Two Grateful Dead shows from the summer of 1987 are featured on the nearly four-hour View from the Vault, Vol. 4 DVD (2003), which is likewise the first to contain the option of either a Dolby 5.1 surround or the more standard Dolby stereo 2.0 mix. These concerts also featured a third set with the band backing Bob Dylan (guitar/vocals). Sadly, Dylan refused to allow footage to be shot of his performances. However, the combo was recording material for an upcoming live album, which surfaced as the relatively uninspired Dylan & the Dead (1988). It was around this time that the band began to peak in terms of general popularity. Their unique circuslike atmosphere had attracted a perpetual audience ever since their seminal Haight-Ashbury days. It had been exactly two decades since the Summer of Love and there were few artists from that era who could claim concurrently new material on both the top album (In the Dark,1987) and singles ("Touch of Grey") charts. This is perhaps the reason that secondary cuts from the long-player, such as "When Push Comes to Shove" and "Tons of Steel," are so prominently included.
The band is certainly playing with a renewed verve and sense of vigor. It had not been quite a year since Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals) had fallen victim to a serious diabetic coma and, quite frankly, the poor guy looks like he's run a marathon even before he plays the first note. That certainly doesn't prevent him from weaving fleeting yet intricate leads throughout the thoroughbred version of "Jack Straw" that opens the festivities. Other highlights from the first show -- at Oakland Stadium (July 24, 1987) -- include an inspired and thoroughly jammed-out "Playing in the Band," which flows effortlessly into the extended "Drums" and "Space" segments. The second concert -- which was held at Anaheim Stadium (July 26, 1987) -- is arguably the better of the two. The band seems to pounce right out of the gate with a wiggly reading of the Mardi Gras masterpiece "Iko Iko" that literally defies the listener to sit still. The second set offers up a profound "Shakedown Street" and "Terrapin Station" suite, as well as a heart-wrenchingly poignant "Stella Blue." "Friend of the Devil," "Me and My Uncle," as well as "Big River" -- all of which were performed in Oakland -- were excised due to the time constraints of a single multi-layer DVD. However, at nearly four hours total running time, those are relatively insignificant exclusions.