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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

1981 September 26 - War Memorial Auditorium

Jerry Garcia 1981GRATEFUL DEAD
Saturday, September 26, 1981
War Memorial Auditorium - Buffalo, NY
Audience Recording

All of the early 80’s years can be difficult to wade through if you’re trying to get a first taste or two from this period of the Dead’s live concert history. Not only are there many low points to match the many high points, but nearly everything is out there on tape in one form or another, let alone multiple versions of more shows than not. There are plenty of hidden treasures lurking from this era, and also many “classics” in their own right.

When it comes to 1981, it might have been one of the more consistently hot years from this period. There is a lot of really great stuff packed into ’81. As a first suggestion, I can’t help but point to one of the classics, 9/26/81. The overall feeling of this show is one of having a really really good time. The band and audience seem locked in together from the first notes. There’s an intimacy to this night caught on tape. You can’t help but feel the bond.

The first set crackles with nice energy, but it’s the second set that flies off the charts. Dan Healy (the Dead’s soundman) recorded the second set himself from the soundboard, and this is the recording featured here.

Phil Lesh - Greek Theatre 1981Playin’ In The Band stretches out in lovely wide arcs. Jerry’s solo seems to gain momentum as it goes along, lending a sense of increasing speed to the jam fueled by an ever growing level of intensity. There's a lot of great stuff to find listening to this jam. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it turns into Bertha. This is a wonderful surprise, especially to anyone not familiar with this era. It’s a great version, and the crowd is loving it. Mind the Phil bombs!

From Bertha, we land in Estimated Prophet. The post jam out of the song is just about perfect. You can easily lose yourself in the psychedelically loping nature of this song's backbone. And, when Jerry’s lead lines begin to swing in and out of view like a planet orbiting around your head, it just couldn’t feel more perfect. The Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad that follows bursts with energy much like the earlier Bertha. Things are going very well.

Morning Dew. The song is timeless. It almost doesn’t matter which one you hear, you are always nestled close to the heart of the band when they play this song. This evening's version is no exception. The song seems to speak the heart –felt language of the Grateful Dead every time it's played. It slips effortlessly back into Playin’, which bookends the second set masterfully.


  1. This was one of the first early 80's shows that really bit me, and also one of the first aud tapes that really made me think outside the sbd box. The sbd's are missing the Shakedown opener, which is patched from the aud and sounds b-a-n-a-n-a-s; but when it cuts back to the sbd, the sound thins out and the energy just deflates. I thought, "maybe I should just get the full aud..." and the die was cast.

    I've also always loved the segue into GDTRFB -- imho the Playin>Bertha sounds like Garcia just flips channels and takes off, but the move out of Estimated sounds so natural that I wonder why they didn't sub this one for Eyes more than once (it's in the same key, after all). It even sounds like Jerry is playing some trademark Eyes licks over the GDTRFB groove as it gets going. I love it.

    Speaking of dynamite Western NY auds, I'm enjoying 9/2/80 right now.

  2. Does anyone remember the Dead playing the War Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo in May of 1976?

  3. No Buffalo in 1976, but they did play two other War Memorial Auditoriums in September: 09/27 in Rochester, and 09/28 in Syracuse

  4. they played The Aud 5-9-1977


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