Saturday Dead: New Years 12.31.91
Words By J-man
December 31st, 1991 marked the closing of a great year musically for The Grateful Dead. This show from Oakland, CA reflects an interesting time of transition. The energy seemed odd though the audio quality is great and the setlist solid:
Grateful Dead Live at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 31, 1991.
SET I: Hell In A Bucket, Candyman, Beat It On Down The Line, It Must Have Been The Roses, Black Throated Wind, West L.A. Fadeaway, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Help On The Way-> Slipknot!-> Franklin's Tower
SET II: Not Fade Away-> Eyes Of The World-> Estimated Prophet-> Drums-> Jam-> The Other One-> Wharf Rat-> Sugar Magnolia, E: Knockin' On Heaven's Door
That New Years would be the first without legendary promoter, Bill Graham. Bill died just months before in a tragic helicopter crash. There was a certain somberness to the band's music and although this show has gotten a lot of criticism, there are some great high points.
The show opened with a great "Hell in a Bucket," then fell off with a slow "Candyman." The music picked back up with "Beat is on Down The Line" before a crisp and heartfelt "Must Have Been the Roses." "Black Throated Wind" was followed by "West L.A. Fadeaway" then "When I Paint My Masterpiece." Up to that point the show was pretty lackluster. Then "Help On The Way>Slipknot," although it was slower than I prefer, had a euphoric vibe about it. "Franklin's Tower" brought a needed boost in energy as Jerry's vocals were on with the typical soulful, reaching sound. That would close a fairly mild first set.
The second set kicked of with some crazy banter. The countdown took place, they cleared the stage of debris and the band kicked into "Not Fade Away." It was a great start to the second set with the band then launching into a slow and spacey "Eyes of The World" that went into "Estimated Prophet." "Estimated" went into a jam before shit got weird. The music turned towards "Drums/Space" as the noises and nonsense heavily increased. In the middle of the second set the band literally segued into thirty five minutes of intense SPACE before resolving with "The Other One." The band then segued into "Wharf Rat" before an enjoyable "Sugar Magnolia" to close the second set. They encored with "Knocking On Heavens Door," which isn't my favorite, yet was fitting for the occasion.
All in all the show was decent. More than anything, I chose this show for it's historical significance and for the fact that the emotion and energy following Bill Graham's death was palatable. It marked yet another significant period of transition for The Dead and it marked the end of an era...