Sunday, June 26, 2005

Cold Rain & Snow

No, not a description of the weather, which, today, is hot and sticky in South-Central Pennsylvania. Rather, continuing in the somewhat eclectic (some would say schizophrenic) vein of my blog, a song -- a Dead tune to be precise. Usually positioned as a show opener on every fifth or so Jerry night, it occasionally made appearances in the number two or three slot, and in the second set. The CR&S on which I confer the highly subjective "best ever" status appeared in none of those spaces, cropping up in the fifth slot of the first set on a Bob night -- a position almost unerringly reserved for a ballad, blues, or cowboy tune. Although the oddity of the song's placement may have had something to do with its special rendition, CR&S, much more than other Dead tunes, is carried by the beat that Billy and Mickey chose to lay behind it at the outset. Too fast and the song gets too poppy, too slow and it plods. On April 3, 1988 in Hartford, Billy and Mickey got it just right, giving Garcia the opportunity to hit every note with piercing clarity and giving the tune a two-fisted driving feel.

Clearly, the crowd ate it up. Although CR&S did not differ from playing to playing in the substantial fashion that would, say, Sugaree, Garcia's solo here is special -- a minimalist attack that soars on a spare, but spectacularly apt, choice of notes. The hypnotic rythym toward the end of the solo works to induce a crowd clap-along performed in a (very) rarely-achieved unison. Jerry and the band are taken in by the spell and during the verse following the solo, Jerry siezes the words with a gusto all the more powerful for its infrequency. I am unaware of any video of this performance, but I guarantee one of those precious avuncular chuckles as Garcia steps back from the mike and glances stage-right after a particularly heavy lean into the line "I ain't gonna be treated this-a-way."

Give it a listen (select gd88-04-05d1t05_vbr from the stream). The rest of the show is mediocre as Garcia's voice audibly gives out in the early stages of the Memphis Blues following CR&S. The Box to end the first set, though, is worth lingering for.