Dick's Picks 17
[September 25, 1991]
First Appeared in The Music Box July 2000, Volume 7, #7
Written by John Metzger
It’s a simple fact that throughout the ’90s, the Grateful Dead did not perform at a consistent level. That’s not to say, however, that the group didn’t ever hit its mark. Even some of its sloppiest concerts often contained sparks of pure brilliance — for proof, look no further than the glorious rendition of Visions of Johanna that was unleashed on July 8, 1995. Though some jaded, longtime fans may suggest otherwise, the band also delivered quite a few outstanding performances during this time.
Such is the case with the latest installment of the Dick’s Picks series, which captures the Grateful Dead at the Boston Garden on September 25, 1991. By this point, Vince Welnick and Bruce Hornsby, both of whom had joined the band a year earlier, had eased quite nicely into the group’s sound. Welnick’s wispy, psychedelic flourishes perfectly complemented the grander promenades of Hornsby, and their unspoken communication — both with each other and with the rest of the ensemble — clearly had begun to gel. On Tennessee Jed, Welnick created a shimmering, fiddle-like accompaniment that gracefully slithered around the melody, while on Terrapin Station, it was Hornsby whose majestic, fluid leads lifted the song to heavenly heights.
Of course, this concert was not a perfect one by any stretch of the imagination. Jerry Garcia struggled to make it through the lyrics of Help on the Way, and his craggy voice seemed ready to give out at any moment. However, as the song seamlessly slid into Slipknot!, he seemed to find his place as if drawing strength from the music. As the Grateful Dead delved deeper into the jam, his Pied Piper style of guitar playing led the ensemble through a cosmic doorway and straight into the jubilant strains of Franklin’s Tower. Likewise, Victim or the Crime didn’t live up to its potential, but its dark, spiraling climaxes and turbulent finale paved the way for the comforting glow of Crazy Fingers.
There was also a playful mood that pervaded this show, making it all the more engaging. An impromptu Dire Wolf flew out of the conclusion of It Must’ve Been the Roses, and Bob Weir’s impassioned articulations on Queen Jane Approximately spurred the members of the Grateful Dead to inject more emotion into their individual contributions. In addition, the transition out of the Space segment was a true play on a musical theme. Starting with what is typically referred to as a Mind Left Body Jam, Hornsby quickly introduced a few strains of The Beatles’ Dear Prudence — a close musical cousin — before Garcia broke into Paul McCartney’s That Would Be Something — a song the Grateful Dead would expand upon at future concerts. It was only fitting then that the group capped off the evening with a solid rendition of the prankster-ish Bob Dylan composition The Mighty Quinn — no doubt sending the crowd home with smiles on their faces, eagerly anticipating the next pilgrimage with their favorite band. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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