The Grateful Dead’s Sept. 2, 1983, concert at Boise State University is an odd choice for Dave’s Picks’ first foray outside the 1960s and ’70s and an even odder selection to be enshrined in the pantheon of official live-Dead releases.
As it goes, Volume 27 presents a good – not superior – Grateful Dead show, famous in part because it represents the band’s only concert in Idaho and kicks off with Phil Lesh’s on-mic admonishment, “citizens of Boise submit or perish – you are a conquered people” as the band launches an early version of Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle.”
Other set-one highlights come later, with monumental renditions of “Looks Like Rain” and “Deal,” the latter boasting a scorching guitar solo to wrap the song and the first half.
Hot moments notwithstanding, 9/2/83 is not the show with which to turn friends on to the magic of the Grateful Dead.
Jerry Garcia muffs the essential opening chords to “Help on the Way,” and mumbles his way through the verses, robbing the song of much of its allure. The subsequent “Slipknot!” finds the band struggling to get through the instrumental’s tricky passages, though “Franklin’s Tower” fares much better.
To make matters worse, Garcia’s voice is starting to betray the self-inflicted wear that would fully materialize in ‘84 and ‘85 and he suffers from microphone issues that add a distracting, far-off quality to his vocals on songs such as “They Love Each Other” and “Eyes of the World.”
Set two is at its best during a deliciously wobbly “Estimated Prophet” and the post-“Eyes” improvisation (“Jam”) that finds keyboardist Brent Mydland playing around for a few minutes with drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart before they dive headlong into the evening’s “Drums” sequence. “Space,” too, is appealing in that it has a song-like quality as Bob Weir slashes out chords that hint at a melody while Garcia scribbles over them like a mad musical scientist.
Coming out of “Space,” a nascent version of “Throwing Stones” is interesting for its alternative lyrics and a bridge that’s still under construction. Meanwhile, Garcia has some of his finest moments of the night on the rollicking “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad” that follows. The guitarist’s final solo on “Black Peter” is also a winner; too bad it didn’t develop further before Weir kicked in to “Sugar Magnolia.”
As is always the case with Dave’s Picks, this limited edition of 18,000 sold out in an instant. Fans who didn’t pull the trigger on time will do fine listening to the tapes.