Thursday, December 30, 2021

Album Review: Grateful Dead - Dave's Picks 40: 7/18-19/90 Deer Creek, IN

Grateful Dead
Dave's Picks 40: 7/18-19/90 Deer Creek, Noblesville, IN
**** out of *****

The Grateful Dead were having a late career renaissance at the end of the 80's and the beginning of the 90's with the band riding a surprise MTV hit into selling out arena's around the country. The group has already captured this live era on Without A Net and Dozin' at the Knick during their playing days and then released two full box sets of their Spring 1990 tour after Jerry Garcia passed away. Safe to say the band enjoys this time period with Bob Weir even stating, "For my money, this was our hottest era."

The hotness kept rolling into the summer of 1990 before things were forever altered when keyboardist Brent Mydland died from an overdose on July 26th 1990. Dave's Picks 40 captures two complete shows (minus one encore) from just a few days before Mydland's death and prove that the glory of Spring '90 was still riding high through the summer months.  

The first set offered from 7/18/90 is by far the weakest of the four presented here, but it is not a complete lost cause. After a rickety "Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower" start, which had a few sound issues (and a loud and proud Phil Lesh on bass) Mydland takes over for a electro keyboard led "Easy To Love You". Things chill out during mellow offerings of "Peggy-O" and "When I Paint My Masterpiece" before set highlight "Cassidy" finds the best clicking between all the players on the upbeat jam. 

The band keeps that energy through the set break for the spritely opening combo "China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider" as the second set puts to bed any doubts after a lack luster opening frame. A passionately delivered "Looks Like Rain" from Weir before a thunderous "Terrapin Station" proves this era of the band had real power. Terrapin leads to a unique sounding jam and interplay before the gremlins in the machine start warping with sonic waves in "Space" and an exploratory "Other One", both freaking out the fans with trippy vocal effects/glitches. 

A monstrous "Morning Dew" with huge drums from Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart around Garcia's soaring guitars and screams wraps up the set while an excellent "The Weight" from The Band acts as an encore for the group; a dynamite second set rescues the first with playing and shenanigans that recalled the Dead's early days. 

The next night is also included in this set and it finds the band in better form from the start. "Jack Straw" has Lesh's loose bass sound flowing through the opener while Mydland's solo on "They Love Each Other" is smile inducing. Weir takes over and leads a strong version of the band's take on Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row" and Garcia matches the effort with stout playing and singing on the dripping "Row Jimmy". "Picasso Moon" rock's with an 80's flair before an "Althea" which could rival the best the band has played and a smoking "Promised Land" concludes a great first set from the band. 

The second just kept on moving in the positive direction with an electro squawking version of the dark "Victim or the Crime" which the band slinks away from into the upbeat strumming of "Foolish Heart". Things really locked in after that as the group wove through the trio of "Playin' In The Band" > "China Doll" > "Uncle Johns Band" with grace and charm. The "Playin'" allowed Garcia to turn his guitar into a flute with midi effects while Lesh held down the deep bass before "China Doll" saw Garcia dig deep for stirring vocals while Brent shone bright throughout "UJB"; this three song jaunt is a highlight run on this release. 

The "Drums">"Space" segment runs long and semi-interesting while "All Along The Watchtower" was hitting shredding highs from Garcia, before he made an odd abrupt down shift into "Black Peter"  This version actually gathers up some rocking energy at the end, as if Garcia knew the crowd and the band wanted to keep the vibe soaring, so they wrapped up with a pumping version of "Not Fade Away" to finish an excellent late career show from the Dead. 

While fall 1990 through Summer 1995 had a few nights when the band brought it all together or were inspired, the truth is when Mydland died soon after the nights presented here, something seemed to end for The Grateful Dead. This era and Dave's Picks 40 in particular are one of the last exciting moments when Brent was in his element with the rest of the band and things were bright and flowing.
Support the band, buy the album, peep some video below:
(Audio is not from the official release)

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