Jolly Green Jerry Lives!

Grateful Dead

Palace at Auburn Hills

June 27, 1995

First Appeared in The Music Box, July 1995, Volume 2, #6

Written by John Metzger


Having not seen a Grateful Dead show for nearly a year, my wife and I left our tiny apartment in Chicago and set out for Auburn Hills. We had been anticipating the June 27 show for quite some time and were determined to prove the purveyors of negative reviews wrong!

We checked into our hotel at about 2:30 in the afternoon and quickly fulfilled our gathering instincts. (We vegetarians don't hunt. We gather usually lots of pizza!) As usual, the local hotels provided bus transportation to the venue for a small fee. Our bus driver, who looked an awful lot like James Earl Jones, got us quickly to the Palace, avoiding all traffic jams!

The parking lot scene was fairly decent, although you had to find the right pockets of activity. Security at the gates to the venue were a bit overbearing. They thoroughly checked every backpack and pouch, forced everyone to dump the water out of their bottles (even if they were sealed), and went so far as to ask everyone to pull up their shirts and turn around in order to inspect for concealed contraband.

The band took the stage about 10 minutes late, and after a quick tuning, launched into a pairing of Greatest Story Ever Told and Bertha. "Rock-star" Bobby swung into action quickly with a few kicks and head-bobs. Jerry Garcia, on the other hand, had some serious technical difficulties that really had me worried. He spent the first two and a half songs hunched over his guitar, fidgeting with the plugs, and this really left a huge gap in the band's performance. By mid-Minglewood, the problem must have been corrected, and Garcia, complete with green T-shirt, began actually dancing around his corner of the stage.

Then, things began to click. You know that feeling. Everything just starts going perfectly, and you can feel it build. Ramble On Rose was that moment. Garcia's fingers began to glide up and down his guitar sending notes soaring out above the crowd. Weir threw a solid Queen Jane out on the dance floor, as Garcia and Vince Welnick traded some tasty licks. Lazy River Road really fits in nicely in the first set, and this one was no different. Garcia played some nice MIDI-banjo solos, causing me to wonder just what this one would be like if Garcia and his pal David Grisman got together to give it a workout! Next, Weir picked up his acoustic for his latest masterpiece Eternity. For whatever reason, many people in the crowd still don't get this one and insist on talking throughout the song. This version was the first transportational experience of the night, and the boys made it a good one. The band managed to explore worlds previously visited by the likes of Music Never Stopped and Let It Grow, and pushed the boundaries a bit in many new directions. This song has continued to grow by leaps and bounds and would clearly be fit for a nice lead into Drums. As if to apologize for all the early technical problems, Garcia surprised us with a quick Don't Ease Me In that got everyone dancin' again before the set break.

The band took the stage for the second set and took a long time to get it going. Weir kept running back and forth in an attempt to correct his monitor mix. Even Phil Lesh got into the act. Garcia began to "tune-up" to Victim, and finally the drummers took off on a pre-Victim drum solo. Finally, after about 5 minutes, the band launched into Victim or the Crime. It was obvious that all of the momentum from the first set had been retained, and it was time to get down to some serious jamming. In addition, the sound for the first half of this set was the best I have heard at a Dead show in a long time. You could actually pick out every single person in the mix very clearly!

This Victim or the Crime was extremely enjoyable. It contained all of the usual eerie weirdness and spacy explorations before it concluded with a very sweet jam that hinted at Unbroken Chain. Alas, that was not to be, as Garcia tugged and pulled the band into a very lengthy jam that strongly hinted at Foolish Heart, and Franklin's Tower. You must get the tape of this. The jam was incredible and quite emotionally uplifting. Jolly Green Jerry totally controlled this one and just refused to sing! I thought for sure they were never going to actually play either song when finally Garcia stepped up to the microphone and sang those first words to Foolish Heart. Wow! As if that wasn't enough, the Foolish Heart contained a number of jams and was the absolute best version I have ever heard of this song. It soared way out to strange new worlds with Garcia quite proudly leading the way, and the band could not have been any tighter! After a crisp landing and the final verse, the band continued to jam and even hinted at Fire on the Mountain. The sum total of these two songs more than equaled a solid Scarlet/Fire. Welnick then grabbed the spotlight for a spectacular version of It's All Too Much, which was the icing on the cake. Garcia and Welnick took off with some synthesized horn arrangements, and Welnick's singing came very close to that of George Harrison and John Lennon. Perfect! A solid Corina came next with some stinging guitar solos from Garcia, and some very cool rhythm effects from Weir and the percussionists. Another wild jam followed that hinted at Not Fade Away, and Iko Iko. At times it also had a bit of a calypso rhythm. Again, Garcia just kept going and going before finally giving up and turning the stage over to the drummers.

As usual these days, Drums was quite a treat with Mickey Hart and Billy Kreutzmann pounding out primordial rhythms with their huge toybox of percussion instruments. Space was somewhat short, and gave way to a jam that resulted in a killer version of The Last Time. This version continued the joyous feeling that began with the Foolish Heart at the top of the set. Yet another spectacular Standing on the Moon followed that seemed fitting, given the space shuttle launch earlier in the day. Garcia built this one up to a heated climax with delectable guitar solos that climbed and climbed and a powerful lyrical showing. He finally gave way to "rock-star" Weir who blasted the jubilant crowd into orbit with a rock-solid rendition of Sugar Magnolia. Weir pulled out all the tricks in his book for this one, even walking across the front of the stage to the delight of the entire front row. Garcia too was totally into the song, tossing carefree, happy notes everywhere! The break before Sunshine Daydream was deliberately long, and the performance of the conclusion was crisp! Weir carried on like a 20 year old, and Garcia egged him on by refusing to end the song. What a conclusion to a fantastic set! The encore of Liberty was a perfect choice to get some last minute dancing in for the night!

Having said all this, let me reassure you that there is nothing wrong with the band. They still have it, and boy, can they ever take you on a journey. Perhaps, the people so freely tossing about the negative reviews have seen a few too many shows, and they themselves need a break. Or perhaps, they just saw a show plagued with technical problems. After all, with the vast amount of high-tech equipment the Dead work with every night, the chance for malfunctions has increased tremendously from the days of a few instruments, a few microphones, and a few amps. Whatever it is, this show should more than prove that the Dead still have it and are more than willing to share it. Every single member was right on target, and on this night was more than happy to let Garcia lead the way. I wish I would have been able to stick around for the second night, but it'd be hard to top this one. In any event, the Rex Benefit at Deer Creek is in a few days, and I think I can make it until then!

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Copyright 1995 The Music Box