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July 8, 1987

Roanoke Civic Center
Roanoke, Virginia
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The Dead would never be the same after this day in 1987. In the Dark hit the store shelves two days prior, and Touch of Grey was already moving up the Billboard charts. Moreover, the high profile Dylan and the Dead tour had just kicked off on Independence Day. This show at the 10,000-seat Roanoke Civic Center would be the last before the crowds descended on Dead tour, forever reshaping the experience and the band itself. But, of course, while it was surely foretold during some Ouija acid trip in 1967, the full implications of this new reality had not yet become apparent. Instead, for those in the moment, it was just another fabulous Dead show, notable only for the small venue. The Heads in attendance were treated to an inventive night of playing. Throughout the show, Healy had a mic on the crowd, creating a sort of live matrix. So the soundboard recording that we have provides some sense of what it was like to be in the intimate confines with the Dead tearing it up. Healy’s effects are also littered throughout the show. The first time they become really apparent is on the Sugaree after the energetic Hell in a Bucket opener. There, Healy - who rarely messed with Jerry's vocals - modulated them repeatedly. But the odd results are completely overshadowed by Jerry’s incredible solo in the middle of the song. Afterwards, the boys pick out a neat little intro to It’s All Over Now before a funky, roly-poly Dupree’s Diamond Blues. Then Brent takes center stage for Never Trust a Woman, throwing in some blistering licks on the keys to add to his heartfelt vocals. With the Dylan and the Dead tour stretched out over the rest of July, Bobby gets a final Dylan cover in next with Masterpiece. After Big Railroad Blues, the set ends with an exploratory and eclectic Let It Grow. This one is a little faster paced and loaded with power, providing the first real exploratory jamming of the night.

With the acoustics and size of the venue, the sound echoes profusely throughout the evening, creating an interesting effect which is only heightened by the mix. In the second set, the Dead harnessed the crowd and really started to put the peculiar character of the building to purpose. But first, the tocsin sounds of Scarlet ushered in the music and sent the audience into a frenzy. Phil responds in kind, starting to carpet bomb the place while Brent offers up some lively fills. After they dispense with the lyrics, the band sets off on a billowing flight leading to a rich transition into Fire. And it is here in the midst of the first verse that the band really starts to take advantage of the venue, mixing in the crowd noise and sending out percussive bombs that ricochet around the building while Jerry just tears it up. If the whole band was not playing so tightly, the combination probably would be a mess, but the Dead harness it all, turning the building into an instrument and creating a face-melting Fire on the Mountain. Estimated comes out afterwards, more smooth and relaxed with a little reggae feel, brimming with sweet licks and lots of vocal vamping and distortion. The He’s Gone that comes next packs a punch, ending in an awesome call and response with the crowd clapping along into Drums. There, Mickey and Billy immediately hit full throttle and put on an insane earth-shaking display. Eventually, they get more and more spacey until the rest of the band joins and takes it into a fragile and glassy outer realm that hints at China Doll. But instead, it is the rudimentary elements of Crazy Fingers that come together before Jerry eases the band indisputably down that road. And it is a lovely Crazy Fingers at that, perfectly paced and precious. At the end, a bright little segue drops right into a thunderous opening to Truckin’. Then a rare and righteous Comes a Time rolls out before a rocking Sugar Mags takes the set out. A delicious Black Muddy River encore puts a cap on the evening, a sort of last lament at the end of an era.

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