Grateful Dead

Dick's Picks, Vol. 13: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY 5/6/81

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This was only the second out of the first 13 volumes of Grateful Dead live recordings that tape archivist Dick Latvala picked from the 1980s. Though Latvala's '70s bent was acknowledged, the '80s would be a challenge for anyone, since the band's performing was below standard for so much of the decade. In choosing May 6, 1981 at the Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, New York, Latvala followed the taste of Deadheads, who rank this among the best shows of that year and of this period in the Dead's performing history. It's a show that appeals to hardcore fans largely because of a 15-minute section in the second set (and on the third disc) following "He's Gone," an instrumental passage containing the group's so-called "Caution Jam" (an improvisation based on the earlier composition "Caution [Do Not Stop on Tracks]") -- in its last-ever performance -- and their "Spanish Jam" (based on Bob Weir's "Solea") -- in its first performance in nearly five years. This is the Dead at their most deadly, engaging in simultaneous improvisation without a theme in sight. The rest of the show is fine, but it's the second-set explorations that make 5/6/81 special. (Note that, as a hidden track on the second disc, there is a medley of "Scarlet Begonias" and "Fire on the Mountain.")

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