Friday, May 13, 1983
Greek Theatre – Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA
Absolutely one of the best audience recordings you could ask for, Rango Keshavan’s recording from The Greek Theatre on May 13, 1983 is nearly flawless. If you want to get a feel for what it was like to sit in the absolute sweet spot of the Greek for an incredible Dead show in the early 80’s, this tape will perform perfectly. There’s something about this show that defies the standard trappings of 1983 Dead. Generally, when I think about 1983, I think about amped up versions of great Dead songs that often find their way into deeply explorative corridors and side roads. This show manages to deeply satisfy, but not for the reasons an early 80’s show typically would. As you’ll see in the review, I’m most taken by how at ease the band seems – how often they seem only in it for themselves. This quality is not all that common to my ear in '83, and here on 05/13, it renders something very special indeed. The show sets itself on a shelf all its own.
Always nice to get an opening Cold Rain & Snow, set one is solid and includes the debut of Hell In A Bucket. Bird Song provides an assured escape from the ordinary, as it always could. Jerry’s solo finding lovely heights over slowly churning waves. The Let It Grow set closer also finds ways to explore its outer reaches over intense bass and drums work. The band really starts flying late in the solo, where everyone starts letting all the seams loose. The music flashes and flares, reaching a wonderful peak with Jerry stepping above everything while a sea of chaos turns beneath him.
China Cat Sunflower starts off the second set, but it is clear that Bobby is absent. The rest of the band continues to stretch out the standard opening passage while Bob takes care of whatever is keeping him from joining in with his signature China Cat lick. Eventually, Jerry launches himself into Bobby’s line high on the neck at just about the same moment that Weir gets things straightened out. The crowd cheers, as Bobby and Jerry play Bob’s line together for a moment. The song hits the first verse, high on the extra energy brought on by the unconventional start.
Through the solo section before they make it into I Know You Rider proper, the music takes on a carnival/calliope element. There are more colors, shapes and patterns drifting around than seem possible. This music is oddly bluesy, bluegrassy, cajun, and funky all at once. And as the Rider solos begin to mount, it becomes quickly clear that Jerry is completely dialed in. The solos continually reach what seem like endings, only to spin off for another round of exploration. Jerry’s staccato playing style soars into lyrical geysers of emotion, shaping the brief sharp notes into liquid rivers of sparkling rapids. You can hear the audience getting off around you, the clear indicator that there’s magic going on. China>Rider in 1983 – a thing of beauty.
Estimated Prophet picks up from the end of I Know You Rider, and Brent slowly starts working into the long pulsing gossamer strands of tone on his keys that so typify his 1983 sound. Jerry sounds like a child romping through an open field chasing butterflies and dreams without a care in the world. He’s soloing, but well below the forefront of the music. It’s somewhat like catching a magician practicing his craft while he thinks no one is looking. He’s so at ease, playing only for himself. The entire band is taking center stage here, allowing the tendrils of music to extend out and interweave into brilliant mathematical knots. Eventually, Jerry gets the desire to move things along, and begins drawing attention to himself, and the song ever so slowly begins edging into Eyes Of The World.
Eyes gets started with some blissful solos as the band’s energy climbs. We arrive deep within what can only be described as pure Grateful Dead music. It doesn’t speak of 1983. It speaks simply of the Dead. This Eyes is full of all the exuberant joy that can be found in this song time and time again. It’s lean your head back and smile music. The song goes on and on (over 20 minutes), and basks in its own warm glow. There can be no doubt that music and recording quality come together here to elevate the experience entirely. It’s precisely this that exemplifies another facet of the magic Grateful Dead jewel. It’s not something mind crushingly psychedelic. Rather, it is supremely accessible. And it’s not genre music (although there may be little denying that the Eyes two-chord rhythm is sort of sunshine pop-like). It’s something else; something that seems highly personal. When Jerry is soloing here you get the feeling that the band is playing for itself, much as Jerry’s solo work in Estimated sounded earlier. The listener is present almost as an afterthought. It is in the way the music seems more private, less contrived, less pushed, that the defining characteristics fall away. There are no rocketing peaks; no sun exploding notes. It’s not a classic 1983 moment. It isn’t what the early 80’s were all about. It’s more than all of that, and as such, it is pure Dead.
I’m struck that this is probably the perfect Dead music to hear streaming out of someone’s car. Working magic at such a deep level, it can easily draw an unsuspecting ear to it, wanting to know what it is, to hear more. It’s the very music that if heard in the lot before a Dead show, you’d feel compelled to walk over, pull up a seat, and ask the date of what’s playing. It’s exactly the sort of jamming of which you want to hear completely. Since most un-indoctrinated fans would have no reason to appreciate 1983 Dead shows, learning that this Eyes came from 83 would surely illicit a “Wow! Really?” response. Or perhaps that response would come from those who thought they did know what to expect from 1983. This is the kind of Eyes I would bring to a Saturday afternoon Dead Listening party with my friends, holding off on telling anyone what the date was so to prolong and enhance the pleasure when the truth is revealed. I guess I’m a little odd that way, but all of my Deadhead friends will tell you that I do this sort of thing incessantly.
Eventually we near the end of Eyes, and something entirely wonderful takes form. Before getting to Drums, there is a winding down segment where the band slips into a Space which draws out pure ambient soundscapes for a number of minutes. This is absolutely gorgeous, and floods the crowd with a near silent transition into Drums filled with sonic washes and the ringing of old Tibetan singing bowls. It’s a magic transition from song into the drums/space portion of the show, not to be missed – something I can’t quite place having heard anywhere else.
Then, as Space winds down, Jerry is playing soft flower petal breezes that seem to edge toward Attics Of My Life. Rather than forming into a song, the entire band simply tends to the moment itself, wanting for nothing. It’s like they are wrapped in their own satori moment. The band members, sound and road crew, instruments, cables, lights, dials, and speakers all bleed into one, mindless of the audience, though clearly allowing the conjured magic to spread off the stage in a fine mist. This could go on forever, and it displays again the highly personal nature of the music that has been played thus far. The band finds its way to Throwing Stones on lazy lapping waves of music. There are few times where I can pinpoint the band making such a sensationally liquid transition out of Space into a song – and that’s considering the fact that all Space ever did was transition liquidly into song. Beautifully, we emerge in Throwing Stones proper, and it’s a lovely version, again with nothing forced or hard edged.
The song ends with a near whispered call and response between Bobby, the band, and the audience on the line “Ashes, ashes, all fall down” which trickles like dew drops into Other One. The transition is one made more of silence than of music. Very nicely done. Other One grows into a beautiful fountain of swirling beats and accents. Jerry gets that small step ahead of the music, bringing out that wonderful feeling of almost falling over as you run downhill, while the drummers seem to be drawing attention to every possible up and down beat. These things combine to elevate the music and display that the band is listening intently, and enjoying the moment.
After a nice Wharf Rat the set ends with the pairing of Around & Around into Good Lovin’, bringing the crowd to its collective feet with jubilant dancing pleasure. With this particular source linked below you can hear how Charlie Miller had to use an alternate AUD to round out the last minute or so of Rango’s recording. Not that we needed reminding, but it is here where we can completely appreciate just how good Rango’s recording is. The second source is darn fine, but pales next to something such a cut above. Thanks, Rango!
05/13/83 AUD etree source info
05/13/83 AUD Download