This Space is Getting Hot...
Sam Boyd Silver Bowl - Las Vegas, NV
June 24-26, 1994
First Appeared in The Music Box, July 1994, Volume 1, #2
Written by John Metzger
This was my first trip to Las Vegas and what a strange one it was! The strip is certainly one of the most bizarre mixtures of entertainment anywhere, and what makes things even stranger is its location in the middle of a desert!
Temperatures reached over 115 degrees each day, which only seemed to make the shows that much hotter! Fortunately, water was plentiful within the confines of the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl and everyone had the opportunity to get soaking wet with wonderfully cold water. Drinking water was easy to be found as well since containers were permitted into the stadium, and vendors roamed the aisles selling their goods to those who needed something to drink.
I was quite happy to see Traffic opening the summer tour shows, and they are a definite "must-see" act. Winwood, Capaldi, and company improved immensely with each show and mixed things up a little bit in their 75-minute sets each night. Many classics were performed including the jazzy Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys and the guitar heavy Mr. Fantasy. The pairing of Glad and Freedom Rider as well as a jammed out Light Up or Leave Me Alone made welcome appearances. The tunes off the new album fit right in to the set, the best being Nowhere is Their Freedom.
The Grateful Dead's sets were equally as hot. Jerry Garcia opened the three show run with a surprising and enjoyable Let the Good Times Roll which ran smack into a funky Feel Like a Stranger. Other highlights from set one included a very hot Althea, a solid Broken Arrow (the first of FOUR tunes from Phil Lesh over the three shows!!), and my very first Cumberland. It was worth the wait!
The second set featured Vince Welnick's new tune Samba in the Rain which contained some excellent jams and should provide a nice alternative to Way To Go Home. Estimated Prophet followed and, as usual, was well played and featured some nice jams from Welnick and Garcia. He's Gone featured the fantastic a cappella ending that has become the bone-chilling trademark for this tune since the new monitors were introduced. After Space, the band teased The Other One before popping into a surprise Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad. The set ended with a solid Standing on the Moon, an obvious ode to the glowing orb that had risen over the stadium.
The Saturday night show was the only sold-out show of the run and appeared to be new song night, with no less than six of the latest tunes being performed. The show, the shortest of the run, began with a mellow Mississippi Half-Step which wound into the rowdiest tune of the set, Little Red Rooster, featuring some excellent guitar playing by Bob Weir. The first of the new tunes of the night, Lazy River Road, made an appearance with an introduction sounding very similar to Peggy-O. The set closed with Cassidy which featured some nice adventuresome jams as well as images of Neal Cassady and Ken Kesey being projected on the screens.
The second set and encore featured five new tunes including Lesh's new song If the Shoe Fits. This is an excellent song with some nice jams. This song, like Welnick's new tune, will take form over the next few months, and both songs will prove to be valuable assets to shows in years to come. In all honesty, if I had seen this set list without seeing the show, it probably would not be a tape I was looking for. However, every song was very well played, and the new tunes smoothly fit together to produce quite a solid second set! Stella Blue was very well played and featured some strong Garcia vocals and guitar solos. Saturday Night was very solid, featuring some nice jams and an excellent light display including images of downtown Vegas flashed on the screens behind Weir's rock star image. One can only wonder what this looked like for the planes landing at the Vegas airport!
The final night was clearly Garcia's moment in the sun. Set one featured a beautiful and inspired Peggy-O and a very hot Ramble On Rose which featured a lengthy introduction. Garcia teased Deal but instead chose So Many Roads which featured very strong and inspirational vocals. Lesh extended the set with a solid Tom Thumb Blues, and Weir closed it out with a very danceable Music Never Stopped.
After a rather insane marshmallow fight and a full stadium wave, little did we know we were in for a 130 minute second set. The set opened with Victim or the Crime, which was unremarkable with the exception of the final jam which contained hints of Dark Star. Instead, we were treated to a fabulous Eyes of the World, during which I recalled my ventures into the Nevada desert a few short days before. This led right into another surprise — Box of Rain. Saint of Circumstance followed with Weir screaming "rain falling down" over and over as the lights caught a number of spray bottles shooting water in the air! That was the cooling effect that was needed to make it through a rapid, yet well played Terrapin which featured a LONG jam into the best Drums/Space segment of the run. Not only was the playing excellent but the light show and screen images were out of this world. The post-Space segment featured a killer version of All Along the Watchtower with some excellent guitar solos sending notes flying from Garcia's guitar. What else to end the set but a beautifully sung Morning Dew.
All in all, this was an excellent run in one of the weirdest environments in which the Dead play. As the week progressed, more and more Deadheads filled the casinos making it into even more of a playground than normal! I hope that in addition to the casinos, many of the people there got out into the desert and saw the white stallion at Red Rock state park, the 4,000 year old Indian petroglyphs at Valley of Fire state park, and the fascinating Hoover Dam. There really is quite a bit to do outside of the strip, and it is beautiful country!
So Many Roads is available from Barnes & Noble.
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Copyright © 1994 The Music Box