Saturday, July 27, 2013

Grateful Dead: “View From The Vault IV” DVD Review

So 1987 was the year of the big hit for the Grateful Dead – “Touch Of Grey,” off of their first studio release in seven years, In The Dark. Things were going pretty well. View From The Vault IV contains portions of two concerts the band did that summer: July 24 in Oakland, and July 26 in Anaheim. The Dead actually did three sets those nights, the third sets and encores being with Bob Dylan. The DVD does not include any of the Dylan stuff. Other than that, all that is missing is three songs from the first set of the Oakland show.

Oakland Stadium, 7-24-87

First Set

There’s little “Funiculi Funicula” tuning to start the first set, and Jerry goofing around, smacking himself on the side of the head, before things get going with the wonderful “Jack Straw,” a fan favorite. It’s a really good show opener for many reasons, including the fact that both Bob and Jerry sing lead on different parts. This rendition has a lot of energy.

The band then goes right into “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,” and this is a good version, particularly in that last section of the song, which they keep going for a while. “Across the Rio Grand-eo/Across the lazy river.” The folks in charge of the visuals get into some weird stuff with the footage early in this show, at the end of “Mississippi Half-Step.”

Then we get a couple from In The Dark, “My Brother Esau” (which was oddly left off of the CD version originally) and “When Push Comes To Shove.” (However, in the show these two songs were separated by three other songs, the three cut from this DVD – “Friend Of The Devil, “Me And My Uncle” and “Big River.”) Near the beginning of “My Brother Esau,” Bob messes up the lyrics and laughs at himself. Brent follows “When Push Comes To Shove” with “Far From Me,” a song from his first studio album with the band, Go To Heaven. It’s always great to hear Brent belt out a tune.

Bob then sings “Cassidy,” a beautiful song that works for me every time. The jam in this version gets pretty intense, and is one of the highlights of the first set. Jerry then wraps things up with “Deal.”

Second Set

The visual on screen to open the second set is “Space Your Face.” I had a Space Your Face T-shirt back in the day. It was my favorite T-shirt, and I gave it to a girl. I can only assume she still has it. Bob starts off the second set with an energetic rendition of “Hell In A Bucket.” I know not everyone liked this song, but I always enjoyed it. I fucking love the lines, “There may come a day I will dance on your grave/If unable to dance, I will crawl across it.” And then into “Scarlet Begonias,” one I love to dance to, one that never fails to make me smile. “I ain’t often right, but I’ve never been wrong.” And then, surprisingly, the band actually ends the song, rather than going into “Fire On The Mountain.”

And after a few second, they start “Playing In The Band.” And just as you might expect, this is when things get interesting, with on-screen visuals to go along with exploration in the jam. “Drums” gets pretty out there at one point, but “Space” is fairly tame. No matter, as it leads to “Uncle John’s Band.” “Well, the first days are the hardest days/Don’t you worry anymore.” A later lyric flub by Jerry makes Brent laugh. It’s delightful.

That leads to “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” with Brent on lead vocals. And holy moly, it’s fantastic. The second time around, Jerry and Brent sing it together. The band keeps the energy up with “I Need A Miracle” into a seriously rousing rendition of “Bertha,” and then they finish things with a pretty great version of “Sugar Magnolia.”

Anaheim Stadium, 7-26-87

First Set

The band gets things off to a great start with “Iko Iko,” and everyone is immediately dancing. And, oh boy, I had forgotten all about Bob Weir’s Madonna T-shirt. Well, enough said about that, right? Anyway, Bob goes into “New Minglewood Blues,” and, being in Anaheim, sings, “A couple shots of whiskey, these Disney Minnies start lookin’ good.”

They do a couple from In The Dark – Brent’s “Tons Of Steel” (a song he’d actually recorded solo several years earlier) and “West L.A. Fadeaway.” Check out that shot of Bill groovin’ to Jerry’s rhythm at the beginning of “West L.A. Fadeaway.” And it’s during that song that we get the first playful visuals. And then – interestingly – Bob chooses “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” Interestingly because the third set that night was with Bob Dylan, and I wonder if Dylan was back stage, crossing that song from his list. “Someday everything is gonna be different/When I paint my masterpiece.” That, strangely, leads to “Mexicali Blues.” Bob has a moment when he forgets which verse he’s on. The first real jam of the night comes during “Bird Song.” And they end the first set with Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land.”

Second Set

The second set starts just right with “Shakedown Street,” getting everybody dancing again. This is a really good version of “Shakedown,” with nice vocal play toward the end. “Just gotta poke around.” They jam and then actually return to the vocal section again, which is absolutely wonderful. They follow it with the sweet “Looks Like Rain,” and then “Terrapin Station.” Like basically every other Grateful Dead fan, I love “Terrapin,” and this is a good version.

“Drums” has a moment that blew me away (granted, I was seriously stoned by this point). And then the drummers begin playing with the audience for a bit, and it’s pretty great. “Space” quickly incorporates elements of “The Other One,” and the band eases into that song. It’s a powerful “Other One.” Jerry then sings one of my favorites, “Stella Blue.” They end the second set with “Throwin’ Stones” into “Not Fade Away.” And by the end the band is backing the audience on vocals.

View From The Vault IV is scheduled to be released on August 13, 2013 through Shout! Factory. Also scheduled for release that day is View From The Vault III.

(Note: I also posted this review on Pop Culture Beast.)

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