Wednesday, July 5, 1978
Omaha Civic Auditorium – Omaha, NE
There are certain quiet corners of Grateful Dead recordings that won me over to the band’s music far more than the famous shows. I recall being completely turned off to 1978 by the first tape I got, 10/21/78. Everything I read about it indicated that it was pure gold. Well, not for me. I avoided the year for a good while after that, afraid that the entire year might strike me the same way. Even the July Red Rocks shows somehow missed the mark for me. Then I bumped into the shows from just before Red Rocks, July 1st, 3rd, and 5th. Maybe it was the audience recording flavor, or in part having to do with how hard it was to find them in trade, but these dates opened my eyes and ears to 1978.
All three dates are worth hearing. But July 5th, 1978 is a clear highlight. It’s a perfect package from front to back. You can feel it right from the opening Sugaree. Jerry’s solos are wonderful. The Beat It On Down The Line burns. The first set has that special feel to it, and you can tell that everything is touched with a little something extra . Mind you, I am walking you into Bob’s “learn slide guitar on the job” phase, and I apologize in advance for this. Haven’t heard about how bad Bob was on slide? Well, my friends… there is little to say, and painfully plenty to hear.
This show has a great Lazy Lightning>Supplication to close set one. Not only does Jerry tear it up in the Supplication jam, but the final choruses go on and on, drawing more and more energy into the music. Bobby seems unwilling to finish the song, letting it go and go. Eventually they stop on a dime and the set ends.
The real highlight for me is the Estimated Prophet jam leading to Eyes Of The World. This Estimated flows into some lovely Garcia solo work. His playing is fully inspired, rounding over and over itself with beautiful lines until the band flows into a brilliant passage near the end where the drummers lock into a rhythmic pattern not unlike an Other One groove that completely does away with the downbeat, leaving it impossible to count the measures. Jerry’s playing does cartwheels over head and the band is completely at one with the moment. This small section is blissful. You can feel yourself being absorbed into the music. It draws your attention, silencing thought and elevating the senses. It is fleeting, to be sure. But these are the moments that carry the band above a mere musical experience. I can come back to this passage again and again.
The jam enters a sweet enjoyable Eyes of the World with Jerry working the melody of the verses into unique phrases, changing notes and giving emphasis to words in ways not typical of the standard song structure. This, laced with strong solo sections, makes for a very nice listen. Out of Eyes we get a Phil jam with the drummers before the actual drums and space section. It’s a lot of fun, reflecting back on his monster solos in 1973. The post Space section of the set is most notable for Jerry’s solo in Wharf Rat which just explodes. It wastes no time building from anywhere. It starts on a peak and pushes itself into the sky, possessed with emotion.
Bob Wagner, who took it upon himself to travel from his east coast home and do the summer tour across the Midwest thinking that if he didn’t do it, he might never hear the shows on tape, recorded this show from in front of the soundboard with his mics spread out roughly eight feet apart. It makes for a very nice recording. His master tapes of this night were stolen from his car only months after the show. But, at the show he allowed another taper to patch into his rig, and thus we have Tim Knight’s master tape preserved here. Amazing how things work out that way.
This is a great show, relatively unknown, tucked away in the quiet backwaters of the 1978 summer tour. Enjoy!