Monday, February 11, 2008

Garcia's Last Stand

I've been working my way through 30 years of Grateful Dead recordings via over the last couple of months - picking a couple of highly-rated shows with appealing setlists from each year. Quite a fascinating journey. I'll blog up some highlights when I have nothing else going on, but this will do for now.

It was quite dispiriting to hear the band's decline from about '92 (even though I did manage to find the best of '92-'95), particularly Jerry losing his edge. Approaching the end of the road, I found myself listening through the last few shows of the ill-fated '95 summer tour - strangely compelling. The very last show was a bit of a disappointment (interesting how, in his general muddle of missed and misplaced lyrics, he sung "I will take a walk by the last muddy river and dream me a song of my own" in the Black Muddy River encore (the last song he sang live)) - a rather emotional So Many Roads, but otherwise not much worthwhile there. The previous day's show (also at Chicago's Soldier Field) was arguably a bit better, but the real revelation was Jerry getting it together for one last, moving performance - Dylan's "Visions of Johanna". I found some home video footage on YouTube (someone filming the giant screen over the stage). The Captain does look like he's on death's door, but he summons the magic here, gets all the lyrics right and everything. A few people have commented on the moment where he sings "Mona Lisa had them highway blues, you can see it by the way she smiled" and raises his right hand with a particular look in his eyes - a huge cheer goes up from the crowd - some kind of mutual recognition of something ineffable is acknowledged.

note added 10/03/10: Well, Youtube pulled this due to a "terms of use violation", which is a shame, but Jerry looked so rough, maybe it's better to just listen:


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