Four discs, two complete concerts, one very lively Grateful Dead album.
Recorded on the band’s first East Coast tour after Jerry Garcia’s 1986 near-death crisis, Dave’s Picks Volume 36 captures the Dead on March 26 and 27, 1987, in Hartford, Conn. And the recordings can barely contain the excitement that bursts forth on the opening “In the Midnight Hour” and burns through the finale, “Johnny B. Goode.”
In between are 36 additional tracks – only “Drumz” and “Space” are, as always, repeated – that, for pure energy and enthusiasm, can’t be beat. The crowd is juiced and in turn juices the band, which responds with such exuberance it sometimes results in flubbed lines or missed cues.
Imperfections aside, these are the moments that made Grateful Dead concerts the only-in-this-time-and-this-place moments unlike anything before or since. And Dave’s Picks Volume 36 is one of those recordings that makes one long for a time machine.
Phil Lesh is particularly amped – literally and metaphorically – on night one. His voltage spurs Bob Weir’s reckless abandon on “Looks Like Rain” and the inspired vocal coda and “Spanish Jam” tease at the end of “He’s Gone.” The subsequent full-band “Space” melts into a vocal-cord-shredding “I Need a Miracle” and Brent Mydland gooses “Around and Around” with barroom-style piano.
Night two is similarly super-charged and crackling with energy from the opening “Alabama Getaway,” through to a rare, second-set “Cumberland Blues” and the post-“Space” combo of “Uncle John’s Band” and “Morning Dew” that, while not the epitome of either number, twists the crowd into an explosive frenzy.
Dave picked two good ones this time around.