Saturday, May 10, 1980
Hartford Civic Center – Hartford, CT
As has often been pointed out here on the Grateful Dead Listening Guide, there is something extra special about discovering a wonderful show that may have hitherto evaded your radar. In fact, for many, entire years might fit this description, and 1980 is typically one of those years.
So here for your pleasure is one such show. Things are so good on 05/10/80 that when it's all said and done you might very well find yourself saying, "Where has this show been all my life?"
Set 1: New Minglewood Blues, Peggy-O, Mexicali Blues > El Paso, Althea, Passenger, Far From Me, Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance > Deal
Set 2: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Feel Like A Stranger > Comes A Time > Estimated Prophet > He's Gone > Uncle John's Band > Drums > Space > Not Fade Away > Sugar Magnolia E: Alabama Getaway > One More Saturday Night
This show has the sense of bursting energy about it. The band seems intent on pushing itself beyond the norm, and nowhere is this more evident than in the meat of the second set. Given the uniqueness of song pairings on this night, it's almost a crime to know the set list before you listen to this show as it kills the surprises. But this seems somewhat unavoidable here thirty years later.
After a China>Rider that finds Garcia absolutely peaking through one blistering run after another with giant spinning and spiraling wheels of starlight, the stage is set for what is already hinting at being a special evening. What follows not only contains some amazing music, but also presents us with several song transitions that never happened before, nor ever would after.
A snaky Stranger finds its exit jam turned on its head by Jerry as he slowly brings us over to Comes A Time. The transition seems to extend forever as Phil continues to return to Stranger while the rest of the band follows Garcia's migration. It's been over a year (and over 70 shows) since the last Comes A Time was played. That, coupled with coming out of Feel Like A Stranger for the first and only time, serves to thrill the audience completely.
This first post-Keith and Donna era Comes A Time floats its way out on delicate wings that allow the spaces between the music to swell with emotion. We've found a secret garden hidden behind hills where we can become one with a tender tranquility. And out of this garden we enter Estimated Prophet (never before or after to be found coming out of Comes A Time).
This Estimated succeeds in transgressing the laws of time and space as it defies any ability to be called solely a product of 1980. The jam is awash with great swells and syncopated rhythms that coil like rising smoke in still air. The slippery edges of slow motion water over river rocks eventually recede leaving us in He's Gone.
The entirety of He's Gone feels born out of the same secret spaces discovered in Comes A Time. As we pass into the end portion of the song we are again treated to a dose of music that has a tactile presence to its silences. Everything visible and invisible combines to take us further out of ourselves. This slowly grows in intensity as cosmic winds and jet streams rise around us. Then the music settles, and given our location in the show we can't help but expect to head directly into Drums from here. This is not to be.
The transition into Uncle John's Band captures the quintessential perfection that was Grateful Dead improvisation. Again never seen before or after, heading from He's Gone into UJB is like icing on some magical musical cake. There is no escaping the energy that pours from the band to the crowd and directly off the tape. We are firmly in our sacred space with the band. There is no desire to be anywhere else. "Where does the time go," indeed. The music begins to eclipse itself as the jamming unfolds. Decidedly proving that there is no reason what-so-ever to discount years or decades that came after the Dead's "golden era," this jam is riveting. The song itself eventually falls away and the band continues to coax magic from thin air prolonging the approach of the moment when the drummers finally take over.
The post Drums/Space portion of the show is intensely rockin' right to the final notes of the two song encore. The band certainly was in no mood to hold back. When it was all done, the music played for nearly 3 full hours.