On a tropical summer evening in Miami, the Dead kicked off their show with a tasty Ramble On Rose. Black Throated Wind, with Bobby’s powerful vocals adding to Keith and Jerry’s stunning interplay comes out next. Technical difficulties then result in a lengthy break, but the boys come back without missing a beat, starting with a luscious Half-Step. And the rest of the set is like that: all rich and beautifully played. But a few songs deserve particular note, including the Dead’s only rendition of Chuck Berry’s Let It Rock. Jerry takes the vocals, Phil bombs the bass line, and the band puts in a tight version. It would have been nice to see them develop the song more; Jerry shreds on it, but the interstices remain largely unexplored (see some of JGB’s performances the following year for a sense of what is possible). The three songs that take us into the break are exquisite beyond words. The Lay Me Down is a best-ever version, the playing and vocal delivery just as precious and despairing as the lyrics. And Weather Report Suite comes creeping out of the ashes of The Lay Me Down. ‘74 was peak time for WRS, and this one is as ravishing as any; let it wash over you. What’s more, the WRS transitions poignantly into an exquisite China Doll. During set break, Ned and Phil comes out for a Seastones “set,” captured here on the tape.
A searching, contemplative jam opens the second half, finding its way to Ship of Fools, which is stunning. A jaunty Big River comes next, followed by a stellar Black Peter and amped up Around and Around. A monumental Dark Star follows, with more than a little Miles Davis flavor floating around in it; parts of the tune will tingle the back of your neck. And once you think the Dead can not get further into the cosmos, they pass through some sort of wormhole into the sun drenched plains for a Spanish Jam. The jam gets downright rowdy before suddenly slipping smoothly - we would not have thought it possible - right into US Blues. And the action continues the rest of the way out with Uncle John’s and One More Saturday Night before a Casey Jones encore, putting a cap on what is one of the best shows of a stand-out year.