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The intro posts are always a good start, followed logically by
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You could also try my current favorite show on the blog,
plus there's good reading under the trading community label.
Or, take a walk on a
Listening Trail.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Listening Trail - Best Grateful Dead Shows


Another installment in the GDLG Listening Trails Series.

It is understandably natural to want to find your way to the best Dead shows ever when first exploring Grateful Dead music. The band was famous for playing a lot of concerts, and always known for being better live than they ever were on studio albums. However, we are heading into treacherous waters when we try to claim which Dead shows were the best of all time.

None-the-less, that doesn’t seem to change the fact that people are always looking for them. Our goal here will be to call out some performances (from those that have already made it into the Grateful Dead Listening Guide) where the band reaches the golden ring deep inside – shows that truly do stand out for containing extra special musical moments.

A wickedly hard list to compile (and one often fraught with personal opinion), we’ll start below with just a few shows listed chronologically, as truly ranking things in order of greatness is a foolish venture, indeed. No doubt, there will be more “Best Show Ever” trails to come. This first pass is intended to include shows that our entire community could probably agree are true standouts.

Try to forget the “best ever” name of this trail, and see it as a walking tour of some shows that highlight the Dead going over the top musically; hitting musical satori like a bell. These are shows where the Dead’s musical muse is aflame with light and creativity.

Please follow the links below to fully enjoy this Listening Trail.

06/24/70 – Stop here, and don’t pass Go. The sound quality of this tape might be hard on first time listeners (more on that in the review itself). Deadheads may disagree on the topic of “best ever,” but most will agree that it rarely got better than this. Dark Star > Attics Of My Life > Dark Star > Sugar Magnolia > Dark Star > Saint Stephen > China Cat Sunflower > Jam > I Know You Rider. Words can not express… Perhaps one of the longest stretches of pure flowing X factor we have on tape.

07/27/73 – The Watkins Jam. So famous, we often forget just how mesmerizingly special it really was. There was nothing quite like it before or after. This is something for the ages. Note: it’s the audience tape addressed in the review, not the version you might have heard on the So Many Roads boxset. The AUD is fantastic, and a bit of it is featured in podcast listening session 001.

08/06/74 – From a year of knock out performance after performance, there’s something somehow a cut above happening during this day’s first set stand alone Eyes Of The World, and Playin’ In The Band > Scarlet Begonias > Playin’ In The Band. Hold on tight.

05/08/77 – Damned if I don’t include it on a “best ever” list, and perhaps equally damn if I do. Everyone owes it to themselves to figure out how they feel about the most famous Dead tape of them all.

58 comments:

  1. No '72? You cannot be serious; beyond the rock 'n roll focus of '71, before the loosening of '73 and the tendency to noodle of '74, '72 is quickfire psychedelic rock for all time.

    4.8.72 Dark Star > Sugar Mags > Caution marks 4.8.72 as an all time great on its own.

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    Replies
    1. 8/24/72 is on the list

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  2. Relax Elby. You're right, 04/08/72 is a natural "best ever" show. But it hasn't been reviewd on the blog yet, so I can't list it on a trail.

    Thus far, when it comes to 1972, I have focused exclusively on shows I find as personal favorites. That's just how it has played out so far. I've yet to get into some of the more "hall of fame" type shows from that year.

    Heck, I need somewhere to go in year two of the blog. :-)

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  3. 4.7 & 8.72 my intro to the Dead.

    Understood. And you should be done with this by the time you are about ... 224?

    Cheers. Great site.

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  4. From the learn something new every day camp, I'm sorry to say I just figured out that linking to a specific podcast post in another post (this one) causes iTunes to think that other post (this one) is a pod cast episode too. Yoinks!

    If you saw this post appear as a new podcast, I do apologize for the confusion and bandwidth. I have removed the link. It won't happen again.

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  5. Turns out I had linked to the mp3 file, not the post itself. Link now corrected.

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  6. Playin > Scarlet > Playin from 8/6/74 is perhaps the sickest first set jam I've ever heard. Wow.

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  7. Perhaps a loaded question but...years ago, i had a tape with one of the sweetest "eyes of the world on it". Long story, but all my tapes are gone now. Every once in a while ill remember "damn i had that on tape". I know nothing about the recording except it was sweeeet! no date, place, era, etc. I just know jerry was on fire and the band seemed to be right there with him. in and out of almost "dark" jams back into the "light".Jerrys voice and singing was great. The whole band was great. I could go on and on and probably wont do it justice or help. I think it was fairly recent though. Im not the biggest dead head so i dont know eras and all that so....All i can do is look around until i someday if ever say "thats it!!". In the meantime maybe some folks here can help me find other good shows with stellar "eyes" on it.

    thnx
    pete

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    1. This is an old post, so I don't know if you'll see this, but Englishtown 1977 has an awesome Eyes. I had this in college, and lost it. I found the concert for sale as Dicks Picks no. 15. Great great Eyes!

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    2. Try the 'Eyes' from 5-15-77.

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  8. Blort, You give a few worthy clues. When you describe them going from dark to light, you describe the fundamental jam structure of 1973-74 Eyes. So, you might look there. You confound it by mentioning that the return to light is accompanied by Jerry's voice, since the dark-light jams were after the verses. But they did go from the dark-light jam into the song once on 06/09/76, and it is one heavenly version too. Check it out.

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  9. sweet!! thanx for the response so soon. Indeed a tasty show and a great version. Thank you. God I havent listened to them in a while. Some great memories. Some "wierd" ones in there too...hehe. The version i seek was slower more relaxed, more focused maybe? After listening to the 06/09/76 show, i realized i need more. Didn't know about www.archive.org...wow! very cool. again thank you icepetal.

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  10. icepetal, good call on the "light/dark" thing regarding that modulation they did for a while (kinda similar to waht they were doing by inserting the "feelin' groovy" jam into, what was it, "Dark Star"?, or the little thing (sequence of chord changes) they used to do in the transition from "China Cat" into "I Know You Rider", all of these occurring in the early '70s, and I suspect instigated by either Bobby or Phil who were fond of inserting pre-arranged moments such as these into more familiar pieces to "spice them up", whereas it seemed Jer was wont to usually stick to the chord changes as written. Jerry liked songs to be failry simple and free flowing and not be "musical cops" (his term) that forced the musicians into rigid and often abrupt changes ("Cosmic Charlie" and "St. Stephen" being his examples), nevertheless I think blort was not being as specidigic as that perhaps and was just referring to the general mood of that particular version going from dark to light (a looser interpretation).

    blort, check out the version of "Eyes" from the Grateful Dead movie (I think the date on that is either 10/18, 19, or possibly 20, 1974). It is fairly deliverate and thoughtful and also contains moments I contstrue as "dark" before getting light again. If it *isn't* that version, I would work back from that date to when the song was first introduced in, was it the Maples Pavillion show in early '73? The versions in the Summer and Fall of '74 are fairly deliberate and contain light and dark musical elements as often as not.

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    1. Hi,I agree that the Maples pavillion Eyes is one of the more relaxed versions there is a nice version of "Wave that flag"
      (pre "US Blues") at that show. A nice example of the afore mentioned tasty pre-arranged segments is in the GD movie out takes, Other one-Mind left body jam-Other one

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  11. When I saw the link to your post here and the subject, before I read it, I thought obviously there will be the comment "not one list could ever be 'the' list." My after thought as I started to read was "maybe the post will be about naming 20 or 30 of the most highly toted most popular shows in the fanbase, ever. I still think it's a great idea. -thanks.

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  12. hello! im not much into forums, but quite into the Dead, so how could I resist? I have a similar question to the last gent asking about an eyes...i had a show with a filler on it of bertha and jack straw, i think it was bertha>j. straw or the other way around, but by far the sickest of both i had ever hears- i cant remember the era, maybe late 70's, perhaps late 80's (i can tell the difference, i just dont remembeR now!) any ideas?
    keep up the great vibe!!!

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  13. It`s very,very hard to name any show better than any other,but it seems everyone here lost their hearing some point at the end of the`70`s!!!There are many great performances throughout the `80`s and `90`s,some would even say late `80`s into `91 are some,if not Jerry`s best.One venue during this time was,Hampton,VA,`88,the Band,preiviously known as "The Warlocks,"played a monumental and magical event in the,somewhat quaint arena,compaired to larger stadium shows that brought out a mass of people.Jerry was even noted in saying that Hampton was one of his favorite venues to play.A long awaited "Dark Star,"graced those present that night,as well as the long-lost,"Attic`s of my Life,"that brought the journey to it`s close.That show must be ranked up there with everyone`s,oh so highly -regarded shows of the`70`s era.I personally felt the true emotion and heart-felt passion that Jerry put out everynight!!..I could never judge him for his mis-haps on stage or in life.He might not of been a "god."therefore,not perfect,but he sure was close!!!..I miss you oh so very much Jerry!

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  14. Actually, Chris, that Hampton show you refer to is 10/9/89... You are right, however, that it's one of the great ones! Certainly a highlight of that (excellent) year, and I'd put it on a short list of "best ever" shows myself... Then again I'm especially fond of late 80's Dead. It's when I got on the bus, my first show being Alpine '87 (just a week or two before In the Dark was released... They encored with "Touch" and I didn't even know the song yet!).

    Like the famed 5/8/77, 10/9/89 is one of the shows that probably gets much of its near-mythic stature from being a great, A+, SBD recording that made it into heavy trading circulation. That, and it's just a famous show due to the whole "Warlocks" stealth show thing. The previous night is a fine show and recording too, but it's 10/9, with the return of "Dark Star," that many regard to be THE show of 1989.

    "Attics" from that show, as you mentioned, is also a gem. I've always been fond of that "Death Don't Have No Mercy" as well. Also of note, the version of "Feel Like a Stranger" from the Without a Net release was taken from that show.

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  15. John Said. . .

    Given that all *best show ever* are completely subjective I'd have to add some more shows not reviewed here:

    3/1/69 Fillmore West. Phil thinks this show is one of their best ever. He's right. This was released on the Fillmore West box set.

    8/27/72 Veneta OR. OK, everybody loves this show, so no surprise but with good reason! Simply monster playing from the start. That's probably my favorite of all.

    4/8/72 - Empire Wembley Pool. Highlights (Dark Star-> Caution) are on the Steppin' Out With the Grateful Dead box set, but the whole show deserves mention for tight playing and good vocals.

    5-7-77 Boston Garden. I always liked this show better than either the Buffalo or Cornell shows on succeeding nights. Amazing version of Wharf Rat. Much to love. Not that those other two shows aren't great, it's just that this one has something extra.

    11-17-73 Pauley Pavillion -- Extraordinary Playin' -> UJB -> Morning Dew -> UJB -> Playin' & great Eyes of the World marks this one as special.

    Those are just a few worth mentioning. Your views may vary, like I say it's all subjective.

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  16. The more I listen to the Grateful Dead the more I realize how completely mind-blowing every recording is. I truly cannot say this recording or album is my all-time favorite. Each one is unique and great in its own manner. Perhaps I miss something extra from the atmosphere and mystic surrounding a live concert of the Dead; which I never had the pleasure of experiencing live (Im only 24)

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  17. I just found this blog today, wonderful. I was listening to 5/5/77, 5/7/77, 5/8/77 last night and I think they all have special moments, they complete each other. The minglewood from 5/7/77 is better than 5/8/77 in my opinion, and the Bertha, Cassidy, Deal from 5/7/77 are smokin, the Peggy O from 5/7/77 is one of my personal favorites.

    Its ironic that I my favorite number is 7 :)

    A great show to check out that I do not see reviewed here is 6/16/74 Eyes>Big River is great.

    God Bless

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  18. 10/15/83, 6/6/91, 6/7/91, 6/16/74, and 5/31/92 are worth a mention.

    I don't know why people think that all 90's dead is well for lack of a better word dead :)

    There's some great stuff in the 90's. I have heard plenty of 60's, 70's, 80's dead so now I am exploring the 90's all over again.

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  19. 525/77 - From the start of the that night to last the note this show was an amazing thing. Cornell, blah blah blah. Try this one on for size it blows away the Cornell show.

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  20. I just discovered your blog--pretty cool!

    My personal favorite show is 8/6/71 at the Hollywood Palladium. It's non-stop energy and the greatest crowd I've ever heard. Jerry's jam on Hard To Handle is unbeatable. Awesome set list of Casey Jones, St. Stephen, Truckin', Sugar Magnolia, Deal.

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  21. Among my fav shows I would include:
    1971-08-06 at the Hollywood Palladium, full of energy, in full chemistry with the audience and with the best Hard to haandle I have ever heard.
    1969-02-27 at the Fillmore West with my fav Dark Star, the one which was taken for Live/Dead

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  22. SICK Aud I just downloaded, absolutely Fire the whole time. It a 78 show though, but I would have to say in the top your limited to one per year from 68 to 78, that should be a rule.

    http://www.archive.org/details/gd1978-12-16.sonyecm250-no-dolby.walker-scotton.miller.82212.sbeok.flac16

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  23. 5/2/70 is one of my fav's. Just Cryptical-Other-Cryptical is so fantastic, especially the back end of cryp, the slow burn blues that erupts into the finish, fantastic. It's as if this show went on forever...

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  24. 10/1/94 Boston:)..... Bobby's voice during the '70s was just so outta key....and simply..'87-'91 are the best..but i do love the '94 Boston run...magical(~);}

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  25. 10/12/1984
    Augusta Civic Center - Augusta, ME
    Set 1:
    Feel Like A Stranger
    It Must Have Been The Roses
    On The Road Again
    Jack-A-Roe
    It's All Over Now
    Cumberland Blues
    The Music Never Stopped
    Set 2:
    Cold Rain And Snow
    Lost Sailor
    Saint Of Circumstance
    Don't Need Love
    Uncle John's Band
    Drums
    Playin' In The Band
    Uncle John's Band
    Morning Dew
    Encore:
    Good Lovin'

    This Morning Dew is monumental
    the last On The Road Again

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  26. Can recommend 10/9 and 10/10, 1976.
    It's a Dick's Pick for a reason.

    10/9 Second Set is a monster:
    Saint Stephen >
    Not Fade Away >
    Saint Stephen >
    Help On The Way >
    Slipknot! >
    Drums >
    Samson And Delilah >
    Slipknot! >
    Franklin's Tower >
    One More Saturday Night

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  27. for the people above who mentioned 8/6/71 Hollywood, CA...i couldn't agree more. that show absolutely crackles and smolders with energy. the hard to handle (featured on the fallout from the phil zone release) is a snarling, raging beast of a monster and i'm not sure in the thousands of hours of live dead i've listened to over the decades i've heard jerry rip a better solo...ever. also, the st. stephen from 8/6/71 is flat out one of the best ever. something about jerry's guitar/amp tone and the orange sunshine that was no doubt floating around at this show that makes this performance one of the best ever...period.

    i haven't read all the comments above but if anyone mentioned the 2/13 and 2/14 fillmore east shows in 1970, as i'm sure someone must have, then those are some of the best too. the other one from 2/13 (featured on dick's picks 4) is just downright frightening. i dare anyone to play it loud in their earphones in a room with all the lights off and not have the shit completely scared out of them...

    another tasty foray would be 5/19/74 in Portland, Oregon. check out the post-truckin' jam for one of the greatest all out balls-to-the-wall jams i've ever heard...quite possibly the greatest, and unquestionably the tightest, single 15-minute span of live grateful dead ever performed in their entire 30-year history.

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  28. 9/6/80
    Lewiston, Maine Fairgrounds
    Best Show Ever.

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    Replies
    1. oh I was there brother.
      Wheel into Truckin into Wharf Rat and back into the Wheel as the sun set and the doses twirled.

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  29. Not an expert by any means, but some days ago I discovered Sacramento 5/26/93.

    Samson and Delilah
    Here Comes Sunshine
    Walkin' Blues
    Broken Arrow
    Ramble On Rose
    Memphis Blues
    Deal

    Box Of Rain
    Victim or the Crime ->
    Crazy Fingers ->
    Playin' in the Band ->
    Drums ->
    Corinna ->
    Space ->
    Corina ->
    Playin' Reprise ->
    China Doll ->
    Around and Around

    Liberty

    (Please note that the first part of "Corinna" is usually not listed, being considered part of Drums.)

    Good 1st set, particularly "Sunshine". Set 2 is magic from the first "Playin' in the band" through its eventual reprise. This is probably the closest to truly psychedelic music I have heard from the Dead. "Playin'" evolves into a long jam where the band at one point seem on the verge of going into "Fire on the mountain", but decides against it "at the last moment". This merges into Drums, where the whole band remains on stage making it more into a drum-driven, menacing jam in a terrain somewhat similar to some of the ambient/techno bands of the same time - no idea if this was an actual influence or not. The "Drums" jam goes into the first part of "Corinna", which seems to go on and on, in the positive sense of the expression. Unfortunately there is a short glip in the tape, making it jump from "Corinna" into "Space" missing the transition which I would have loved to hear. "Space" eventually leads back into more "Corinna", where the band unfortunately never gets back into the same trippy mood as before, becoming more of a straight, but enjoyable rock song. As a listener you get a somewhat similar feel as when you first notice that you are starting to come down from a trip. Finally back into "Playin' in the band", taking us back to Earth for a beautiful "China Doll".

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  30. I've only listed to a fair share of shows, but a favorite show of myne is 08-17-1989,18,and 19 at Greek theatre. Excellent recording. I was your typical fan till I heard this while camping in the cascades. Brent is awesome on Icho Icho. many good ones like wemen are smarter, throwing stones, touch of grey, not fade away. um bap, bap, bap bap-Which is a part of the original song of Buddy Holly, and the drum beat is based on the Bo-Didley drum beat. 8-18-1989 show is on utube.

    I listened to that 08,06,1971 hard to handle. Jerry must have sold his soul for that song.

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  31. 06/14/69 (Sat) Monterey Performing Arts Center - Monterey, CA

    Set 1: Lovelight > Me & My Uncle > Doin' That Rag > He Was A Friend Of Mine, Dire Wolf, Dark Star > St. Stephen > The Eleven > Lovelight > Drums > Lovelight

    This show absolutely smokes! If you are a Pigpen fan, then you will drool over this 25+ min Lovelight opener. The lengthy Dark Star is superb as well...lots of territory explored....and the return to Lovelight brings the house down! Vintage '69 Dead....really trying to push the boundaries!

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  32. does anyone know what show howlin' wolf did "spoonful"?
    pretty sure it was lakeland coliseum Fl.

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  33. The 1973/07/27 Watkins Jam AUD is a soundcheck for the following days East Coast Mega Show. It's listed as a show in several places, but 7/28 was a one-off event, and 7/27 is a rare AUD Soundcheck.

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  34. For me, trying to pick a "best of" is like trying to pick "my favorite song". I go in cycles, changing eras or preferring spaced-outs jams to more structure and vice-versa. Jerry's soulful aged voice to a younger etc etc. The choices are virtually endless and I enjoy taking advantage of them all :-) Thanks to all for pointing me in the direction of some shows that I wasn't as familiar with

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  35. hands down 87-90 pick any show and listen and most times than not the band was on and will hit you why alpine 89 first night 7/17-1989 is called down hill from here the band even new the best shows they have done (not dick) so follow the whole story not just the 70's

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    Replies
    1. plenty of great 80s shows ... Brent was the reason why ... Brent added the drive that the dead needed at that point.
      Im tired of hearing about the 70s. Sure there were great shows of course but stop hatin on the 80s .. now the 90s ehh ..after Brent died Hornsby n Welnick just didn't fit right and it was over for me at that point ...

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  36. I am looking for the best Around and Around I ever heard. Lost the tape. Donna era post '75, 2nd set, toward the end of the show. It was rockin' and would never end. Any suggestions?

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    1. 9/27/72, Stanley Theater, Jersey City --

      Dick's Picks 11 -- my personal favorite.

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  37. 6/24/70, 10/21/71, 5/3/72, 5/19/77, 9/2/78, 9/2/80, 12/31/81

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  38. Grateful Dead Live at Paramount Theatre on 1977-10-01

    smokes

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  39. I'm thinking Barry Manilow's "Mandy" myself.
    You all remember how that one goes?

    Oh Mandy, you gave and you gave without taking

    . . . .

    But I sent you away, Oh Mandy . . . .


    Now try to get that out of your head . . . .

    I did that because you are all WRONG -- 9/28/72 Stanley Theater, Jersey City

    Just an absolute MONSTER "He's Gone" -- with Phil just going crazy across the top of everyone else with lightning fast runs -- finally everyone drops out -- Phil soloes for a bit, then they go into a monster "The Other One" that is just amazing -- one huge long shape shifter that finally melts down into a really harshed out Jerry feedback growl/wah that just about the time it gets you totally wincing just transforms into the most sparkling perfect and beautiful "Me and Bobby McGee" imaginable which immediately leads back into "The Other One" which then drops into an absolutely gorgeous "Wharf Rat." It is just amazing the range of emotions that they take you through.

    This was the night that happened after the show that was, wisely, selected as Dick's Picks 11 -- 9/27/72. 9/27/72 is a truly great show -- I bought a second copy of Dick's Picks 11 just to make sure I had a backup-- just in case something happened to my original. I did that with a couple other Dick's Picks too -- like No. 19 -- but Dick's Picks 11 is the only one where I bought a backup copy for my backup copy -- so I purposely have three copies of that show -- just in case.

    But, as good as Dick's Picks 11 -- 9/27/72 -- is, the next night -- 9-28-72 just BLOWS IT AWAY.

    If you haven't listened to it, you really have missed the best of the best.

    All this is opinion, of course, but do bear in mind how friggin informed and good my opinion is . . ..

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  40. The Watkins Glen show wasn't that good! It was a great event and the jam in the soundcheck was great................ maybe you were thinking of the Dark Star show from RFK '73 ??????

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    1. Big Ray, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. no, I was not thinking of the 6/10/73 show, as fine as it is. For me, that show gets over-sold based upon the amazing set list. It's a stellar show, don't get me wrong. But as noted, for the Watkins Jam alone, that stretch of music forces the date onto my mind's top list.

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  41. This OLD DeadHead was at both 6/10/73 and 7/27&28/73 along with a couple of hundred others, but those two stand out well even when you are a dead ringer for being comatose. You just can not pick a show, especially if you were there, 'cause if you were there, and a REAL DEADHEAD, it is moot.

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  42. 10-25-73 The Dark Star>Eyes is smokin'...seriously powerful stuff, IMHO that is one of the top 10 shows of the 70's, possibly ever.

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  43. Look I'm a metalhead, straight up pantera, slayer, etc. About 4 years ago I thought, "I gotta see what all this dead hype is about." For the last 4 years I haven't gone one day (even birth of child), that I haven't listened to the dead. I have no nostalgia shows, just an outsider becoming an insider. Here are my top 5 shows (no order), without influence or being told "check out this year," this is all self discovery.

    1. 6/30/73 best Darkstar73
    2. 9/27/76 best help> slipnot> etc.
    3. 2/26/77 terrapin & estimated in 1st set.
    4. 3/24/73 SICK probably my fav. Dark Star, PITB.
    5. 10/10/76 other> stella

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    Replies
    1. check out the H/S/F at 6-14-76 too That whole June run was sweet...

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  44. My first Dick's Picks is still my favorite; DP vol 2, 10/31/71 Columbus OH. Jerry's guitar sounds like the life force pumping through some huge musical beast during this set. "Dark Star" never sounded so tight and purposeful to me as on this disk, and the St Stephen blows me away. I never fail to get chills from this show. I reachfor it every Spring and it never gets old.

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  45. 10-16-89
    5-26-93
    11-30-80
    8-27-72
    3-23-73
    3-29-90
    9-10-91
    2-13-70
    10-9-89
    11-30-73
    2-27-69

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  46. Wow. Unless I missed it....can't believe nobody mentioned the closing of the Fillmore East run. A lot of people list 4/29/71 as their favorite but I'm partial to 4/28. My favorite Morning Dew (sorry Cornell) and Hard to Handle ( better than 4/29)

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  47. I for one appreciate all the responses because it gives me some more stuff to explore, in decades I've largely avoided-the 80s, for instance.

    I also think there has to be consideration from 1972 on any list-I'm always a little surprised that greatest show lists don't have more representation from this particular year. Disclaimer-I'm on a personal mission to listen to every Europe 72 show and '72 is my favorite year of Dead shows at the moment (that could change). They are firing on all cylinders in 72, in my opinion and there are a few to choose from. 8/27, 9/27-28...I also love the Fox Theater show in St. Louis, and The Rheinhalle show has one my favorite Dark Stars.

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