Saturday, March 13, 1982
Centennial Coliseum – Reno, NV
Here’s a show that absolutely smolders. It is packed with riveting passages all over, and some of the most intensely explosive Garcia solos in song after song. This is one of those shows that teaches you that all shows are not created equal. While the band was damn good in 1982, and the early 80’s in general, it is shows like this one that make many others pale in comparison. Are you worried that you might be stuck in the 70’s? Unable to appreciate the 80’s? Let’s get down to business, my friend.
The band sprints out of the starting blocks with Alabama Getaway. There are problems with Jerry’s vocal mic early on, but its hard to care. The Dead’s energetic start infects the crowd, and the whole tape vibrates with that wonderful AUD tape energy despite the sound system working itself out. Alabama segues right into Greatest Story Ever Told beautifully. The hard driving beat of the first song pounds it’s way past the song end. While half the band is understanding the direction to GSET and setting off on that path, Jerry offers up one more Alabama refrain on the guitar that creates a thrilling swirl of one song into another. You hit Greatest Story like an out of the park grand slam. Very satisfying.
Tasty mid-first set tunes follow on the way to a very nice China >Rider set closer. But during the set break the band must have gotten their hands on some serious mojo, because they saunter into the second set and deliver serious sparks.
Feel Like A Stranger is a crafty and sneaky player in the set two opening slot. The band lets the edges fray beautifully and the song pushes at its own edges like an oily skinned soap bubble catching itself in mid burst then pulling itself back to just inside the point where the surface explodes into mist and evaporation. It gets exactly as weird as you wish most all Strangers would. The Franklin’s Tower that follows is full of wild excitement. It throbs with an up tempo vigor. Like solar flares exploding off the sun, Jerry’s solos erupt in a fabulous dance of energy, each one outperforming the last in their ability to twist fire into the air. Somewhere around the third solo passage it becomes clear that this is the sort of playing where Jerry is in his finest form. And the second set has only just gotten started. His last solo will just leave you staring in crazed disbelief. My God, can he get any more up? Yep, apparently he can.
Estimated Prophet finds ways to generate peaks and valleys of energetic play that reward the listener while keeping interest focused. Even the slippery, snaky jam section feels more like a roiling sea on the verge of storm. It brings a nice sense of having to keep your balance while bright coral formations below the water’s surface twist and bend your vision with the roll of the ocean. You've lost the ability to see straight lines and angles. Everything is a gooey pulsation around you. The song segues out and Jerry firmly leads to He’s Gone. But the band takes an alternate path into Eyes Of The World.
Eyes starts softly, with almost nothing more than Jerry playing with a high hat tapping behind him. He delivers “Right outside this lazy summer home” with nothing but this musical background, and then the whole band chimes in on the “Ain’t got time to call your soul a critic, no” line thereafter. It’s almost as if it was rehearsed, and it is a wonderful arrangement to start the song. The Eyes delivers exactly the same blend of extra popping highlights that have been coming before it all set. Jerry sounds completely enthralled as he rolls out lead after expressive lead. Toward the end, the song spirals up to a fabulous twinkling and shimmering interplay between Jerry and Brent that makes an already over the top version of the song even better. It stops me in my tracks every time I hear it. Fantastically psychedelic.
The show’s Space is a multi verse poem of different landscapes and emotions. Passages appear and disappear, growing into view then receding away. Eventually Other One takes form and it captures the full onslaught of energy that has been brewing over the entire set. Deep in between the verses of the song, an ascent starts that refuses to stop climbing. Like flying up a mountainside at breakneck speed you almost star to worry this will never let up. And then the climactic release of Phil’s booming rumble winds us into the last verse. After this there is an extended Dear Prudence theme. A relative staple in Jerry’s solo act, it’s the only time it appears in a Dead show. Short lived, undeveloped, it coasts into Black Peter instead.
This is not a show to be missed. With breathtaking highlight after highlight, the less than absolutely perfect sound quality simply doesn’t matter. Listen to this show.