Today’s Dead-trospective takes us to a Glens Falls Grateful Dead show at the Civic Center played 41 years ago. August of 1979 was interesting time for the Grateful Dead. New keyboardist Brent Mydland was still getting himself acclimated, having joined the band in April. This is only his 19th show, but his second time performing in New York with the Dead after they played Broome County Arena in Binghamton in May.
1979 featured a lot of short tours spread out over the course of the year. This would be the opener of one of them, a six-show tour in the Northeast with the last three at Madison Square Garden. This is the first time the Dead played the Civic Center. They would come back and play a single show the next three years as well.
The show begins with “Promised Land,” a Chuck Berry cover and “Dire Wolf.” It’s a fairly pedestrian 1-2 opening punch with plenty of post-song tuning. Bob Weir’s “Cassidy” follows, now in its new form with Mydland on backing vocals.
After some more tuning and indecision, things begin to take off with “Loser,” the Garcia-sung card playing saga. Jerry has a little fun with the lyrics on this one as the “Ace of Diamonds” comes up once instead of the usual Queen. The recording gets a little bass-heavy in the brief jam that follows but is well worth it. A typically poignant Garcia solo on top of everything else seems to genuinely excite the Civic Center crown.
A brief patch of the AUD recording doesn’t deter from a “Peggy-O” that hits all the right spots with Garcia’s vocals in top form. The first set also has a spot for newcomer Brent Mydland’s “Easy to Love You,” only the second one ever played. Afterwards, Bob Weir gives a little “love” to the locals in “New Minglewood Blues” with a change of lyrics to “New York women.”
This being another transitional period for the Dead, new songs and playing styles would continue to emerge. “Lost Sailor” had only been played four times prior to this, debuting earlier in the month. But this show in Glens Falls would feature the first ever “Saint of Circumstance” as it blended in immediately afterwards, making it sound almost like one song, which it would continue to do for years. This is really the last multi-song composition purposely crafted by the band.
A slow to start “Shakedown Street” begins the second set but it soon turns into a boisterous one with plenty of Garcia-fueled funk. The next song would be the return of a forgotten hero with only the second “Greatest Story Ever Told” since it was shelved towards the end of 1974. Garcia seems to tease “Black Peter” afterwards, a sign of things to come, before the “Ship of Fools” that follows.
The recording slips back to the AUD source towards the end of the stretched out “Estimated Prophet” that follows. But this give a great insight to the feel of the room. Swaths of people can be heard clapping along to the “Eyes of the World” that Garcia transitions to frenetically. This one is uptempo and bouncy from the get go with Mydland dazzling on the electric keyboard.
The highlight of the show comes later in the second set with a remarkable transition from the “Drums” section to “Not Fade Away.” The whole band is locked in atop an infectious rhythm as Garcia continues to pull all sorts of tones out from his bag of tricks. It’s a powerful segue, and executed perfectly, as the jam continues right through “Not Fade Away.”
Fittingly, the show is bookended with “Around and Around,” another Chuck Berry cover. Perhaps curfew was an issue as there does not appear to be any record of an encore for this show. But these two sets would pack enough of a punch on their own with new material and some exquisite second set jamming.
The Grateful Dead would travel to Rochester after this show, for a show at Holleder Stadium. But it’s clear they found a nice new place to play in Glens Falls, the music proves it. Upstate New York fans wouldn’t have to wait too long for a reunion though. The band would return in May next year for another masterclass in psychedelic rock.
Grateful Dead 8/31/79 Glens Falls Civic Center – Glens Falls, NY
Set 1: The Promised Land, Dire Wolf , Cassidy, Loser, El Paso, Peggy-O, Easy To Love You, New Minglewood Blues, Althea, Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance > Deal
Set 2: Shakedown Street, Greatest Story Ever Told, Ship Of Fools, Estimated Prophet > Eyes Of The World > Drums > Not Fade Away > Black Peter > Around And Around
Recording starts with brief AUD patch before switching to SBD source. Patches also heard in “Peggy-O,” “Minglewood,” “Estimated Prophet” and “Eyes of the World.”