Jerry Garcia / John Kahn
Pure Jerry 8
Marin Veteran's Memorial Auditorium - San Rafael, CA
[February 28, 1986]
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2009, Volume 16, #5
Written by John Metzger
Thu May 28, 2009, 06:30 AM CDT
As most longtime fans of the Grateful Dead probably are aware, Jerry Garcia had a tendency to turn to his trusty acoustic guitar whenever he was in need of inspiration or simply desired to rediscover his passion for performing. In 1986, he was desperate for both. At the time, his health was failing, and by midsummer, he would slip into a diabetic coma, the result of his seriously unhealthy lifestyle. It goes without saying, then, that, in the grand scheme of things, the latest installment of the Pure Jerry series ó which contains the entirety of his February 28, 1986 appearance with bass player John Kahn at the Marin Veteranís Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael, California ó is not filled with highlights from his career, at least not the kind that everyone must hear. Nevertheless, it not only offers a unique glimpse at one of the few bright spots from Garciaís mid-í80s output, but it also provides insight into the shows that served as the impetus for the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, which made its debut the following year.
Many of the Grateful Deadís concerts from the 1980s were marred by Garciaís disengaged presence. Perhaps because there was no place for him to hide, he remained focused throughout his show at the Marin Veteranís Memorial Auditorium. In fact, of all the appearances that Garcia made with either the Grateful Dead or his many side projects, itís hard to imagine that any of them conjured a mood that was more intimate than his excursions with Kahn in early 1986. Not surprisingly, the eighth chapter in the Pure Jerry series often assumes the air of a lo-fi demo recording, albeit one that boasts fully developed song structures and sparkling interplay between the two musicians.
Undeniably, there were moments during the San Rafael show when notes were missed and cadences sometimes stumbled. On Run for the Roses, in particular, Garcia charged full-steam ahead without a destination in mind. Regardless, there was, for the most part, a magical aura that emanated from the unassuming nature of the two sets that he performed with Kahn. The duo fully showcased their interconnected musical sensibilities during an expansive reading of Bird Song, though even the jazzy textures of Goodnight Irene and the aggressive edginess of Jack-a-Roe provided them with plenty of room to operate.
The other problem that frequently plagued Garcia during the mid-1980s was that his vocals had become increasingly hoary. Naturally, there were moments during the show at the Marin Veteranís Memorial Auditorium when he sounded as if he had scraped his throat with barbed wire. Nevertheless, Garcia frequently managed to turn his weakened state into an advantage by embracing his personal weariness and using it to inform the lyrics that he sang. Spike Driver Blues was appropriately hushed and haunted, while Friend of the Devil effectively conveyed the weariness of an outlaw on the run.
Every time he was down for the count, Garcia would stand up, dust himself off, and get back into the game. There is no doubt that his prematurely aging body was encroaching upon his ability to perform. Yet, this edition of the Pure Jerry series makes it perfectly clear that what he really needed was more intellectual stimulation to break free from the tedium of his established routines. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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