Saturday, December 13, 2008

Grateful Dead Concert Recording Review from Telluride Town Park, CO on 8-15-1987

8-15-87 Town Park Telluride Colorado

Set List:

Feel Like a Stranger
Franklin’s Tower
New Minglewood Blues
Me & My Uncle>
Big River
Tennessee Jed
Desolation Row

Scarlet Begonias>
Fire on the Mountain
Looks Like Rain
Eyes of the World
I need a miracle>
Morning Dew
One More Saturday Night
It’s All Over Now Baby Blue

This stand at Telluride must’ve been a magical weekend. I heard this on a recent episode of the world class podcast mvyradio’s Shakedown Stream (a dream come true for any Deadhead).

First of all, it is the weekend of the “Harmonic Convergence.” According to wikipedia, Harmonic Convergence is the name given to a world-wide esoteric-religious event which took place on August 16th and August 17th 1987. So this is not an “annual” event and not even a “once in a lifetime” event, but actually a “once in history” event.

According to Deadbase (as mvyradio disc jockey Jer Bear points out during the broadcast), this show is not exactly considered a great Dead show, but I would have to disagree, I think it is pretty perfect with regard to it’s overall vibe.

This show being in 1987 is in my opinion right in between what I consider “Mid 80’s Dead” and “Brent Glory Years” of 1989 and 1990. From what setlists I have seen and shows that I have heard of the “Mid 80s Dead” is that they played very consistently rocking shows with great setlists. The final couple of years with Brent were highlighted (in my opinion) with a more open and jazzy sound. The Dead continued this trend after Brent by continuing to play a little more laid back and jazzy. The Dead’s performances definitely got more inconsistent in the 1990s and they had some dubious songs they relied heavily on, but I still really enjoy the 1990s Dead shows the most.

The quality of this show recording is actually not that good but believe it or not I really like it this way. The show sounds filtered, compressed, and tinny, yet it reminds me of the tapes I used to get and I was so excited to hear back in the day. And while the overall fidelity is not perfect, the mix of the band is excellent. You can hear Phil periodically playing explosive riffs and dropping bombs. Phil’s presence in this recording is felt immediately from his riffing and warming up in the opening seconds of the recording. The drums sound great too and periodically Mickey or Billy hits this one drum sound that I suspect is electronic because of the way that it just jumps out of the speakers at you.
First Set
Who can argue with Feel Like a Stranger starting a show? I have never pinned myself down to choosing a favorite “standard opener”but it’d probably be between Feel Like a Stranger, Jack Straw, and Let the Good Times Roll.

I always for some reason am skeptical of Franklin’s Tower without a proper Help on the Way>Slipknot in front of it, but if the Dead came to Telluride to put on an exciting and consistent rock concert on this special “Harmonic Convergence” event, then it is hard to argue with Franklin’s Tower. The omission of Help>Slip kind of speaks to my opinion that the “Mid 80s” were consistent and rocking, but the band wasn’t as exploratory and risk taking as they had been and would become again soon.

The rest of the first set is well played, exciting, and consistent. I always love Candyman, and while I am not that fired up to hear Me and My Uncle>Big River and Tennessee Jed on tape all these years later, those were always great songs to rock out to at the concert. The set closes with Desolation Row and Deal which is just stellar. I admit that in the my preferred 1990s era of the Dead, we would have killed for a First Set list like this one, and it was pretty ordinary at the time in 1987.

Second Set

On that same note of this incredible set list being “run of the mill” for the glorious “Mid 80s Dead,” I am going to have to point out that this show has Scarlet>Fire, Eyes of the World, and Morning Dew in the 2nd set and STILL was considered “okay” by the people at Deadbase. That’s awesome for me to contemplate because it makes me realize there is a LOT more out there I need to hear.

Okay now for a controversial opinion – this might be my favorite Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain I’ve ever heard. I know that it might seem average in the individual performances, solos, length of transition jam, etc. but I just think it is absolutely smoking! The solo in Scarlet Begonias are top notch and all the verses are sung perfectly. The transition to Fire is the moment when this show firs really grabbed me (before I went back and listened to it more closely). The transition is perhaps short, but is very well played. As soon as Jerry starts jamming after the “outro theme” of Scarlet, there is just a great surge by the whole band underneath Jerry’s solo during the transition. It keeps the jam from meandering and losing intensity but also perhaps forces a quicker transition to Fire on the Mountain.

Looks like Rain is beautifully played and is a Bobby song that I have always really liked. The ending of LLR is always my favorite because of Jerry’s lyrical noodling and in this version Brent is also playing beautiful little phrases near the end of the song.

Eyes of the World is also just a great version with solid solos by Jerry and it leads into a short Drums which sound great in the crisp air of the rocky mountains. I like the way the drums swell when space part begins and during space Jerry uses some cool sound effects and there is some good old fashioned feedback as well which is nice to hear.

Arguments against this show’s greatness pick up a little steam because it does perhaps fall off a little after Space and through the end. Is there ever a more disappointing thing to hear during space than the I Need a Miracle guitar lick? Well, that’s just one man’s opinion anyway, but continuing on that concept – Bertha is a song that is great when you are in the audience at the show but not something I enjoy hearing that much on show recordings. It’s placement in the second set is somewhat interesting.

Then the Morning Dew, is emotional, but Jerry’s voice seems a little tired (perhaps after Scarlet, Fire, Eyes, and the immediately preceding Bertha he is a little worn out). The second set ends with One More Saturday Night which is a rocking tune I like to hear on tape as well as when I’m at the show. The encore is It’s All Over Now Baby Blue which is not exactly one of my top choices for encores either.

So this was the first of two nights at Telluride and I just found the second night on Internet Archive, so I will probably listen to that and review it as well at some point.