Grateful Dead: Dave's Picks Volume 49, Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA, 4/27/85 & 4/28/85 (Rhino) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Grateful Dead

Dave’s Picks Volume 49, Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA, 4/27/85 & 4/28/85


Mar 12, 2024 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

In the pantheon of Grateful Dead live material, 1985 is certainly not the first year one would think of in terms of revolutionary music. However, as the 49th volume of the Dave’s Picks live series attests to, this very well may be a significant oversight.

Lemieux himself, the Dave of Dave’s Picks, cites in the liner notes to Volume 49 that he himself began listening to the Dead in 1984 and by later in the decade had amassed most of the band’s live work from the ‘80s, so if anyone would have the cache to pick the best from 1980s live Dead it’s Lemieux.

Volume 49 is a four-disc set that features two complete shows, April 27 and 28, 1985, both at Standford University’s Frost Amphitheatre in Palo Alto, CA. In 1985, Grateful Dead was five years removed from its last studio album, the disappointing Go to Heaven, and two years from its big revival album In the Dark, which featured the omnipresent “Touch of Grey.” But the fire the band brings to these two diverse sets in 1985 is unique.

The first two discs, which feature the April 27 show, are an upbeat affair, the band tending toward swifter tempos and jauntier arrangements. “Brown-Eyed Women” is noticeably sped up, and “Eyes of the World” is more energetic and fast-paced than the band’s typical renditions.

Elsewhere, the set keeps things interesting with the extended, bluesy “Little Red Rooster,” “Black Peter” from Workingman’s Dead, and Phil Lesh singing lead on Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.” This first night in Palo Alto also finds the band breaking out lesser-played cuts like Bob Weir’s “My Brother Esau” and the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter composition “Keep Your Day Job,” the latter which ends the show, and both which provide interesting counterpoints to the usual Dead fare.

Discs three and four take on the band’s second night on April 28, and this show is a looser and at times more subdued affair, the band finding the groove and settling in. It all starts with a lazy version of The Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’” that leads into a gravelly-voiced but vibrant rendition “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” and the Weir-sung classic “New Minglewood Blues.”

Brent Mydland’s “Tons of Steel,” whose studio version found its way onto the aforementioned In the Dark, adds a traditional rock and roll feel following an extended 11-minute version of Garcia’s “Bird Song.” By the two-fer of “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider” to end the first set, the band has gained momentum, and it bleeds right into “U.S. Blues” after the break. “Hell in a Bucket,” also from the forthcoming In the Dark, is rendered terrifically, followed by the band dipping back to Blues for Allah for an eight-minute gentle “Crazy Fingers.” The rest of set two is relatively typical Dead, ending with “Playing in the Band,” “Wharf Rat,” the newer “Throwing Stones,” and “Not Fade Away” to conclude the night.

In all, Dave’s Picks Volume 49 highlights an era of Grateful Dead that most may not think of as prime Dead. However, the performances herein stand with the band’s best, and the sound, as usual, is bar none for live recordings. So dig in and vibe out. Volume 49 is choice. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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