Grateful Dead

Wake Up To Find Out: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY, March 29, 1990

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In 2012, a freshly remastered and neatly polished release entitled Spring 1990: So Glad You Made It surfaced, a highlights reel of live performances from an increasingly polished and technologically minded Grateful Dead. While still just trucking through the years by then, the Dead had all but forgotten about studio albums, choosing to focus their energy much more on touring and honing a live show that included more glaringly synthetic keyboards and experimenting with the interface of organic instruments and MIDI processing. Though still a deeply searching live unit, the Dead of the '90s were a different beast than their younger selves, and the decades had grown them into a stadium-sized act and one of the highest grossing touring bands of all time. Though the band stayed true to its fans and continued to develop, shows from what would soon reveal itself as the Dead's final years (with the death of bandleader Jerry Garcia in 1995) are often ranked lower than the outer-orbiting flights of psychedelic jamming that occurred in their earliest days and as their sound took root in the '70s. Wake Up to Find Out: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY, March 29, 1990 serves as something of a companion piece to So Glad You Made It, collecting some of the best of the band's later live output, but it also stands in a class by itself as a full recording of the concert where the band was joined by jazz institution saxophonist Branford Marsalis. After they whip through a bright first set featuring mostly live staples like "Bertha" and "Ramble on Rose," Marsalis joins in at the start of the second set for stellar, extended takes on the more exploratory side of the Dead catalog. His airy improvisations on classics like "Eyes of the World" and "Dark Star" sound brilliantly natural here, and what's most palpable is the sense of exhilaration and mutual respect between these two forces of sonic trailblazing. The vintage filter that made the band's earliest live recordings so interplanetary is definitely still long traded in for a more computerized '90s lens here, and there's plenty of flubbed lyrics, corny tones, and just downright bad later songs throughout the first set. Regardless of all that, as soon as the band starts to create with Marsalis, something shifts and the endlessly creative spirit that fueled the band's wildest adventures returns with a vengeance, and the results are almost giddy with joyful excitement.

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