Monday, August 16, 2010

Grateful Dead in Saratoga Part III: 6-27-1985

The town of Saratoga has a lot of appeal this time of year, and while there are numerous reasons why, here are a few of my personal favorites:
 The Track-  Obviously this is the major draw (besides visiting my family), but I talked about it a bit already and will talk about it more in the upcoming weeks so lets move on.
Golf-  There are some picturesque links up there and while I haven't played the new and luxurious Saratoga National, there are number of other great courses in the area that are fantastic to play.  

 The Bar Scene- Caroline Street is the center of the town and the center of the partying for the area.  There are a ton of bars worth checking out there but my favorite bar is off the beaten path a bit, The Parting Glass.
If I could take this bar and transport it to NYC I would be in heaven, with 3 rooms (1 dart room, 1 for live music and 1 regular pub-style) the bar has everything you could want for a night hanging out.  I have tons of memories from this place from lots of great nights, making a point to visit there at least once every year to grab a "Cap Codder" Sandwich and a few pints.  Some of my fondest memories are with my family catching some live tunes; we saw The Clancy Brothers there on Saint Patrick's Day one year when I was in High School

and seeing Black 47 with my father and friends making a roadtrip upstate while in college.

many other rollicking good times with lots of friends from all over (including Ireland itself).  A fine piece of the Saratoga community place that supports great  local acts as well, stop by if you are in town, worth the journey.

OK lets get to today's show from The Grateful Dead, it is third in our little trip into the bands past history with this town and conveniently the 3rd time they played there: 6-27-1985
 This is a pitch perfect recording of this show, an excellent Matrix mix created by Hunter Seamons, sounding as if you are in the crowd on this hectic night.  This was the most crowded show ever held at the venue with 40,231 people in attendance.  That record breaking audience was in for a treat as The Dead were in the midst of fantastic run of nights, even if this one would get them banned from the venue for the next three years.  I already reviewed a show from only 3 days after in Maryland, the boys were in clearly hitting their stride even if Jerry physically wasn't.

While Jerry's voice (and health) is clearly hurting all over, his guitar playing here is still excellent, and Bobby really goes overboard singing magnificently to pick up some of the slack.  Like past SPAC shows a really sweet opener lets the fans know specialness is a'comin'.  Their cover of Wilson Picketts classic "In The Midnight Hour" just oozes out after some tuning and grooves all over, it is relaxed easy playing that would be the staple of a top-notch first set, ranking amongst the best opening frames the band did during the 80's.      
"Little Red Rooster" has the two guitarists playing in circles with Bobby breaking out the slide and getting loud in a good way on this one. 
The show then has to take a break because people in the crowded house begin to hang off the balcony and the band tells them they won't play until the jokers get back into their seats.  During the break the boys tell the groan worthy "Dog/Nose" joke to entertain the masses.  Supposedly I read account years ago where the people in the balcony were dancing so much that it was bouncing up and down and there was a real safety concern that the balcony could collapse.

"Stagger Lee" winningly shows up and minus the Jerry vocals the playing here is fine.  Then the group laces into "El Paso" with Brent twinkling away and Bobby taking over the Marty Robbins classic.  The set then gets some mega highlights with "Crazy Fingers>Supplication Jam>High Time" which is a super run of dramatic scales and glorious group interplay.  Both songs work well even with Jerry's strained vocals, and with "High Time" it is almost because of them.  The desperation and ache that would make his ballads must hears in the late 80's and 90's is on display with this tune.  It looks like the band is going to end the first set the same way they have done the last 2 years at SPAC with the "Hell In A Bucket>Deal" combo, but they throw a mini-curveball with "Don't Ease Me In" taking "Deals" spot as set closer.  "Hell in a Bucket" has Jerry going ballistic on his 6 strings, and the drummers motoring along.  A great set of playing that would be enough for most bands, but we got a whole other set to get too...
 The opener of "Feel Like A Stranger" has a big time disco vibe with Wah-Wah from Jerry and some poppy bass from Phil.  It has a "Shakedown Street" feel to it as the boys are getting funky and loose with the number before going directly into an old classic with "Eyes of The World".  There is energetic playing being presented on this tune, highlighted by Brent's keyboard runs and Jerry's light airy guitar notes matching him.  The group speak in song for 9 minutes with Eyes before the move into "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad".  Showing up earlier in the set then normal it is a fun, upbeat ride that doesn't last long before the reggae splashdown of "Man Smart, Woman Smarter".     

Things naturally work there way into a "Drums" segment that goes on really long as does the "Space" at this SPAC show.  The band brings things back to song structure with one of their most beloved "Truckin'".        
While "Truckin" is all smiles before melting into "Spoonful", the energy is certainly down a little bit and "Black Peter" is never one of my favorites especially at this point in the set, I am not sure why but this tune just doesn't resonate with me.  The set closing Bobby version of "Lovelight" must have been a blast for the huge crowd and tries to end the set on a positive, if not all time memorable note.

The Double Cover SPAC Encore tradition is still alive and kicking with the band playing the Chuck Berry all time classic Johnny B Goode:
Before ending the night with Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" again like the year before.  Because of the huge crowd, garbage, marshmallow fights, naked dancing and safety concerns the band would skip the next few summers up in Saratoga, but they would return...ahh but that is for next week.  Enjoy this show, especially it's great first set (and beginning of the second). 


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  2. amazing show! appreciate the background and writeup. thank you.