Dick's Picks, Volume 25
Veteran's Memorial Coliseum / Civic Center Arena
New Haven, CT - Springfield, MA
[May 10-11, 1978]
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2002, Volume 9, #12
Written by John Metzger
There must have been something funny in the air — or perhaps the backstage punch bowl — for the Grateful Dead’s performances on May 10–11, 1978. The band members were all a little more playful than usual on each of these consecutive nights in New England, and the music — most of which is contained on the 25th edition of the Dick’s Picks series — ran the gamut from strangely sloppy to fiercely fervent.
For example, each of the sets from May 10 opened rather roughly. Jack Straw popped out of the gate with a ferocious roar, but the singers struggled to find their place and consequently delivered their vocals with a little too much exuberance — an unfortunate occurrence that Jerry Garcia carried into the first verse of They Love Each Other. Likewise, the pairing of Bertha and Good Lovin’ threatened to derail into chaos as half the band opted to stay within Bertha while the other half began to transition into Good Lovin’, resulting in a less than stellar instrumental interlude. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t moments within this same pairing that showcase some rather remarkable interplay. Such is the delightful high wire act of the Grateful Dead.
Further demonstrating the power and poise of the band, the Grateful Dead settled down considerably, succumbing to the music during both sets of its May 10 performance. As it did, the songs’ rhythms and melodies became the driving forces that pushed the band rather than vice versa. With each passing tune, the band stepped a little further off the gas, and while songs like Me & My Uncle, Deal, and The Other One still rampaged rather powerfully behind their respective grooves, the Dead also managed to find the spiritual beauty in selections like Let It Grow and Wharf Rat.
Even stronger was the music unleashed by the Grateful Dead during its May 11 concert, which serves as the focus of the final two discs of Dick’s Picks, Volume 25. Each song crackles with boundless energy, offering a sterling representation of the band’s late ’70s sound. The first set of this concert was nothing short of spectacular, starting with an increasingly rambunctious Cold Rain and Snow and concluding with the blissful space of Lazy Lightnin’/Supplication. In between lay some of the sweetest music of this package, including gorgeous renditions of Looks Like Rain, Friend of the Devil, and Loser. The second set reverts to some of the same overt goofiness of the previous evening, and yet the band still managed to pull off another in a long stream of epic pairings of Scarlet Begonias and Fire on the Mountain as well as a gently melancholic Stella Blue.
Indeed, the only explanation for the oddly schizophrenic nature of these shows is whatever was in the Kool-Aid on these particular nights, and this proves to be a logical conclusion given the odd moments that are scattered throughout the four discs of Dick’s Picks, Volume 25. The band ekes out snippets of Beethoven before launching into a sumptuous Peggy-O; it delivers a rather silly (and sometimes painful) cover of Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London; and the band members egg each other on, gruffly growling their way through many of the songs on both nights. In addition, Bob Weir’s between-song banter was even zanier than usual and included such comments as "we’re all patiently waiting for Jerry to get his act together" and "we’re carefully weeding out all those tiny, little, bothersome technical imperfections that we just can’t stand."
In other words, Dick’s Picks, Volume 25 showcases the fine line between chaos and structure that the Grateful Dead so often tread. Along the way, the album demonstrates that although the band sometimes went astray and lost its focus, it always managed rather deftly to right itself, pulling off some spectacular music in the process. In the end, there are certainly better Dick’s Picks collections for the uninitiated — ones that reach the pinnacle of perfection on every single track. But for those who understand the risks associated with jumping into the unknown, Dick’s Picks, Volume 25 captures the band standing on the precipice and jumping head-first into the musical abyss.
Dick's Picks, Volume 25 is available from iTunes.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box