Bringing In The New Year With The Grateful Dead 1988-89 (With Clarence Clemons on NYE)
During the 29th, the “off” day, a hard rain steadily fell from the blustery sky. This, accompanied by the uncharacteristic chill, made for rough going in the Coliseum parking lot.
On New Years Eve, the clouds parted and revealed optimistic blue skies, as the Deadheads lined up early to ensure a good spot inside the arena to enjoy the show. Deadheads expecting a “miracle ticket” found tickets to be even scarcer than the previous two shows. As the sun went down, temperatures plummeted as well as the hopes of some to get into the most important Dead show of the year. This year the show was only broadcast in the Bay Area on KFOG. Little Feat was playing at the nearby Henry J. Kaiser, and that eased the disappointment of many out of town heads without tickets to their favorite show.
Inside the arena, the reveling Deadheads were treated to excellent opening sets by peter Apfelbaum and the Hieroglyphics Ensemble and The Tom Tom Club. Apfelbaum and his ensemble, a horn dominated sixteen piece jazz band, played inspired world beat music that was enjoyed by many in the audience. Apfelbaum has been featured on the locally produced KPFA radio show, Rex Radio, that is hosted by Phil Lesh and Gary Lambert. The Tom Tom Club includes Talking Heads members Tina Weymouth on bass and drummer Chris Frantz. Their sound at times bordered on disco with the syncopated sound of drums and synthesizers. They performed their hit “Genius of Love,” as well as a surprising rendition of Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me” that was the highlight of their show. Also performed was “Femme Fatale,” (an old Velvet Underground tune) and The Talking Heads classic “Psycho Killer.” After their set, The Tom Tom Club crossed the Bay for a midnight show at The Warfield Theatre.
Around 10:30 the Dead took to the stage amid a thunderous roar from the partisan audience. They went on to perform an incredible set. Opening with the late Sam Cooke’s “Good Times,” the boys roared into “Franklin’s Tower.” The Dead were then joined by a surprise guest, Clarence Clemons, Bruce Spingsteen’s sax blowing big man. Clemons hit the groove as the Dead went into an incendiary “Wang Dang Doodle,” which at times had that “Spirits in the Night” feel with the addition of The Big Man. This was followed by “West L.A. Fadeaway” which ahs been the Dead’s jamming tune this year (David Hidalgo, Mick Taylor and Clemons all have joined the Dead on this song at various shows this year). While the boys jammed, a large inflatable Gumby and Godzilla held a mock fight in front of the bandstand to the delight of the crowd (Gumby kicked ass). Clemons left after this number with Garcia assuring all that he would be back. Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” followed. “Cold Rain and Snow” exploded as the Dead rocked as hard as they could. “Cassidy” followed by “Don’t Ease Me In” closed this energetic set.
The energy in the arena rose considerably as we awaited the midnight hour. We didn’t have to wait long because at the strike of twelve all eyes were focused on the back of the arena. To the strains of composer Phillip Glass’ “Powaqqatsi,” Bill Graham, dressed as Father Time, flew on a giant mirrored ball amid lots of fireworks to the stage as the crowd counted down the last few seconds of 1988. The house lights went up as thousands of balloons dropped from the rafters. The Dead, joined by Clarence Clemons broke into “Sugar Magnolia” as the audience throbbed with ecstasy. The house lights didn’t go down till the end of the next song, “Touch of Grey.” The Dead were on a roll as they performed “Women Are Smarter” and their classic “Terrapin Station.” The songs seemed to take on a new life of their own, compliments of Clemons’ sax playing. Billy Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart were joined by Olatunji and Kitaro for a tribal stomp that fueled the fire of this great show. After space, more gold flowed; “The Wheel,” “Gimme Some Lovin’” and “All Along the Watchtower” were given the Dead full throttle treatment. “Morning Dew,” one of the oldest songs in the Dead songbook, was performed flawlessly with Garcia’s vocals seeming to reach previously unattainable notes. You could hear a pin drop as all 16,000 fans savored every nuance of this all time favorite. When Weir went into “Sunshine Daydream,” the Dead set had come full circle. The deafening applause from the packed Coliseum raged for a full ten minutes as the Dead contemplated what the next move would be. When they came back, the Dead surprised many as they went into “Wharf Rat.” “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad” followed with Clarence blowing up a storm. The band ended the evening with “One More Saturday Night,” a song Clarence knows since Bruce Springsteen has performed this Bobby Weir song at his concerts as well.
All in all it was a solid, very well played show. The song selection hit on every stage of the Dead’s long history. The Deadheads flowed out into the freezing parking lot for one last bash before going back to their respective communities. Sky rockets filled the sky as vendors made their last pitch to hawk their wares. Hundreds of Deadheads danced in front of a large bus that was blaring this evening’s show from speakers sitting on the hood. It was one big party that nobody wanted to end. And I certainly wasn’t about to suggest it.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
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The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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