The Grateful Dead‘s 1983 fall tour saw the band playing a slew of shows in the Northeast in October. After two shows at Madison Square Garden the week before, and two more at the Hartford Civic Center, the Dead made their way Upstate and paid a visit to Lake Placid and the Olympic Center.
Only a few years ago, this venue housed one of the greatest upsets in sports history thanks to the “Miracle On Ice” in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Now it was the Dead’s turn to leave their mark on the place. This would be the only show in Lake Placid the band would ever play. Fans dubbed the tour stop as the ‘Special Olympics for Jerry’s Kids at Lake Acid,’ and where the opportunity presented itself, covered up the ‘PL’ in ‘Placid’ at every sign to the journey to the Olympic Town for added effect.
Most Grateful Dead shows are known for fun first sets that set the mood before things “take off” in the second one. This may be one of the few shows that goes against that notion thanks to such a powerful opening set. Some early warm up tones of “Sugaree” can be heard before the band launches into the real things. Garcia leads the way with some blistering guitar licks with the rest of the band just trying to keep up. It results in a near 17-minute version that’s arguably one of the best jams of the night – rare for an opener.
This opening burst of energy reemerges in the “Little Red Rooster” that picks up soon afterwards. With sublime bluesy licks provided by Garcia on guitar, Bob Weir’s customary growling vocals and beautiful organ fills from Brent Mydland, this one is a true group effort. A steadily building jam that slowly grows in intensity makes this a memorable “Rooster” that stretches past the nine-minute mark.
Things then slow down a tad with the “Friend of the Devil” that comes next, played in its slower tempo. Afterwards, Weir reassumes vocal duties and leads the band through a standard run through of “My Brother Esau.”
But that frenetic energy displayed in the opening 1-2 punch doesn’t seem to reemerge until the jam that arises from “Bird Song.” With more intricate guitar work laid down by Garcia, this one takes after its namesake and soars. An appreciative crowd make their feelings well known at the end of this one.
There’s no let up in the rest of the set. Weir belts out the lyrics to a quick but powerful “Hell In A Bucket” that includes a brief “Mustang Sally” quote towards the end. At its conclusion, Garcia immediately drops the opening guitar lick to “Deal” and the band is off and running again. The high octane, extended jam that results from this one stretches this “Deal” well past the ten-minute make and serves as an appropriate closer to an absolutely fiery opening set.
While the second set may not offer up as much firepower as its predecessor, there are some memorable moments to be sure. “Touch of Grey,” a newer song at the time that would later propel the Dead to a new level of stardom, begins the set. Despite some brief feedback issues, it gets a nice hand from the crowd when all is said and done.
“Samson and Delilah” produces more high energy interplay between band members, with bassist Phil Lesh making his presence clearly felt on this one. Then comes a bust out of sorts in “To Lay Me Down,” the first one played in 82 shows. Though it shows little signs of rust as more poignant guitar work and delicate vocals from Garcia pepper this one throughout.
Despite some early fumbling of the lyrics in the “Terrapin Station” that comes later, the band makes up for it with a beautifully patient and well executed version. The heavily percussive outro jam then bleeds right into the beginning of the traditional “Drums” segment, like it has so many times.
After some heavy noodling from Garcia in “Space,” showcasing all sorts of guitar effects, “The Wheel” slowly emerges. The revved up Lake Placid crowd is audibly charged up for this one. Allegedly, crowd members in both the concourse and lower bowl linked arms and danced arm in arm around the arena during this one. What a sight that must have been.
The second set comes to a close with a couple of longtime covers that the Dead have perfected by now. “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad” sees the crowd getting into it once more, vigorously clapping along in time. This is followed up by The Rascals’ “Good Lovin’,” giving Garcia one last chance to lay down some impressive guitar solos. And Bob Weir’s Pigepn-esque “rap” at the end sends the crowd into a frenzy.
One more cover choice ends this one. Perhaps in a nod to John Lennon’s birthday which is October 9th, the Dead trot out The Beatles’ “Revolution” for the encore. It almost sounds like a slower version of “Deal” at first. And with that, the band’s lone performance in Lake Placid was complete. This was no “Miracle” though, just another Grateful Dead show.
Listen to it here.
Grateful Dead Olympic Center – Lake Placid, NY 10/17/83
Set 1: Sugaree> Little Red Rooster, Friend Of The Devil, My Brother Esau, Bird Song, Hell In A Bucket> Deal
Set 2: Touch Of Grey> Samson & Delilah, To Lay Me Down, Women Are Smarter, Terrapin Station> Drums> Space> The Wheel> I Need A Miracle> Goin’ Down The Road> Good Lovin’