Again, we turn to the only extant show from the date, a 1987 evening at Red Rocks. The show is not that heralded, but giving it a listen, we find it has some real merit. There always seems to be something about a Cold Rain And Snow opener, and this version is no different. The straightforward, plaintive start to the lyrics and the simple beginning to the music allows the listener to jump on board before the playing builds into a surly multifaceted beast. With both the band and the audience eased into the show in this fashion, both are ready for the elemental Rooster that follows as Brent and Jerry make the barnyard manifest with epic runs while Bobby’s vocals lord over the scene like the cock over his domain. Afterwards, Brent comes out with a rendition of Tons Of Steel that might just make you revisit your thoughts on the tune; it is flawlessly played, hitting all the right notes to evoke something more than the cheesiness that the lyrics often suggest. By the time an emotionally resonant High Time rolls out, it is clear: the Dead are rolling and wonderfully in sync on this evening. And, somehow, in Masterpiece, the boys appear to bring out a guest as a lovely violin seems to make its appearance. But with no visitors noted on any setlists, it must just have been Jerry making some incredible sounds on his guitar in what we think is still the pre-MIDI era. Push Comes To Shove and Let It Grow then see the band into set break. The second set features the same immaculate playing, melded with a very fine setlist. Things get started with Crazy Fingers and then roll into a raging Samson and Delilah. On the Ship Of Fools that emerges next, Jerry is deep into it, both vocally and on guitar, as the rest of the band adds tremendous luster to the music, especially Brent with his twinkling runs. After a pause, the boys head into Playin’ In The Band, which is resplendent and layered. The only thing that could be said against it is that it is a mere eight minutes with an attenuated jam. But the China Doll that comes out next is spectacularly precious, making you forget any concerns about Playin’. Watchtower emerges out of Space as the band climbs into the song rather than building toward it. However they got there, Bobby immediately plunges into the lyrics with abandon as Jerry similarly scorches off, resulting in a rollicking, though tight, version. Then the boys head out on three more rockers, topped off by a roaring Sugar Mags. But the encore finally calms everyone with a stellar Black Muddy River.
Other August 11th Shows and Recordings:
- 1967 - Grande Ballroom - Detroit, MI - unknown setlist, not on Archive