Capital Center, Maryland – March 1991

There are a lot of reasons to dislike the Grateful Dead in the 90’s. However 91 was easily their best year and afterwards, it was pretty much downhill all the way. This was the last of a four-night run and if the previous three nights had been as strong as this one the run would have had “box set” written all over it.

Starting off slowly with average versions of Half Step and Mexicali the boys get going during the instrumental break in Big River. Next is Candyman, travelled a nice mellow one. The coverage of Dylan songs is generally exemplary only failing when Bob shouts the vocals (eg Maggies farm) or tries to sing falsetto on this one (only one example here). This Memphis Blues doesn’t quite get going but it is decent enough. The highlight of the set is the closer, a long (18 minutes) Bird Song. Lots of MIDI guitars and dual keyboards high in the mix.

Set two starts with a sense of foreboding fortunately unfounded. Victim stank when they wheeled it out and it stinks on every version I have heard. I hate this song with a passion, how it ever got on a set list is a mystery to me. The best part is the end (it always is ha ha) when after a brief Dark Star-esque meltdown you hear the cheerful, lilting rhythm of Scarlet Begonias. The instrumental break between the verses keeps going and refuses to go away. After a mellow jazzy solo, the song merges perfectly into a very fine Fire. Jerry is on top form on the vocals and obviously enjoying himself. Fiya. The song fades with gentle jazz guitar and merges (yes, perfectly) into the first of only two examples of Stir It Up Jam. This is an absolute joy to listen to with Jerry’s guitar working perfectly with Bruce’s piano. Drums is, well, drummy. Space is, well, spacey. Actually, this is one of the more listenable versions with some fine MIDI guitar towards the end. Following this is a storming Going Down The Road full of great guitar and piano work from Bruce. The closers Throwing Stones and NFA are no more than ok.The “bop bop” is getting a bit old hat but the audience is clearly loving it. Before the encore, Jerry and Bob mess about with an atonal NFA riff.

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