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Tuesday, November 22

Everybody's Dancin' in a Ring Around the Sun: 30 Grateful Dead shows in 30 Days: 5-31-92 Las Vegas,NV. SBD and VIdeo

This show was so hot they had to call out the fire trucks,literally. It was hundred degree plus weather and the the LVFD brought out the trucks to cool the crowd down by spraying water from the top of the ladder to try to mitigate the heat. The boys, on the other hand, put out another version of fire when they hit the stage. 
Almost ablaze still you don't feel the heat: Sam Boyd Silver Bowl 5-31-92 LV,NV  


The Grateful Dead,once they made the leap to stadiums, played at Sam Boyd in Vegas all through the nineties. In fact, Mickey even sampled the sounds of slot machines to work into the drums portion of one of the shows. In 1992, the boys played what was to be my first straight from the taper copy of a show. As the nineties moves on it gets easier and easier to pick a gem from every year. While maybe they had brought the general level of playing up, sometimes they were just good shows but other nights they were the band beyond description, Jehovah's favorite choir. While I'm not heaping that kind of praise on this show, it is definitely one of the best shows of an era where those kind of shows were becoming rarer and rarer. This is one of the few shows that started with the triptych of Help>Slip>Frank and then the second set started with the duo of Scarlet>Fire. They were still working out the sound kinks during the first set and Jerry is almost inaudible during "Slipknot!". I've heard this attributed to gear malfunction or a broken string. One thing is for sure though, while the band goes through the process of untying this particular knot, Jerry tunes his guitar live during the song, working the sound into the mix and as a quasi-guitarist, this is a masterstroke. He could have tuned it silently and then came in or had his mic turned down but instead he weaves the process into the song, which i find spectacular, and it's barely noticeable. You really have to listen for it. The following "Franklin's Tower" was a bouncy, wonderful version that was a great way to start the show. Vince, who was getting used to being there by now, is also a standout during this show. One of the few early shows where I really appreciated his contributions on their own merit. 
 Steve Miller opened for the band and came on about 2, and the Dead came on around 4pm sayeth those who were there. He later came back and joined the band on the last three songs. Fun fact, he got a little overzealous during "Morning Dew" and Phil gave him the "look", the it's "Jerry time, back off dude" look. Following a standard "New Minglewood Blues" the boys called up Annie and her roses and delivered a gorgeous rendition of this Garcia/Hunter ballad that had a touch of flanger on the vocals and it sounded wonderful. This is where I first started appreciating what Vince was doing. What he does later, well, that's another story. My friend that was there said that Jerry was bouncing around and looking good and everybody was happy. Maybe it was the roses, maybe it was his briefcase, maybe he was in love and happy to play but whatever it was came out this night. Considering the first sets were getting shorter and shorter, this night was a comparably long first set of eight songs. Which is very depressing considering the same band in 72' on May 26 played a nineteen-song first set with a 15-min "Playin'" and a China>Rider, as well as a NFA>GDTRFB in the first set, it shows how badly the band had aged and how the new memberships and relationships had reflected and effected the band dynamic. After a good "Queen Jane Approximately" from Bobby, Jerry made the call for "Bird Song" and it was a gorgeous jam, with a blown verse, that lasted for about fourteen minutes, and while Jerry was playing and leading the jam, Vince's keys were adding nice fills and texture and the band was allowing him to roam and it was really a great night for Vince. Even if it is somewhat depressing that with all the gear he had access too, he made it sound like he was playing a toy piano. His tone reminded me of Linus in the Peanuts most of the time but this night he was on because he really added a lot to this song. Ending the set on one of my least favorite Bobby efforts was still a well-played "Picasso Moon".
The second set kicked off with an energetic take on Scarlet>Fire that had the whole band locked in and rolling. It was if they had a backstage huddle and agreed that they had something going and let's kick it up a notch. Sometimes the nineties dead could feel a little cold or sterile because of the lack of crowd noise and the bright light of the pure soundboard feed. With the SBD, you can hear every note and every word and you don't hear the guy asking for a lighter or the girls talking about their boyfriends' but during the nineties, a show could song wonderful in the venue but when hear the "warts and all sbd" your opinion changes. This show, thankfully doesn't have much of that but you do hear the bum notes or botched verses a lot more clearly that you would in the audience. 
This "Scarlet" went through a nice, patient jsm into the "Fire on the Mountain" that closed out the opening duo with a stately grace as opposed to balls-to-the-wall jamming of earlier incarnations of the song. This is a mature version of the pairing that is confident and played confidently.  Next up was "Man Smart, Women Smarter" and as much as I love Bobby stepping out of the stereotypical "Grateful Dead" song model, I think this got way over-played way and it became an automatic "skip" when I was listening to burnt CD's after getting through the "fast forward, oh damnit, to far, back just a second, damn opening chorus" of the cassette days. It always worked out that if you just listened to the song it was quicker than trying to fast-forward it on a cassette deck. Ahh, the nineties.
Luckily, after this song Jerry laid down one of the best "So Many Roads" I've heard. He was completely present with no blown verses and the solos were tight and the light supporting chorus of the band and Vince adding just the right fills and the drummers giving the song a driving feel made this a treat for those there. Then after a beat, Bobby jumped into the un-moored, "Saint of Circumstance" that lost the sailor that could drag it down if not played in the right place but this Saint delivered on all the promise and got the crowd ready for what was stacking up to be a great show.
 After a follow-up "He's Gone" into "Drums>Space" the lot rumor that had been going around that no one dare speak as if not to jinx it came true as the delicate opening notes of "Attics of My Life" came out of Space. Even through the sbd you can hear the crowd cheering and then they became reverentially quiet as the boys delivered this delicate ballad they had just played a few shows before. 
It was at this point that the band brought out Steve Miller to sit in on the last quarter, starting with "Spoonful". After a suitably blues-y rendition, the band slid into a hard charging "The Other One" with Miller and Garcia both adding leads and pushing each other and just for effect, the added chipmunk vocal effect was thrown on and then the band led the jam into the ground and out sprung "Morning Dew". With Jerry as active and sprightly and altogether on-point as he had been all night, this Dew does it. Miller adds some blues fills here and there but I don't think he understood the general dynamic the band plays with during this song. This is one of the first songs that Phil really stood out to me. He always is there when he needs to be but sometimes when he pops up you forget that he plays more like the trumpet player he used to be instead of the bass player he ended up as. After twelve minutes of apocalyptic bliss, with Jerry pouring it all out at the end, the band went off and took a short break. When they came back on, they played what had become one of the highlights of the Vince era. This was the first playing of both "Baba O' Riley and "Tomorrow Never Knows" and to have them both played at the same time meant that they were listening to what Vince was saying and trying to stay fresh at the same time. "Baba O' Reilly" was particularly suited to Vince's talents from the Tubes and Jerry even throws in the obligatory arm windmill ala' Townshend as what I assume was a goof. Welnick's vocals are suited to the song and it's not a terrible version as the band played along gamely and then out of nowhere comes the Beatles' classic "Tomorrow Never Knows"which basically was a drummers/Welnick contribution as Weir and Garcia mainly just make weird noises and Phil drops some bombs and Jerry gives a solo a chance but this is mainly a Welnick joint and a fittingly mind-bending way to end a show that not only the largest concert in the history of Nevada at that point in time but easily one of the best of 1992.
video of the whole show- 5/31/92
Grateful Dead 
Sam Boyd Silver Bowl Las Vegas,NV
5-31-92

First Set: 

Help On The Way >
Slipknot! >
Franklin's Tower ;
New Minglewood Blues ;
It Must Have Been The Roses ;
Queen Jane Approximately ;
Bird Song ;
Picasso Moon

Second Set:

Scarlet Begonias >
Fire On The Mountain ;
Man Smart (Woman Smarter) ;
So Many Roads >
Saint Of Circumstance >
He's Gone >
Drums >
Space >
Attics Of My Life >
Spoonful [1] >
The Other One [1] >
Morning Dew [1]

Encore:

Baba O'Riley >
Tomorrow Never Knows
(1.) w/Steve Miller



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