View from the Vault IV
Oakland Coliseum - Anaheim Stadium
[July 24 & 26, 1987]
First Appeared at The Music Box, October 2003, Volume 10, #10
Written by John Metzger
The Grateful Deadís 1987 tour with Bob Dylan looked great on paper. Structured with the ensemble serving as Dylanís backing band after performing a full concert on their own, the pairing should have been a match made in heaven. Instead the two legendary artists struggled to stay in synch, and although there were a few moments of brilliance, more often than not the collaboration was a collision of epic proportions.
Fortunately, the portions featuring Dylan were excised from View from the Vault IV, the Grateful Deadís latest offering on DVD and CD. Whatís left are four well-paced, well-performed sets from what was otherwise a year of rebuilding. For the record, neither of the two shows ó which were recorded on July 24 and July 26, 1987 in Oakland and Anaheim, respectively ó stood out as being better than the other. Indeed, each had its share of highs as well as its share of lows, both of which naturally grew out of the bandís loose approach to performing and lent the Grateful Dead its charm. There were blown lyrics and missed opportunities, but there were also the rip-roaring rockers, the inspired exploratory jams, and the stirring ballads as well as a few surprise twists and turns that broke up the monotony of the bandís increasingly structured format.
Naturally, these shows were not as strong as those from the Grateful Deadís halcyon years of 1972 through 1974, but comparing the two eras is a futile exercise, anyway. With different personnel set within disparate circumstances in a completely changed music market and culture, well, itís impossible for this not to have had an effect upon the group. To say that it adapted quite well, however, is an understatement, especially considering that after floating under the mainstream radar for more than 20 years, it was now a full-fledged arena rock band, drawing tens of thousands of people each and every night. Thatís not to say that these concerts didnít have their magnificent moments, for there were plenty. The wide-sweeping transcendence of Bird Song; the fire-blazing Bertha; the sprawling, epic Terrapin Station; the thunderous rendition of The Other One; the powerfully elegiac Looks Like Rain; and the spaciously cosmic intricacies of Playing in the Band are just a few of the highlights contained on this historic document.
Like the Grateful Deadís previous video releases, View from the Vault IV features beautifully shot footage of the group at work, capturing the nuances of the performersí interactions on stage as both musicians and friends. Whether itís Jerry Garcia and Brent Mydland swapping affectionate glances, Phil Lesh bobbing his head to the beat, Bob Weir assuming his rock star persona, or Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann playing in their percussion playground ó itís an immense pleasure to watch these aural painters truly enjoy themselves in crafting mind-bending music. Yes, the computer-generated effects are, at times, a little cheesy ó especially by todayís standards ó but these recordings werenít intended for release; they were made so those stuck in the far back of the arena had something to watch. In addition, for the first time, the DVD program has been formatted in both Dolby 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 surround, allowing the Drums and Space segments to truly come alive. Although those from the Anaheim show were slightly truncated, and three songs from the Oakland concert were deleted completely ó all due to technological limitations ó fans who really want the full experience can find the material on the companion CD soundtrack. Either way, View from the Vault IV is another stunning display of the Grateful Deadís multi-faceted magic, giving old-timers a chance for fond remembrances and newcomers a hint of what the fuss was all about.
Of Further Interest...
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box