Over the last week, I've listened to the Audience copy of this show over the Soundboard. The Board is crisp and pristine sounding but this is a show that I am so familiar with that listening to the Aud is hearing it through a different voice. I'm so familiar with this show and specifically the "Eyes," do in part to it's inclusion on "Without A Net," that I hum along with the soloing lines. Jerry's pulling off notes, Branford's leads, and the Celeste sounds of the midi have all been etched into my subconscious from the years of training.
"No, this is the full show. Two tapes." I hadn't had any full shows. "Oh and make sure you get the Maxell XLii-S, the black tape. It's worth it." I knew that meant that my trip to Listening Material was going to cost me two extra dollars, but in the long run the tape held up so it was worth it.
As a young DeadHead this show was part of my formative years. Even though this came from one of the all time great Grateful Dead tours, and at that time I didn't realize it's perfection compared to the shows I was attending. Yet this was how I expected when I went to a Grateful Dead show.
The quintessential "Jack Straw" opener, followed by a rocking "Bertha." Still to this day, even though I love "Blow Away" and when putting some lullabies on my phone for my newborn the first song I chose was "I Will Take You Home," but "We Can Run" is my favorite Brent song. That is only because of it's placement on this show. Then the two songs that fit a Nassau show like a glove, "Ramble On Rose" and "Masterpiece." Because the "Hours spent inside the Coliseum" is "Just like New York City."
The second set is a few of my favorite Grateful Dead things. It all starts with the slow deliberate "Eyes of the World." The inter play between Garcia and Branford is just the prelude to this monumental "Eyes." Where Jerry chooses the wide open songs to venture on with Branford, Bobby choose his more regimented songs like "Estimated." Although it is an open ended song, the chorus verse and solo section are specifically structured, and yet Branford seems to excel in through these chord changes. Then the band drops into the only "Dark Star" of the Spring 90 tour and the first one since the Fall 89 tour closer written about HERE. As I mentioned earlier, this was Branford's introduction to the DeadHeads, well after this show he said that every time he played a show after this that someone at some point would call for "Dark Star." This "Dark Star" is the bookends to "Drums/Space" and breaths like the light source to heavens. So the proclamation comes next as they play "The Wheel," followed by the apocalyptic rant, "Throwing Stones." Branford is as comfortable playing the air "Wheel" as he is with the structured "Throwing Stones." Branford then switches to from Alto to Tenor Sax as they close the set with a swinging "Lovelight." Jerry brings down the house with a magnificent "Knocking on Heaven's Door," with Branford provide plenty of sweet fills.
All though starting in on New Years 1988, the Grateful Dead had their first special guest horn player since the Fall 73, this Branford show really opened up new avenues for that the Dead continued to explore throughout the 90's. The swing style of Clarence Clemons was fun but it lacked the drive of exploration that the band excelled with. (Though this didn't stop Clarence and Jerry from considering living together in 1989.) The band seeked out other jazz horn players like Ornette Coleman and David Murray. Yet Branford holds a special place in Grateful Dead lore partly because of this show. In fact in 2009, when The Dead was having a hard time selling tickets for 2 shows at the crumbling Brendan Byrne, they announced that Branford was joining them. It sold me and I enjoyed two evenings with Branford and The Dead.
I: Jack Straw, Bertha, We Can Run, Ramble, Masterpiece, Bird Song, Promised
II: Eyes, Estimated, Dark Star, Drums, Space, Dark Star, Wheel, T Stones, Lovelight, E: Knockin'
"Bird Song" and Second Set with Branford Marsalis