The Grateful Dead live at Melkweg, Amsterdam – 16 October 1981

The early 80’s were a tricky time for The Grateful Dead with waning popularity due to the birth of punk and a backlash against established stadium bands, prog rock and hippy music in general. On this tour of Europe, two concerts in France were cancelled due to poor ticket sales (what do the French know about rock music?). Rather than have a few days off the band arranged to play two gigs at the Oops festival in Amsterdam with no advertising and using borrowed equipment (theirs was on the way to Paris for the 17th). This is almost certainly the smallest venue The Grateful Dead played apart from the Matrix when they were first getting established.Grateful Dead live at Melkweg

The previous night’s gig featured a fairly standard set list for the time and although it failed to catch fire it was well played and was a pretty decent show. The cover of Spoonful gets its first outing but the real surprises are saved for the 16th.

First up is an acoustic set which is rare enough to be an event and is always nice to listen to. The audience sings Happy Birthday to Bobby before the set starts. The highlight is Oh Babe It Aint No Lie which is beautifully sung by Jerry.

The electric set kicks off with Playing. There are no real jazz references in this and I have to say it is much more to my taste. Jerry’s guitar is crisp and clear and I rather like this version. Next is Hully Gully, a bit of throwaway birthday karaoke-style fun for Bobby and then comes The Wheel with a slightly longer than usual intro, a teasing taste of what this song could have been. Samson and Delilah is a belter with great vocals, Jerry really getting into it and Brent’s keyboards finally coming through the mix. A brief tuning break and Bobby starts the opening riff to Gloria and the audience recognise it immediately. Bobby’s vocals are just right and Jerry’s guitar flutters around them. It really is such a shame that this song wasn’t played more often, a top song and guaranteed audience participation. It makes it worse when I think of songs that were played beyond their sell-by date; off the top of my head – Around and Around, BIODTL and The Last Time. Even the self-penned US Blues ended up sounding jaded. Out of the jam, Phil and Bobby start the riff to Lovelight. Hesitant at the start the band quickly get into a groove and serve up a top, albeit relatively brief version that blends into an uptempo GDTRFB with Jerry and Brent in fine form before they go into a Playing reprise. Black Peter and a rousing Sugar Magnolia/Sunshine Daydream finish off what has been a very fine show. No encore because as Jerry says “we’re beat”.


Matters Arising

  • Bob and Jerry played a 30-minute acoustic set here on the 11th
  • Last Grateful Dead acoustic set (I think) although they supported Joan Baez on 12-12-81 and 31-12-81
  • Hully Gully – only time ever played by theĀ  Grateful Dead
  • Gloria – First time played since 30 -01-68
  • Lovelight – First time played since 24 – 05 – 72 and the first without Pigpen
  • The Wheel – I can’t pin down the one I really really like but listen to 19-05-77 and 27-12-81


The Set List – Grateful Dead Live at Melkweg – 16 October 1981

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