Next up in the series of individually released DVDs that comprise the Grateful Dead’s All The Years Combine box set are View from the Vault and View from the Vault II. Both have been previously released in other formats by other labels, but have been lately out of print. Thanks to current distributor Shout Factory, despite not adding any new content, they have returned to availability.
View from the Vault presents the band on what had become its annual summer stadium trek- this one a stop at Three Rivers in Pittsburgh on July 8, 1990. With a “Touch of Grey” opener, the latter-day line-up works through a fairly typical setlist for the time. Touching down in the group’s various decades, “New Minglewood Blues” and “Row Jimmy” saddle up alongside “Mama Tried” and “Mexicali Blues.” The second set contains a wonderful first half with much of Terrapin Station performed, bookending a tangential “Eyes of the World.” Bob Weir gets more work on the backend with cuts like “I Need a Miracle” and “Throwing Stones,” but it is Jerry Garcia’s dose of show-closing emotion on “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” that, in light of keyboardist Brent Mydland’s death less than three weeks later, seems oddly and eerily prescient.
The follow-up, View from the Vault II, finds the Dead almost a year later expanded by one and including two new faces in the effort to replace Mydland. Taken from a concert at the now-extinct RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. on June 14, 1991, the ensemble welcomed a duo to the keyboard bank- the former Tubes member Vince Welnick and guest and friend Bruce Hornsby. Once again, the tracks offered deliver few surprises in their appearance, but it’s the addition of Welnick’s decidedly electronic tone contrasted with Hornsby’s grand piano and squeezebox styling that differentiates this outing. There are moments when it’s apparent this is a work-in-progress, especially for the house mix, having to balance the variety of lead lines emanating on-stage. Highlights include a “Help on the Way>Slipknot!>Franklin’s Tower” trilogy and a popping “Turn on Your Lovelight.” The bonus footage from RFK the previous summer features four songs (including a rare “Box of Rain”) from one of Myland’s final shows, and this juxtaposition exhibits painfully what the group had lost, despite the immense talent of the new additions.
The advent of video cameras displaying the Grateful Dead’s performances on in-house screens came out of the desire to make the cavernous stadium dates feel less so. Consequently, the band held a resulting document of the concert, worthy now as more than just a commodity or souvenir. This pair and the others of the collection are music history and the closest present and future generations can be to experiencing this era of the Grateful Dead.