Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Album Review: Grateful Dead - Dave's Picks Vol 33: 10/29/77 Dekalb, IL

Grateful Dead
Dave's Picks Vol 33: 10/29/77 Evans Field House Dekalb, IL
**** out of *****

1977 is one of the best years in Grateful Dead history. Some of their strongest shows were played during these 12 months as the band released Terrapin Station and solidified their set lists before the disco and eighties settled in. There are a ton of great shows from this year and Dave/Dick's Picks have already highlighted seven others (one famous show recently) from this year alone not including other releases and box sets). Dekalb now makes eight from Dave/Dick and it is yet another solid example of the band clicking at it's peak.

Dealing with the second set first for a change, the group eases in with some fine relaxed playing of staple "Bertha" and fan favorite "Friend of the Devil" but it is during "Eyes of The World" where the band picks up steam. The number finds Jerry Garcia leading the charge as always, but the motoring drumming from Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann push things forward challenging Garcia to rise ever higher with his solo.

After a psychedelic "Space" excursion the band bring it back together with a slow/deliberate "St. Stephen" that grows in stature as the player locks in half way into the proceedings before dropping into drum work indicating "Not Fade Away". The true set highlight arrives next and is just one of three songs on this night which are in contention for 'best-ever-version' of a particular tune.

The somber ballad "Black Peter" finds the pain seeping out of Garcia's guitar lines and vocal delivery like few live versions ever have. Keith Godchaux plays with twinkling grace and the production from David Lemieux and his team is so crisp and clean  that you can hear Donna Jean pick up her tambourine before she even starts playing, stunning all around.

The first set is book ended by two versions of lesser loved Dead tunes whose delivery on this night are high on the best-ever-versions lists. The show kicks off with the most fiery "Might As Well" that has ever been blasted out by the band. Whether it is the good mood they were clearly in (Phil Lesh mentions this is the happiest day of his life at one point) or there were other chemicals getting ingested, the energy is off the charts for this normally spaced out group. Garcia is hootin' and holler'n to kick off the show and while the pace dissipates there are still strong first set tunes, noticeably a dramatic rendering of "Loser". 

After a solid "New Minglewood Blues" where Godchaux plays an electric keyboard (perhaps for the first time?) the set ends with another barn burner. "Let It Grow" is a whirlwind of guitars and vocals from Bob Weir and Donna all propelled by Lesh's phenomenal bass work. The opening and closing of this set prove that the Dead could amp up the energy and tempo and keep their style intact, delivering the goods with crazed pacing.

Dekalb is a damn good show from top to bottom, and while other '77 shows might shine a bit brighter, the amazing sound and playing from this night is a worthy addition to the series. Truly, it is hard to go wrong with any release designated a Dave's Pick, as the series just keeps on truckin'.       
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Support the band, buy the album and peep some video below:
(Audio not from the official release)

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