The “Prime” of the Grateful Dead

First let me say that it’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any music, let alone, The Dead, but I recently listened to a really hot show–one that intend to review soon.  This show really catches this band in their prime, but in order to define ‘prime’ it is important to note that The Dead had several primes, and this just happens to be one of them.

The “primes” of The Dead can most easily be marked by the personnel changes in the keyboard slot–also known as the hot-seat when it comes to The Dead because they either died as keyboardist with The Dead, or died shortly after their stint.  Here I’ll talk a little about the personnel, and in subsequent installments, I’ll give an example of a performance that typified their stay, or that particular “prime” with the band.

Some folks prefer the primal Dead marked in large part by Pig Pen, the iconic whiskey swilling, organ and harp playing, and liable to say anything on stage, larger than life personality who helped make the The Dead stand out as something more than just a psychedelic blues band.  His antics were unpredictable and the things that came out of his mouth would make the PC crowd shudder.

Other folks prefer The Dead most commonly associated with Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux who were brought in on the very tail end of Pig’s career prior to his death from complications due to cirrhosis of the liver–a bit too much swilling.  Keith’s jazz influences and his insistence on playing an acoustic piano almost exclusively led to a band that explored everything from jazz-rock fusion to disco.

Still, some folks prefer The Dead of the Brent Mydland years who came in to replace the Godchauxs–Keith had developed an addiction to alcohol and had a nasty habit of falling asleep at the keys, and Donna, well, she could make Bob Dylan sound like a songbird.  Soon after they were fired, Keith died in a car accident.  Brent played several different sets of keys:  piano, organ, synthesizer–and could also sing, so he was able to not only replace Keith and Donna from a personnel standpoint, but he went beyond, and though I would shy away from too many comparisons to Pig Pen, Brent brought back some personality behind the keys and brought an edge to the music that made it sound fresh again.

Finally, there are those people who prefer The Dead with Vince Welnick at the keys–Vince was brought in after Brent died of a drug overdose.  Why this would be your favorite, I have no idea.

Stay tuned to this space, and I’ll review the show I originally set out to review:  Live at the Civic Center Music Theater in Oklahoma City, OK on 11/15/1972.  For now, have a Happy Thanksgiving, and you’ll hear from me soon.

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Grateful Dead Live at the Greek Theater 1982-05-22 – A Review

I’ve posted the link to the audio at the end of this review, but I would love for you to check out the review first, listen, and then let me know what you think. 

I’ve been listening to every ’82 show I can get my hands on, and thanks to the Internet Archive, and specifically, their “Dead Zone”, I can stream these shows, and I often have a selection of several versions of the same show to choose from.  Back to 1982…  ’82 is a really hot year that sort of gets forgotten between the big years of ’77 and ’85, but it is fantastic music that should be heard.  The band seems fresh, and they have a couple of things going for them that the 2 big years above weren’t able to afford them. 

In ’77 (and ’78 to a larger extent) the Godchauxs were weighing the band down.  Donna for one reason or another (there are lots of arguments in her defense as well as arguments against her) Donna became very shrill, and Keith’s grand piano had locked the band into a place that made it difficult for them to be dynamic and evolutionary.  Besides, Keith’s battle with alcohol had made him little more than a sleeping fixture on stage.

In mid ’79, Brent Mydland essentially filled the spot that both Godchauxs had occupied, and came in with not only a new sound vocally, but he supplied a new array of sounds on the keys that really allowed the band to explore the bounds that they had previously occupied.  Although 12/01/79 is one of my all-time favorites, it really did take a couple of years for Brent to really settle-in and find his space in the music and probably took as long for the band understand where he was in the music as well.  It is interesting to note that in the previous Spring tour, Jerry had switched sides on the stage with Phil on 04/02/82 in order to be next to Brent, a position he would remain in while on stage for the duration.

Back to the concert…  What a show!  I’m a sucker for Jack Straw shows, and maybe I’m a total geek, but I’ve even got a Great Northern t-shirt.  The band is listening to each other, and playing well together.  The Jack Straw pleases, the Sugaree is fantastic, Cassidy hits those outer limits but brings it all back home, but that Cumberland Blues simply blisters–it is definitely one of the good ones that I asked about in a previous post about best versions/performances of Dead songs.

I was a bit worried when I saw the Lazy Lightning, but from the first notes, you realize that this isn’t 1985 where they play it much faster than their ability to make it sound any good.  This one cooks and satisfies, and so does the Deal to end the first set.  I love a good Deal first set ender.

In typical fashion, a first set starting with Jack Straw is coupled with a second set starting with China>>>Rider, and this one has all the components you would want.  This is a good one to listen to in order to get a feel of the band.  There is so much energy brewing here, but it’s all about how well it is harnessed.  In fact, and I’m not the first to say this, but the recurring train theme in Dead music is the perfect metaphor for the band–so much power moving on its own and the question is, how to control it.  Sometimes you just have to hold on, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Women Are Smarter is fun, Never Trust a Woman showcasing Brent’s personality is gritty, and the Lost Sailor>>>Saint of Circumstance is right on the money.  They explore, and as you’ll find typical of this particular show, they all coalesce around that emotionally climactic rallying-point in the music.  Again, you may not always know where you are within the context of the music, but you have the confidence that the band will help pull you out of it and allow you to make some sense of where the music has taken you.

He’s Gone, a usual jumping-off point, helps propel this one into that second half of the second set otherworldly realm and dumps you off into a short drums and then into space.  I agree with folks who say that Not Fade Away should pull out of space rather than end the show, and that’s exactly what happens here.  Maneuvering out of the fog, they give form to chaos, and before you know it, you are listening to the old familiar cadence of Not Fade Away, and it feels good.  Brent’s organ swirls while Jerry’s guitar shreds and Bob finds those funny angles in the music; all the while Phil is dropping sonic bombs and Mickey and Billy are laying down a gauntlet.

Once they’ve squeezed that one for every drop, they send you off on an up-tempo Wharf Rat.  I cannot stress this enough, but the Dead understood the power of silence as well as the power of volume, and it is readily apparent in this one.  They are spot-on in this version instrumentally, and their harmonies are quite good–again, a fact that owes a great deal to bandmates listening to each other.  Another aspect of the band that this song tells about is the overall physical condition of the band.  In later years when Jerry ballooned-up, he would absolutely struggle through this song, typically placed late in the second set, and it would be dreadfully evident in his vocals.  This one is very nice.

The Around and Around is, well, it’s Around and Around, and although the Good Lovin’ starts a little shaky, it settles down and yields a really nice Bob rap and build-up to the end.  The U.S. Blues encore is a nice one to hear and is a great exclamation point to this show, and this is not just a mail-it-in encore either; these guys are still at work, and you can tell by the crowd bleed-in through the mics that the crowd loves it.  This encore is a real thankyou from the band to the crowd–the band loves it too.

All in all, this is a fantastic show.  Sure you will find problems with it, but this show comes from a time when they were playing really well and enjoying themselves.  I would definitely recommend checking this show out as well as challenge you to listen to that whole ’82 – ’83 period and weigh it against what might be your favorite period.  This is good stuff and it rocks.  Here is the link (enjoy, and again, let me know what you think, and while you’re at it, tell me what YOU are listening to):

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Les Paul: A Life of Musical Innovation

photo courtesy

photo courtesy

I haven’t said anything about Les Paul since his death a week ago, but I’ll just say that when I saw Les Paul guitar for the first time, I just had to have one.  In guitar parlance, you are, very very generally, either a Les Paul guy or a Stratocaster guy.  If you are familiar with the sound, you’ll know that the Les Paul has a deeper tone, or, as I like to call it, a bit of a growl to it, in comparison to the twangy brightness of the Strat.

We’ve got Les Paul to thank for two of the most important musical innovations of the 20th century:  the electric guitar, and multi-track recording.  We take it all for granted because we are just used to hearing music rather than recording it, but if you’ve ever done any recording, you know that multi-track recording not only changed the way it was recorded, but changed the way we all listen to music, and what we expect to hear when we are listening to it.

Rather than talk about his life – there’s plenty of information about Les Paul and his life story – I would rather you sit back and listen to him play and talk about his life and his music.  Accompanied by Marian McPartland who is a fantastic pianist – if you can ever catch her show, please do – Paul Nowinski on bass, and Lou Pallo on rhythm guitar, Les Paul gives you a big juicy slice of musical history that deserves a listen.

Please take a listen here, enjoy, and share your thoughts:

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Grateful Dead Live at Madison Square Garden on 1987-09-19 – A Review

Courtesy Steve Zipser and

My business partner told me this morning that Mickey Hart had been a good friend of Walter Cronkite, and that Cronkite had been something of a closet Head.  The way they met, or as well as I could piece it together, is pretty interesting.  Apparently, Stephen Stills was to do the music for a sailing documentary that Cronkite was going to be narrating.  The long and the short of it was that Stills ended-up flaking-out and Mickey along  with Jerry Garcia, Carlos Santana and some others put together a soundtrack for the documentary, and that’s how the two met and eventually became friends.

The articles that I read placed that meeting some time in ’87 or shortly thereafter, so I’m not completely clear on the date, but Mickey invited Cronkite to a show at MSG and Cronkite reluctantly accepted.  His comment to Mickey was that he was looking for reasons to leave during the show, but couldn’t find one.  He was hooked.

In any event, I thought it might be appropriate to try and track down the show, but with little success.  Oh, I have access to the show, I just don’t know which it is…  Not having any luck finding the date I was looking for, and for the purposes of just simply listening to the music rather than getting lost in research, I chose this show from Saturday night in a 5 night run – hey, I’m a sucker for Maggie’s Farm (don’t worry, I’ve included a link for the show below, but read first).  I’ve long had the  show from the night before which features a smoking La Bamba, but I had overlooked this little gem.

The recording quality of this soundboard is particularly good, and as is the case with most MSG shows, the mood is electrifying, and the band is on and having some fun.  Also of note is the fact that this one was being broacast on television for the FarmAid Benefit, hence the particular importance of Maggie’s Farm appearance in this show.

From the very start the music is very tight and, though the lyrics get flubbed quite a bit, the setlist is good, and one thing I always like to hear is interaction between the band and the audience.  In the first set, we hear, “we want Phil. we want Phil.”  Phil makes reference to how well restrained the crowd had been in the nights before, and rewards the crowd with Box of Rain – one I always like to see in a setlist.

The Crazy Fingers > UJB > Playin’ is very good, but particulary the transition into Playin’ – it is right on the money.  Drums and Space are enjoyable, and this comes from a guy who used to wear out his fast forward button as he zipped through Drums and Space every chance he heard it – boy was I happy when I could just advance to the next track on a CD.

The post Drums and Space sequence is really nice with Miracle into a Maggie’s Farm that lives up to expectations.  This was the first time they had done this one on their own after having played it 3x while touring with Dylan a couple of months before.  It is un-rehearsed, spontaneous, and very hot.  Not all of the lyric assignments had been as worked out as they would be in later years, but the unknown often comes together and yields wonderful results.

Lovelight is short and sweet but hot, and is a good capper for the 2nd set.  The encore is a sweet Black Muddy River – one that always makes my eyes feel like they are about to well-up.  This one is well-played and by the book, but everyone sounds good, and Brent’s tinkling on the keys through the second part of the chorus makes the hair stand up on my arms.

Overall, this show more than satisfies, and is a good example of how the band could rise to the occasion when it needed to.  It’s a stellar show, and one I think you ought to listen to.  Let me know what you think.  Enjoy the show:

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15 Concerts in 15 Minutes (well, not exactly)

Recently, I was tagged on Facebook in a note that asked me to come up with 15 albums in 15 minutes – albums that were basically influential enough on me to make me change the way I looked at (or listened to) the world.  I think this is a great exercise, because if you are like me, you find that 15 albums is such a small allotment that it forces you to throw out a number of good albums in order to create a pretty concentrated list.  Rather than using this space for that list, you can see it here on our website.

 My cousin liked the Dead-leaning list and suggested that someone put a list together of Dead tunes along with a date for a favorite performance of that song.  I love the idea, so I will be working in collaboration here with him – he’s supplied the list of tunes, and I will now supply the dates.  I hope you enjoy (and I hope you know that I didn’t put this together in 15 minutes): 

  • Morning Dew – 08/06/71 – This is the way this song should sound.  This is not quite primal Dead – they’re starting to come into their own – but they really know how to build this one up.  Bravo.  LISTEN
  • Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain – 09/15/85 – This one was easy for me because this performance always blows me away.  The entire second set is a must have, but especially the Scarlet>Fire opener.  This one is silky smooth.  LISTEN
  • Peggy-O – 10/30/77 – This one was pretty easy too.  I’ve long loved this version first because it has some sentimental value based on where it was performed, my alma mater, but beyond that, it is the right arrangement of verses and instrumental breaks that gives this one a certain gravity that really conveys the message and meaning of this song.  Also a very good show.  LISTEN
  • They Love Each Other – 09/10/93 – This one was easy as well.  Two college roommates of mine were at this one and I have just always loved this version – Jerry really gets funky on this one.  If you are a Jackstraw fan, as I am, you cannot go without this show.  LISTEN
  • Althea – 07/19/90 – This is one of my favorite shows-perhaps because I’m a bit partial to the home turf, but both sets are just so solid.  Althea can be a snoozer for me, but this one is really well-played, and upbeat.  Please listen to this whole show though, and let me know what you think.  LISTEN
  • Row Jimmy – 06/10/90 – I really had to think about this one.  I’m not a huge fan of this song because it tends to drag for me, but this particular one’s got a bit of a bounce to it that moves it along quite nicely, and the interplay between Jerry and Brent at the end is very nice too.  LISTEN
  • Wharf Rat – 07/27/73 – I couldn’t resist this one.  The Wharf Rat is kind of the dessert to the famous Watkins Glen Soundcheck Jam.  If that doesn’t mean anything to you, lots of luck.  This Jam>>>Wharf Rat combination is otherworldly; that’s all I can say about it.  LISTEN
  • Help on the Way>Slipnot>Franklin’s Tower – 10/31/91 – This wasn’t my first choice which would have been the 08/13/75 version released as One from the Vault, but that would have been too easy.  This one has a certain intensity to it; in fact the whole show does, and I would definitely recommend sticking around and listening to the entire show.  LISTEN
  • Terrapin Station – 06/15/85 – I’ve always liked this one.  I thought about selecting another date, but the interplay between Jerry and Brent during the solo is ethereal, and despite his strung-out sound during that period, he manages to hit this one out of the park.  The outro from this one is very nice too.  LISTEN
  • Bertha – 07/08/78 – This one for me is so good because the band utilizes all of the different rhythmic qualities of the verse AND chorus, and they don’t just play it straight…Does that make sense?  Listen especially about half-way through Jerry’s solo.  This is a stellar version from a really stellar couple of shows that summer from Red Rocks.  LISTEN
  • Loser – 05/08/77 – Tough one.  Loser isn’t a song I’m typically looking for in a set, although it is one that is fun to play on the guitar, so I know why Jerry played it.  I have to admit that this one I didn’t choose so much for the performance of the song, but for the show itself.  If you follow the music, then you know this date pretty well, and this version just happens to be very tight and powerful.  LISTEN
  • Candyman – 10/14/80 – This too is a tough one.  Candyman is not the first song that comes to mind, but I do know that I like those early Brent versions of the song because of his ability to carry the harmony.  This is a nice quiet version of the song with a very laid-back pace to it.  LISTEN
  • Stella Blue – 10/14/83 – This is the last easy one on the list.  You’re either a Stella Blue fan or you aren’t, and I happen to be one, and I can say that I don’t know of a single other performance of this one that combines the loneliness and eeriness of the front end of this song with such a warm and redemptive ending.  Unfortunately, the AUD does not capture it like the SBD.  Update:  Well, it looks like you get the AUD you wanted; the concert has been released as a Dick’s Picks edition.  LISTEN
  • Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad – 02/20/71 – First of all, I love this one because it is the meat in a Not Fade Away sandwich, but the thing that makes this one smoke is how they work it out after the And We Bid You Goodnight instrumental part.  Truly a one-of-a-kind version as far as I’m concerned.  The Lovelight screams too.  LISTEN
  • Throwing Stones – 10/09/89 – This one’s a bit tough for me because I think of it more as a setup tune than anything else-a kind of appetizer to the main course.  Having said that though, I’ve always liked this one mainly because it carries the mood of this show into the final number.  It also happens to be one of my absolute favorite shows ever.  Talk about intensity.  That Dark Star is a monster.  LISTEN 

I loved doing this, but I’ve got songs that I’m curious to know what you think about.  If you are reading, please try and come up with some dates to put next to the following songs: 

  • Cumberland Blues
  • Dark Star
  • Let it Grow
  • Shakedown Street
  • Jack Straw
  • Black Peter
  • China>>>Rider
  • Cassidy
  • Sugaree
  • Viola Lee Blues
  • Uncle John’s Band

 Proving once again that we do more than just show you the best deals in the Phoenix real estate market; we show you how to get the most out of living in Arizona, and try to help you get the most out of what you are listening to.

Phish Live 12/30/93 – A Review

N.B.:  I have posted a link to listen to this show at the bottom of this review, but I would love if you read my review before you listen.  Thanks.

I’ve wanted to do this one for a long time, and besides, a live concert review is long overdue.  This has got to be one of my favorite live performances of all time by any band and this show on the night before new year’s eve at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, ME captures this band at the height of their career.  I’ve talked about it before, but there are those nights when things just click and even mistakes made by members of the band seem to fit within the scheme of the music, and this one is no exception.

This is a period within the band’s career that is near and dear to my heart.  This is around the time I was first introduced to them, and in my opinion, this is technically the period of their greatest work.  This show is a snapshot of that time of a band firing on all cylinders and having fun doing it.  The band had the ability to re-invent themselves several times throughout their performing career, and I loved all of those changes, but this is my favorite:  Raw, witty, funny, carefree, and close to the audience. 

This venue seats 9,000, but I remember around that time seeing them in a venue that seated a mere 3,200.  In venues that size, you really felt like you knew the band, and it created this very intimate relationship and added a completely different element to those shows, much more so than the huge stadium shows from later in their career.  This is an element that is important to consider when listening to this show.

Set I.

This one eases into an incredibly clean David Bowie which smoothly quotes Aerosmith’s Dream On in a couple of spots.  The song happens to be one of my favorites anyway, but there are plenty of versions of this one I could do without.  This one captures the the energy of the band at an early point but is also a very well-performed version.

Weigh bounces along as a good first set foil to David Bowie.  Whoever knows what weigh is about, please let me know, but even not knowing is okay.  This one  comes from that strange place in Mike Gordon’s head and it rocks.

The Curtain>Sample in a Jar is error free, but the Paul and Silas is in overdrive and sizzles.  Trey’s work on the guitar is amazing, but John Fishman’s drumming makes it sound like 3 drummers are at work on stage.

Now that everyone is sufficiently warmed-up, the band uses Colonel Forbin’s Ascent to lead the crowd into Gamehendge, and then they cap that journey of with Mockingbird.  My description wouldn’t do it justice, so you’ve simply got to listen to it to know what I mean, but suffice it to say that it is one of my favorite live moments in my collection.  It really emphasizes the interaction between the band and the audience that was central to this concept of this act.

The Rift is blazing – one of my favorites – and the Bathtub Gin takes the end jam to an unbelievably fast crescendo before deconstucting the tune back down to a crawl.  You get the impression that they can’t make a mistake as you are listening to this one.

The first set ends with a riotous a capella rendition of Freebird that really speaks to the band’s sense of humor.  How can you not laugh when you listen to it?  …but it’s good too!  Please don’t take this one too seriously.

Set II.

The second set is a real roller coaster ride of songs daisy-chained together, and opens with a scorcher Also Sprach Zarathrusta; this is one you will definitely want to crank.  It’s hard to keep still while listening to this one in your car, so just get used to the people staring at you from their own cars and take comfort in the fact that your entertainment is likely better than theirs.

Next in line is Mike’s Song which would normally work right into Weekapaug Groove, but they’ve deftly tucked The Horse>Silent in the Morning combination which slows things down a bit before they pick them back up with a Punch You in the Eye>McGrupp combination and back into a Weekapaug Groove that you hope will not stop.  Everyone is popping at the same time and the music feels like it’s got a life of its own.

There is a nice little vocal jam at the end of Weekapaug that drags down into a great Purple Rain, perfect for all of you 80’s music fans out there, that ends with some more Phish humor, a Fishman-plays-Henrietta vacuum cleaner solo.

The band stops, tunes-up, and lights in on nothing short of a majestic Slave to the Traffic Light that works through its slightly reggae sound, into a short screaming guitar solo, and then stretches out into an ambient jam that culminates into a theme monumental enough to close this one out.

This one gets 2 encores if that tells you anything.  Rocky Top is the first and it is super-fast, but the one I really like is the Good Times/Bad Times.  About all I can say is that they take this one and make it their own.  This is definiteyly the exclamation point that this show deserves.

If you are going to listen to it, I encourage you to do it in one sitting and without distraction.  This is a show, like many live shows, that cannot really be judged by taking each individual song and listening to them as standalone songs.  Each song relies on the one before it and/or after it for contrast and mood and to listen to one song without listening to the next would be to listen out of context.

Reading my words is one thing, but they don’t do justice to the show itself.  It is one of my absolute favorites and it is in fairly regular rotation in my car because I don’t tire of it very easily.  So here you go Grasshopper, enjoy!

Check out the setlist here

Well, I hope we haven’t bored you death, but please remember, we are the guys who talk about more than just Phoenix real estate; we talk about the things we enjoy and the things we have a passion for, and we hope that, at the very least, you can see that.  We invite you to comment or to suggest other topics about which we have perhaps not yet spoken.  Thanks again for listening. 

Grateful Dead Live 12/01/79 – A Review

This is something that I was going to start doing a long time ago, but haven’t gotten around to it until now.  I’m going to start doing some reviews of some of my favorite live shows – primarily Dead shows – and will ask that if you have a particularly good show, let me know; I’d be happy to listen to it and give you my opinion. 

To quote Bill Graham, the famous concert promoter, he said of the Dead, “They’re not the best at what they do; they’re the only ones who do what they do”, and in that spirit, these shows that I review may not be THE best shows, but they are shows that have stuck with me and have stood the test of time.

With that said, I’d like to start this series by reviewing one of my favorite shows:  December 1st, 1979 at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, PA (The link for the show is at the bottom of this review, but please read on).  For me, this is the best of that run of year-end shows, but pick anything from the beginning of November up to the New Year’s show, and it’s worth a listen.  There is plenty of energy, the band is on, the sound quality is good, and there is a certain raw edge about the music that just makes it different, and I think the crowd feels it too.  This is one of those shows that looks like many shows from that time period on paper, but turn it on and start listening and you’ll hear the difference.

The first set, though not outstanding or even out of the ordinary features a beautiful and stretched-out ‘Sugaree’ that really takes the song to some new places for me.  The ‘Me and My Uncle>>>Big River’ that follows COOK, and ‘The Music Never Stopped’ really rocks and provides a nice setup for the real jewel of this show:  The second set.

The second set starts off with my all-time favorite ‘China>>>Rider’ combination.  The ‘China Cat Sunflower’ is really upbeat and bounces along with alot of energy, and holds that energy between songs before transitioning into that familiar lick that tips off the ‘I Know You Rider’ to come. 

What makes this ‘China>>>Rider’ transition so wonderful is not just the musicianship – although it IS great – but it is the chemistry working between these guys.  Jerry is right on the money because he’s listening to Phil who’s dropping his bass notes right around Mickey and Billy’s rhythm lines, Bobby’s angular guitar works in thrusts and massages the music into the direction it needs to go, and Brent, who’s only been around a few months now, sounds like a seasoned veteran as his keyboards glisten over the music.

The ‘I Know You Rider’ simply soars.  It is hard driving and unbridled in parts, but has some contemplative and downright quiet passages, especially leading into the “Wish I was a headlight on a north-bound train” verse (by the way, I think the arrangement of the solo before that verse also helps make it superior to its peers).  Jerry really belts out that verse and brings it home, but everyone is really spot-on here.

We get a break now and relax to Phil and Mickey make the sound of thunder for the perfect lead-in to ‘Looks Like Rain’.  Sometimes this is one of those tunes that I could personally do without, but this one is so well-done…  Bobby sounds good and doesn’t over-reach on the vocals which he can have a tendency to do on this one, but for me the thing that seals the deal on this one is the end segment where Brent and Jerry are noodling around and building up the momentum with Bobby matching the intensity with his vocals.  Again, I would have to say that this is one of the best versions of this song I know of. 

Now we get one more break before we start off on our musical journey.  This ‘He’s Gone’ is an extremely relaxed version and tends to drift comfortably along, again with quiet as well as loud passages throughout the song which is a very nice performance but the quiet and soulful “nothing’s gonna’ bring him back” followed by the very spacey section at the end not only foreshadows the musical trip you about to embark  on, but it is a real treat for the ears.  You could hear throughout the month of November that they had been working on this ending but it had not yet clicked the way it does here.

Jerry noodles for a while and allows the music to meander like an old river until Mickey and Billy start speeding things up a bit with Bobby zinging-in with that metallic sounding effect.  The experiment builds a bit and then Jerry flips the switch on his guitar and that warm fuzz starts working, and the boys play around a bit until they build things into a frenetic rhythm punctuated by phil’sbass who moves the rhythm into a hard driving ‘Gloria Jam’.  As far as I know, this is the first of its kind.  What follows is a very strange and trippy segment where Brent works the keys in a most psychedelic way, but somehow it works and the boys are point so they just feel when and where to pull out of the darkness and back into a cohesive jam.

This jam works its way into a nicely paced blues style jam with Jerry warbling notes all over the place and Bobby on the slide.  All of this happens seamlessly as they transition into a new key and into the first ‘CC Rider’.  Bobby sings this better than he would ever sing it again, and what can I say about Jerry and Brent on this one?  Jerry starts out nice and easy but absolutely ends-up shredding, and Brent’s organ break makes me feel like I’m in a church.  They end this one emphatically, and drift right back into the ebb and flow of that background jam that got them here.

Jerry begins his trilling again and the boys build-up a heavy rhythm that works right into the drum sequence of this show, and let me tell you:  It is inspired.  It is roughly 10 minutes of Mickey and Billy playing off of each other and taking this show to new places.  We know where we are going when we begin to hear that all too familiar cadence.

‘Not Fade Away’ materializes out of nowhere and as laid back as it comes on, don’t let it fool you – this one is serious and they mean business.  Brent zaps along with his synthesizer and Bobby slides as Jerry tries to pull it together while Phil is pounding out the bass line and really driving this one with the rhythm section.  One point I always notice in this one is how Brent snatches the first instrumental break from Jerry and really cooks it up, but Jerry will not be outdone and just smashes through the next one, fanning at a blistering pace.  As he wraps-up, we get the fuzz again and work our way back into the jam, and this is a fantastic little sequence that deserves your attention.

This amazing jam rockets into the stratosphere and they slow things down once they  have us all in geo-syncronousorbit and work us down into the most touching ‘Black Peter’ I know.  Jerry sounds so close to the mic and the music sounds so quiet that the crowd must hush to hear it, and I personally think Jerry sounds ‘good’ on vocals – well, you know what I mean by ‘good’:  as in just right for the mood of the song.  Bobby is great on the slide effects that he works throughout the song and the rhythm is right on.  Jerry’s solo is nice too, but the end part has Jerry singing “come and see” and mimicking the refrain on his guitar and it sounds as authentic as ever could:  Soulful and heart-felt.

We then roll out of ‘Black Peter’ into a raucous and hard-driving ‘Sugar Magnolia’ which can be another one of those novelty tunes, but this one is beautiful and Bobby keeps himself in-check.  They stretch this one out a bit and I don’t think anyone minds because it is just like the rest of the 2nd set in terms of the musicianship and creativity, and what a way to end this 2nd set.

‘One More Saturday Night’ is the encore that caps this fantastic and highly recommended show.  Yes, it’s a good performance of the song, but it’s more of a message of thanks to crowd than anything that says, “we had just as good a time as you guys.”

The long and the short of this show is that the 2nd set is what makes it different than most shows (hell, I didn’t even know the 1st set existed on tape until years later), and though it might look the same on paper as other 2nd sets, this one has an energy which is hard to put your finger on it, and it kind of reminds me – I was reading an article the other day and the author cited someone who said that he couldn’t define romantic love, but he could point it out when he saw it – that’s what I mean.  Although I know people will totally disagree with me, for me the sound quality of the performance is great.  I think I said it before, but the vocals sound so close and the instruments are mixed very well and the percussion is well defined.  The thing that really does it though is their use of soft and loud to emphasize mood and gravity, and I think they exhibited this masterfully, and I think this is a nuance that can often be lost on even good audience recordings. 

It really is my favorite show, and I hope you take the opportunity to listen to the show HERE (there are other versions toward the bottom of the page HERE) and then visit the music resources section of our website where we talk about much more than Phoenix real estate.  I hope you enjoyed this review and I can tell you that there will be more, but if you have a show that you would like reviewed, let us know – it’s something we love doing.