Fox Theatre, Atlanta – 30 November 1980

I like this one. A lot!

I burnt this to CD 7-8 years ago along with hundreds of other gigs and this was my first listen to it. After my first go, I thought ‘was that, really that good?’. So, I played it again just to be sure. It really was that good so I played it again.

This is a prime example of the rockier sound that The Grateful Dead adopted in 1978 and pretty much stayed with through to 1995. The general sound is excellent and the tone of the guitars is round and full of body. To someone just jumping on the bus and starting their journey there are 10 songs in here that would go on an early ‘best ever’ list. Apart from a standard Me and My Uncle and a couple of sub par Chuck Berry rockers at the end of every song it oozes quality. Generally speaking the smaller the venue the better the atmosphere and this is so true here (4,500 at the Fox) and the whole concert fizzes with energy.

The band kick off with Feel Like a Stranger which spent most of its life as a first or second set opener. It is a rather disjointed song which could be hard to play well first up and it dissappointed on a regular basis in this position. My personal favourites are mid second set with the vocal emphasis on ‘crazy crazy night’ rather than ‘lets get on with the show’. This one however is a keeper as the band are tight and up for it from the start. I’ve often thought that this would be a great vehicle for Donna but it’s a year too late. Brent does ok on backing vocals but …… We then get a rocky Loser and an excellent Cassidy before arriving at the first of my best evers. Ramble on Rose is a song that, much like Tennessee Jed, can be a little bit of a plodder. No danger of that here as this is played up tempo with plenty of the aforementioned energy. Next up is a blinding Little Red Rooster with Jerry on fire and the momentum carries on into a relatively brief but rockier than usual Bird Song.

And so, to my second ‘best ever’ from this gig. I try to save a small space in my heart just so that I can hate Lost Sailor a little bit more every time I hear it. This one is almost saved by some wonderful guitar from Jerry. The set ends with Deal which just about blows the roof off. WHEW and we’re only halfway through.

The second set kicks off with a top ten Scarlet/Fire. For a change it is the Scarlet Begonias that has the ‘jazzier’ jam and it features one the best segues (most beautiful ?) into Fire On The Mountain that you are likely to hear. Playing In The Band is a belter and is much more to my taste than acid jazz rock stuff from 73 and 74. A very nice Wheel with a good intro leads into an almost scarily quiet China Doll. The set ends with a rare but more than welcome Uncle John’s Band encore. It would be remiss of me not to mention that Brent’s keyboard playing is of the highest quality throughout, no more so than on Scarlet.

If I ever get my time machine working with any degree of accuracy this is where I am going. Just brilliant.

More info on this gig can be found here (opens in a new tab).

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