Grateful Dead - 'Truckin' up to Buffalo' a review




Last month, the Grateful Dead released a concert DVD from Buffalo, NY 1989. The press line says “Arguably considered to be the Grateful Dead's best tour of their last 15 years of touring”. Now, I can speak to that… and I slightly disagree. Though the band has spend a lot of time suckin’ over the years (the entirety of the 80s, for example)… mostly due to various serious drug addictions… I found the 1991 tour to be better.  This tour did began a golden era for the Dead. This tour was also chronicled on DVD with the release several years ago of ‘View from the Vault’. I am very partial to both these shows, as I was at both of them. In fact, the Buffalo show was my very first Dead show. I wish I could gush over details of finally getting to see Jerry Garcia in person, but I think I had a head full of acid at the time. Actual recollections of the show are scarce, to be terribly honest. The DVD is a wonderfully crisp audio and video transfer of the event.

 I should note this set is also available on audio only CD. However, don’t pick up another live Grateful Dead set until you have ‘One from the Vault – Great American Music Hall 1975’ or ‘Live without a Net’. To me, those are definitive Dead documents. There are zero extras on this set, not even bonus footage from other shows (as they have been doing on this series of releases)

However, we have this document to remind us of the state of the Dead circa 1989. Jerry remains much of the same character he was when I saw the whole East coast tour in 1991: the best guitar player in rock… and wasted most of the time. Somehow his talent must have been unconscious, because the more zoned he looks in the eyes… the more his fingers are dead on. For the record though, Jerry was decently lucid at this show.

 What I saw in the DVD is the coming of an entire new era for the Grateful Dead… the Brent Mydland era. Now, Brent had been with the band since 1980’s ‘Go to Heaven’ but only now was beginning to take an active role. Brent was their insanely talented keyboard player who could out-sing the rest of the guys in the band with two tourniquets tied behind his back. My soon to be sister in law declared herself a “Brenthead”. I didn’t know what that meant until I saw him and completely understood. If you want a taste of why I bring this up, watch Brent take the second verse of ‘Women are Smarter’. Notice how he flags Bobby down tointercept the second verse as if to say ‘I got this one’. (1:23) Then, he just fuckin’ nails it. I don’t think you have to be a hardcore Dead fan to catch how powerful that moment is.  This pirated video is interestingly different than the one released for the DVD.  The camera angles are all different. The whole band drops back after Brent finishes his verse… just floored. Out of Jerry comes the super elusive smile. It’s like the torch was passed to Brent at that moment. “Hey Brent, you carry the band for a few years… we’re too fucked up.” Problem is, so was Brent.
  
That moment alone to me says the future of this band belongs to Brent Mydland. While you are saying what I know you are saying… there is proof. When the band played that show they were in the process of recording their final studio album ever; Built to Last. On that album, Jerry sings three songs and Bobby Weir sings two. Brent Mydland sings four songs. Also, his songs are better than the others. Brent could out-sing the others and played a mean keyboard.


Let’s look at some of the other performances on the set. We close with a terrific and fourth of July inspired ‘US Blues’, Looks like Rain - Bobby nails it. Touch of Grey - seems half assed to me,. However, it is such an amazing song, it is always welcome.  Terrapin Station – terrific, as always. To me, this song is a true lynchpin of a great Dead show. Some worship Dark Star, which is never ending hubris filled crap jam. No sir, I do not need a Dark Star. However, if you get yourself a Terrapin… then you are at a great show! I will take you home – Brent nails this very new song. The crowd had most likely never heard it, as it was off of ‘Built to Last’ which hadn’t come out yet. It is a very beautiful song that Brent sings to his children… about how he will ALWAYS be there for them… always. This becomes pertinent, read on. Brent always had this look in his eyes. He had this extreme focus and intensity that I can’t possibly describe. However, if you have seen him… you know what I mean.



However, if you know anything about the Grateful Dead… you know their keyboard players don’t last long. Tom Constanen, left the band after two albums, Pigpen – dead, Keith Godcheaux – dead


and the week I got back from seeing the 1991 summer tour? Brent Mydland – dead! Drugs, overdoes, suicide, nasty divorce, custody issues – dead. Gone. Ah, shit!



Comments

Roy said…
And yet, at the show that you speak of, your head was full of booze and drugs, according to your own narrative. So let me get this right, the audience can be cranked up, but the band cannot?

Hypocrite.

- Rejoice its Sunday, which means football.
Lono said…
No, they can not. Why, because they are at work. So, fuck you!
Anonymous said…
Hallo!
If you like old blues,visit my blog.Blues history in croatian and some mp3.

http://blueser.blog.hr/

Bye, blueser !
Anonymous said…
Hey, I haven't seen the "Truckin" DVD yet, but as a hardcore head, I'd like to point out some errors in your review, as well as some gross exaggerations #1. It was said of the Mydland song 'I will Take you Home': "The crowd had most likely never heard it, as it was off of ‘Built to Last’ which hadn’t come out yet". Actually the debut of that song came over one year earlier on 6/22/88 at Alpine Valley and had been played live well over 20 times across the country before this concert. Trust me, people who knew the dead were VERY familiar with this song by 7/4/89. Secondly, there were PLENTY of shows that Terrapin was played at that weren't unbelievable. The appearance of Terrapin didn't only come on amazing musical evenings. I hate to say it, but it's true. And lastly, you state: "and the week I got back from seeing the 1991 summer tour? Brent Mydland – dead! Drugs, overdoes, suicide, nasty divorce, custody issues – dead. Gone. Ah, shit!" Brent died on 7/26/90, and had been gone for over a year after the 91 summer tour.
Ooogaleee said…
There's an awesome version of "You Can Take Me Home" on 'Dozin' at the Knick'.

Where does that run fall relative to these Buffalo shows?...Ooogy

Ooogyland
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Hey Lono. Very nice blog :0) I just got inside from washing and waxing my truck. It is my baby. Took me 2 hours though. So I settled down into my basement and started doing some web surfing. Anyways I am in the process of grabbing my masters degree and have spent the last 6 months researching acoustic electric guitar. In the midst of my surfing I landed smack dab in the middle of your blog. I hope you do not think I am intruding but I must say it is great blog. Even though Grateful Dead - 'Truckin' up to Buffalo' a review is way off base from acoustic electric guitar I found myself cruising through your blog archives for the last half hour :0) You have some nice blogging friends. Anyways, I need to get back to my mission. I wrote don’t your url and feel free to visit me here at acoustic electric guitar. I am so busy so I can only update my site monthly. Keep up the great work.
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If you do not mind I may snag your blog and put it in my favorites. I read a ton of stuff that interested me. Keep blogging away :-)
All I can say is WOW Lono. The other half and I just got back from our friends house (well her friends house) and I needed a huge break. I am working on a project right now that is based on beginner guitar. I have literally been on-line for 2-3 hours doing research. Even though Grateful Dead - 'Truckin' up to Buffalo' a review really isn’t on the same page as beginner guitar I am certainly glad I came across your blog. There are a ton of great view points on this blog. Well I think I can here the kids screaming in the background. I put you in my internet favorites and I will certainly come back and visit. If you want to take a peek at my site you can find me here at beginner guitar. I update my site very frequently. Again, great job blogging and I will be back again soon!
Hey this blog is not about online guitar. Silly internet bringing me here :-) Funny I have been doing hours of research on online guitar and it brought me to your blog on Grateful Dead - 'Truckin' up to Buffalo' a review. The web plays funny games sometimes. Anyways, I was reading your blog Lono and I think it is really cool. Keep up the great work.
If you do not mind I may snag your blog and put it in my favorites. I read a ton of stuff that interested me. Keep blogging away :-)
I love your blog Lono. How long has it been on-line? Reason I ask is I am doing a ton of work in the area of takamine guitar and will probably end up starting a blog of my own. Funny how the internet brought me here when I was doing searches on takamine guitar. Oh well, I am glad it did. Keep up the great blogging and I am sure I will visit Grateful Dead - 'Truckin' up to Buffalo' a review again!!
spider said…
I agree with roy. And what's your obsession with Brent? He sings like a cream puff--you sleeping with him or something?
Anonymous said…
I know this post is super old and all, but...
The 1991 tour you found better..
The one you had just got home from and Brent died...
Whatever! He died in 1990. Fall 1990 was Vince's first tour with the band, along with Bruce.
89 and 90 both kicked ass. 91 sucked it.

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