As technology became more sophisticated over the Grateful Dead's 30-year career, they were able to document their performances more completely and in higher quality; however, their fans are in general more interested in their earlier work. The Dead organization has tried to release archival recordings from throughout the band's history, but the year most frequently represented is 1990, when the band played 74 shows -- mostly in arenas, although there were half a dozen stadium shows in mid-summer. The Dead are also trying to activate a video archive series, and that brings us to View From the Vault, released on DVD and VHS, for which the present collection is the audio complement. It's one of the six 1990 stadium shows, the July 8 performance in Pittsburgh (with more than half an hour of the July 6 show in Louisville added as a bonus a the end). It is not one of the Dead's great performances, but it may be of more interest to casual fans than more unusual concerts. It begins with the group's biggest hit, "Touch of Grey," marking the first time the Dead archivists have included this song on any live album. The opening set, featured on CD One, is a relatively tight effort, dominated by a gruff Jerry Garcia in its first half and an enthusiastic Bob Weir in its second. Weir continues to dominate with impassioned performances at the end of the show; it's no wonder the compilers balanced the books by including bonus Garcia songs from Louisville. At their most popular as a concert attraction in the 1990s, the Dead remained agonizingly inconsistent from one show to another, and that always seemed an unavoidable part of their approach to performance. The Pittsburgh show was neither a high point nor an embarrassment, but it might not be worthy of release if it hadn't been so well documented.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann