Saturday Dead (Zimmer's Picks): 12.14.80

Words By Andy Zimmer

Spring finally looks like it has arrived!! The trees are budding, insects are buzzing around newly-opened flowers, a warm breeze brushes my cheeks as I venture out of the house, and the air smells fresh and new. As our corner of the planet sloughs off another winter from its endless journey around the sun, it feels good to be alive... and warm. But least we take the splendors of spring and summer for granted, let us not forget the icy darkness that is surely waiting in the wings to bring the chill back into our bones. Winter may be gone, but it’s not forgotten. And, with this week’s pick, I’ve decided to dive into the month of December and hope that the warmth of spring can thaw out this frozen classic.

This week’s show comes from the winter tour of 1980. There are plenty of solid shows from November/December of ’80, and if you aren’t familiar with these concerts, I would recommend that you do a little digging and give some of them a listen. Today’s pick is from The Long Beach Arena on December 14 of 1980. Typically I try to provide soundboard (or at least matrix) recordings for my picks, but the audience source for this show is so good that I had to include it.

With the opening notes of “Bertha”, the band gets right into it. This high-energy opener sets the tone for a very up-tempo show. Bobby keeps the ball rolling with a great take of the “Greatest Story Ever Told”. I particularly enjoy the versions of “Althea” and “Big River”.

The second set opens with “Cold Rain and Snow”, a tune that I always enjoy seeing in any Dead set list and a great way to open a set. The meat of set two is some really good stuff. “Estimated Prophet”>”The Wheel” shows the band sounding tight and jamming well. It may be a little strange to hear the band pull out “The Wheel” before the “Drums/Space” portion of the set, but it segues into the ambience quite nicely before the band blasts back off with an excellent version of “The Other One”. Latin percussionist Airto Moreira and his vocalist wife, Flora Purim, sit in with the band for “Drums/Space” and add extra layers of texture to the confusion. Top it off with a “Brokedown Palace” encore and you have yourself a damn fine concert!

Grateful Dead Live at Long Beach Arena on December 14, 1980.


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