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Dead of the Day: September 14, 1990

Madison Square Garden
New York. New York

The Dead are so tight on this night and play a lovely first set, with the Sugaree and Cassidy as the highlights. Jerry’s rough and gravelly voice is superb on the uptempo Sugaree with Vince and Bobby adding a rich background for Jerry’s eloquent picking, although the keys wonderfully assert themselves towards the end. But it is the second set that is the real treat here. The boys head out of the break with a fun, robust, and so heady Scarlet Begonias. Vince tears it up in the latter half, parroting Jerry and then continuing to fiddle with the same little jam, rolling it around and around, diving into it from different angles. While this is going on, Jerry has found his own little groove and scooted off, leaving the riff that Vince had picked up far behind. The Fire On The Mountain that comes next is unreal, starting with a face-melting jam just a few minutes in that is almost too much. Then Jerry comes in for another verse and Phil starts laying in the bass, throwing oil on the stormy sea. But before too long, it is raging again, Jerry blistering, Vince spraying diamonds, Phil bombing away, and magical chaos reigning. Truckin’ sets off next, gathering momentum as it goes. Before long, the boys are once again in some glorious jamming with Bobby uncharacteristically taking the lead for a while as Jerry and Vince make sure things continue to roil. Towards the end of Truckin’, things settle down and it becomes clear that they are going into Terrapin, bringing joyous screams from the audience. The Terrapin, like the rest of the set, is one for the ages, as strong and powerful as they come. And, heading into Drums as it does, there is lots of room in the latter half of the song for adventure and transcendence, both of which the band achieves, splendidly exploring the theme before they give way to the drummers. Out of Space, Phil channels The Other One while the rest of the band slowly comes into the song’s orbit before finally latching on to the theme. And when they really go into The Other One, it is like a rocket going off with the thumbing bass, Jerry scorching ahead, and Bobby dealing. Eventually, they reach some mellower ground and cruise around until arriving at a tremendous Wharf Rat. Then, a tumultuous, rocking Sugar Mags sees off the set. The next night, Hornsby would join the band for the better part of two years, but on this special night at the Garden, Vince proved he could handle things all on his own if need be.

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