The Grateful Dead's appearance at the Oakland Auditorium Arena on Friday, December 28, 1979, was the 73rd of the 75 shows they played that year and the middle concert of their five-date New Year's stand at the venue. They were thus well in harness, not only in general but also that particular week, and, beginning with a familiar opener, "Sugaree," they demonstrated that they didn't need to warm up, plunging into their program with gusto. The archivists who choose concerts for the Dead's ongoing series of live albums, currently dubbed Road Trips, have dipped into the Oakland run before, presenting the second set of the December 26 show as Dick's Picks, Vol. 5, and it's easy to see what's appealing about this set of shows. It's well recorded, of course, and the Dead were playing before a near-hometown crowd in a traditional time of the year for them -- they felt comfortable. While the coming New Year's Eve appearance might have special aspects (including, this time, guest John Cipollina, formerly of Quicksilver Messenger Service), the concerts leading up to that climax were near-standard performances. If there was one unusual aspect, it was keyboardist Brent Mydland, finishing his first year with the band. Clearly, by this point he was well integrated, and was not shy about asserting himself. Note in particular in this show the organ solo in "It's All Over Now" and the electric piano solo in "Alabama Getaway." By now, the Dead's live series is so long that the compilers don't really need to be trying that hard for "special" performances; concerts like this one, that are just well played and representative of the band on a good night, are just fine for longtime fans.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann