Grateful Dead

Truckin' Up to Buffalo: July 4, 1989

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Spread over two CDs, 2005's Truckin' Up to Buffalo contains the Grateful Dead's entire 1989 Independence Day performance. This date -- from Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, NY -- was the second of their summer East Coast tour. Many if not all of those gigs were documented by a six-camera crew under the direction of Len Dell'amico. The thoroughly favorable results can been seen and heard on the similarly titled companion DVD volume. Deadhead audiophiles will definitely want to avail themselves of that release, as the 5.1 Surround mix puts the consumer front row center. Dell'amico's résumé boasts several earlier collaborations with the combo, such as Dead Ahead (1980) and So Far (1987). During the '80s, the Grateful Dead's lineup featured Jerry Garcia (lead guitar/vocals), Mickey Hart (drums), Bill Kreutzmann (percussion), Phil Lesh (electric bass/vocals), Brent Mydland (keyboards/vocals), and Bob Weir (rhythm guitar/vocals). While glancing at the song list may not reveal any surprises, finicky and hard to please enthusiasts will be thrilled by above-average playing from start to finish. A prime example is the rousing coupling of "Bertha" and "Greatest Story Ever Told," kick-starting the festivities. Garcia seems to be in good spirits, as his resounding vocals and fretwork are consistent and exceptional. In his intangible fashion, Garcia is able to elevate the proceedings from being merely adequate into the occasionally rarefied air of excellence. In particular, the aggressive reading of "Deal," concluding the first set, boasts fierce instrumental interaction reminiscent of the intensity that accompanied "That's It for the Other One" jams of the late-'60s/early-'70s era (namely those from the legendary February 27 through March 2, 1969 run at the Fillmore West). They resume their feisty exchanges throughout with a note-perfect "Touch of Grey" that slams into an equally inspired cover of the calypso classic "Man Smart, Woman Smarter" and a reprise of "Playing in the Band" that picks right back up where they had left off during the previous show. Despite the occasional lyrical flub, another high point is the emphatic "Morning Dew" that glides into a boogie-fueled "Not Fade Away" closer. Seeing as it was the Fourth of July, the "U.S. Blues" encore, while a somewhat obvious choice, is likewise a welcome one. Parties desiring more multimedia goodies from the Grateful Dead's 1989 East Coast summer jaunt should direct their attention to 1997's Downhill from Here, which captures the band at Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, WI, a few weeks later.

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