Thursday, October 12, 2023

Album Review: Grateful Dead - Dave's Picks Vol 47: 12-9-79

Grateful Dead
Dave's Picks: 47 
December 9, 1979 @ Kiel Auditorium St. Louis, Missouri
*** out of *****

Covering the Dave's Picks series, and really any Grateful Dead release at this point, it needs to be noted that a lot of great shows have already been professionally released. The selections are running thin when it comes to must own, professionally released shows. Even this year the band released the huge Here Comes Sunshine box set and stand alone 6/10/73 monster show, which really is must hear.  

Dave's Picks 47: December 9, 1979 @ Kiel Auditorium St. Louis, Missouri is not in that same orbit, but it is a fine little show from an era from which Dave has released a few shows already. Nothing earth shattering here, just an OK-to-good night of Grateful Dead music, which is pretty damn fine anyway you slice it. 

Arriving in late 1979 we get the beginning of Brent Mydland in the band and his lighter (plinky) keyboard sound which is not for everyone, it is also a bit loud for the first set in particular.  The opening combo of "Alabama Getaway > Promised Land" is fast paced and upbeat with Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir's vocals upfront respectively yet there are a few sound issues from the start. In particular the guitars are very low comparatively to the other instruments, and this should never be the case when Garcia is playing. The live mix is still getting fiddled with during passable versions of "Brown Eyed Women" and "Cassidy" as things seem to settle down soundwise as Jerry's guitar is increased slightly for the ballad of "Row Jimmy".

The highlight of the first set comes next as Weir fronts a very well delivered "New Minglewood Blues", but being the highlight of this set isn't a high bar as things are just OK at best before Weir completely bails on skippable "Lazy Lightning".  At this point, for a Dave's Picks release it is fairly underwhelming, however, things pick up immensely right from the start of the second set which is an excellent collection of '79 Dead. 

Phil Lesh's bass is turned up and on, Garcia uses his wah-wah effect (all though his overall levels are still too low) and excellent electric keys from Brent shine as a jammed out version of "Shakedown Street" sets the tone for the set to follow. A ripping version of "Samson and Delilah" is simply great before a very good Jerry ballad, "High Time", while Brent's "Easy To Love You" also hits the mark. 

Where the band never fully connected in the first set, things are all locked in now as a mid set "Terrapin Station" shines, being expertly played by all involved with thundering drums from Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. The band then coalesces around a fantastic "Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance" pairing, this one is a bit special as the band wanders and jams the end of Saint with intriguing work from Garcia and Mydland especially. 

"Drums> Space" is fine if always a bit too long, but this "Space" section is a touch more fluid than most before dripping into "Black Peter" which is never a personal favorite, but adequately delivered here. The group starts swaggering behind Weir for "I Need A Miracle" which deftly transitions right into a high energy "Bertha" with great runs from Garcia as the tempo, mood, and musicianship stays high into the  "Good Lovin'" closer that wraps up a very, very, good second set. 

After a rudimentary "Don't Ease Me In" encore, we are treated to some filler material from earlier in the week, 12/4/79 at Chicago's Uptown Theater. While all of the offerings are well played, "Space" is twinkling, "Not Fade Away" is well done, "Stella Blue" and "US Blues" are fine, none is a must; like on the recent GarciaLive release whose 'filler material' was better than the official release. 
As stated, a fine night of music, whose first set can be safely skipped to focus on the strong second set from one of the greatest American bands of all time. 
Support the artists, buy the album and peep some video below (not official release audio):

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