases, which lean heavily on the Mydland years, suggest that 1987-90 really may have seen the band at its finest hour since the early '70s, having recovered from the ravishes of the Keith and Donna Godchaux and remaining more solid and focused than it would be in the final, post-Mydland years (1990-95).

Whatever era you tend to favor, the dates captured in this series will no doubt offer something to please you as the Dead proved it was a band never short on good playing and unexpected detours into the sublime.

8

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image