Grateful Dead live at Madison Square Gardens – 5 September 1979

After listening to the first set I felt in a really good mood.

Now, those of you that know me will be thinking ‘What is so strange about that?’, even the wife calls me a miserable old git and not just for taking the merry out of Christmas. Anyway, I got to thinking why, and I looked at the set-list. Pretty good, but I’ve seen better, so it wasn’t just that. So I got to thinking about how well Grateful Dead live at Madison Square Gardensthe songs were performed. Pretty damn well, but again, I’ve heard as good or better so it wasn’t entirely that either. I came to the conclusion that it was the ‘jams’.

Jerry’s guitar sounds wonderful as he plays all the jams in what I suppose I should call a country rock style. But the thing about them is that they are played in a positive fashion (happy jams!). Even to the extent that you know Peggy O is going to move on and find someone rich enough to keep her Mum happy and, that at the end of Loser you are left with the feeling that the card player really has got a winning hand. The set ends with a fine Promised Land which is somewhat out of kilter with what has gone before.

Following the thoroughly uplifting experience of the first set, the second is a bit disappointing in places. Scarlet Begonias is ok, but, and I’m sorry about this, but I couldn’t help thinking ‘where’s Donna?’ Fire is excellent, superbly sung with a great jam and lots of scrubbing and power chords from Jerry. Estimated is solid but Eyes is patchy with the end of the closing jam into Drums degenerating into erm ….rubbish. Drums and Space will waste 25 minutes of your life that you won’t get back. I’ve done the work for you so AVOID. The highlight of the set with Black Peter. Boy, this is bluesy, almost dark. Three rockers finish the set – Bertha, Good Lovin and US Blues for the encore get the crowd dancing.

All in all a really good show with the excellence of the first set making up for the mild disappointments of the second. A definite 8 and maybe even 8.5.

The Set List – Grateful Dead live at Madison Square Gardens – 5 September 1979

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