Saturday, May 5, 1979
Baltimore Civic Center, Baltimore, MD
You know, she might have to get her name up on the plaque with the big boys. Joani Walker could tape some Grateful Dead! She consistently “got it” on tape in "A" quality form, and we are very lucky to have easy access to her treasure trove of master tapes. Here again, she gives us something very special from a corner of the Dead’s musical archive that you might not generally turn to on a first, or second pass. Spring 1979.
Brent Mydland had just joined the band on keyboards a scant few weeks earlier, and he energized the band on all levels. The Spring ’79 tour is packed with excitement. It’s a great run of shows that offer many highlights. One of the dates that might somehow live in its own shadow is the May 5th performance. Perhaps it’s from revisiting this one through the tape that Joani made, but I really find this to be a super slice of 1979 Dead.
The first set Sugaree is as excellent as it is long, clocking in at about 14 minutes. Jerry’s voice just sits right on the bridge of your nose, and his guitar fills your head while the band dances all around him. Each solo builds until the last one finds him pulling off the rapid paced picking scales that typify his evolving playing style of the time. The set closes with a Dancin’ In The Streets that feels fantastic. Jerry dives into tight spirals that fly by as the band delivers a fast paced dancing climax to the first set.
The Scarlet>Fire that opens set two is extremely satisfying in the slow and graceful transition into Fire On The Mountain. It seems to take forever, and in doing so, you can’t help but smile while being lost in between songs. The pristine recording quality makes for great enjoyment of the Drums section, and while the Space isn’t colossal, the jam out of it that feeds into the Other One takes the band into a completely timeless zone. You can’t really place the band into a particular year during this prelude jam. It lopes along with a mellow jazz 1973 vibe, like a gently flowing river, while having the bubbly effect of a 1976 or ’77 jam. Almost the last thing it sounds like is 1979. It ambles along for about four minutes or so, and while understated, it serves to bring this entire show up another level. The Other One itself is also full of nice twists and turns that are reminiscent of some more aggressive 1973 Other Ones.
Not a show that ends up in the record books, but absolutely a quintessential Grateful Dead ride from start to finish given the caliber of Walker’s recording talents. It strikes me as a very nice page out of the Grateful Dead book with phrases not often read, but fully worth the reading.