Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Album Review: Jerry Garcia Band - GarciaLive Volume 13: September 16th, 1989

Jerry Garcia
GarciaLive Volume 13:
September 16th, 1989 Poplar Creek Music
***and1/2 out of *****

From 1989-91 Jerry Garcia saw his last renaissance as a guitarist, singer and bandleader. His main focus, the Grateful Dead reached high points, not seen/heard/experienced for over a decade and he was prolific on his own with the Jerry Garcia Band tours and other solo ventures. His east coast fall '89 JGB tour was only 10 shows long and many of these have been explored/officially released already, so the pickings are dwindling but each night was special, especially the five which saw Clarence Clemons joining the band; this release focuses on one of those nights.

GarciaLive Volume 13: September 16th, 1989 Poplar Creek Music Theatre finds the band wrapping up this tour with the players firmly in their groove. The group, keyboardist Melvin Seals, drummer David Kemper, bassist John Kahn and backing vocalists Gloria Jones and Jackie LaBranch were old pros at this and Clarence Clemons had been on the road with the outfit for four shows prior to this one, so the musical language was well understood.

Fans familiar with JGB will know what to expect while those newcomers will find languid takes on covers, older tunes and a few solo Garcia songs that aren't regularly played with the Dead. The pace is always slow, but the group interplay can be exciting even with the laid back tempo.

The first set takes a few songs for things to start to click in as the opening trio of songs, "Cats Under Stars", "They Love Each Other" and "Let It Rock" are clunky with the band not truly finding their sweet spot. The sluggish "I Shall Be Released" is the actual low point of this night as the band follows Jerry who creeks and sputters, forgetting some lyrics.

The band though surprisingly clicks into gear during the following "Someday Baby" as Seals steals the spotlight with an outstanding solo giving life to the number and the players carry that forward throughout the night. "Dear Prudence" is dramatic as the group interlock into a whirling crescendo before the gospel influenced "Let's Spend The Night Together" ends the first set on a positive note as Clemmons sax work fits expertly into the band as if he has always been there.

The second set is the main reason to grab this collection as the group is firing from the very first notes of the classic "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" with Jones and LaBranch's vocals dancing gorgeously with Clemons, Seal and Garcia's melodic notes. The dramatic rendition of "Knockin' On Heavens Door" is injected with reggae while Garcia's vocals are strong and passionate with Clemons contributing splendidly.

The blues vamp of "Think" let's the band smooth it on out as Seals and Clemons lead the way while the gospel vibe returns with "Waiting On A Miracle" allowing Garcia to weave in and out with his six string. The soul strutting, tempo and energy all kick up for "Evangeline" as the good times roll into the set closing version of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" which is the only dragging song for the second set.

Things pick back up big time for the show closing ripping cover of "Tangled Up In Blue" culminating in a soaring finish in celebratory fashion over the Bob Dylan classic. While Garcia fans have heard multiple shows from this run, GarciaLive Volume 13: September 16th, 1989 Poplar Creek Music Theatre is a worthy addition to Garcia's legacy as he, Clemons and crew deliver the goods.

Support the band, buy the album and peep some video below:

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