Today marks the anniversary of the final show The Grateful Dead ever played in Binghamton, NY. The final three of these all took place at Broome County Arena, with the first show being at Harpur College in 1970. Shows at the Arena then followed in 1977 and 1979. After a short run of shows on the West Coast to open 1983, the Dead traveled east for their spring tour. With keyboardist Brent Mydland now comfortably established in the band’s dynamic for a few years now, this show offers a glimpse of vintage of early ’80s Dead and a taste of all their varied sounds and styles to date.
The show starts off in a somewhat disjointed fashion with Jerry Garcia mumbling a good portion of the lyrics to “Alabama Getaway.” Harmonizing vocals and the customary wailing Hammond B3 organ fills from Brent Mydland help to mitigate the early shortcomings. After a fairly tame Garcia solo, the band quickly shifts into “Greatest Story Ever Told.” Bob Weir leads the vocals on this quick one that features a much improved Garcia solo at the end. Jerry continues his first set ascent with the “Bird Song” that follows, nimbly maneuvering through the lyrics and delivering some ethereal guitar work. Mydland on electric keys now and Weir on rhythm guitar create a wonderful canvas of sound upon which Garcia paints effortlessly.
“New Minglewood Blues” is next on the docket with Weir once again taking lead and Garcia and Mydland each exchanging boisterous solos on this one as each song so far seems to get progressively more cohesive. This carries on right into a must-hear “Peggy-O” that features a truly heavenly tone from Mydland on keys that accompanies Garcia on vocals.
The emotions remain high and flow nicely into the “Cassidy” that comes next, with Mydland continuing to dazzle with an array of different tones emanating from his keyboard rig. This yields another short but ferocious Grateful Dead jam that the Binghamton fans applaud appropriately on this recording.
“Loser” brings the first set heat back down to a simmer before another few Garcia solos rile up Broome County Arena once more. Things continue to pick up with the cover of The Rolling Stones’ “It’s All Over Now” that follows and features more spectacular work from Mydland on the Hammond. Afterwards, the Dead throw it back a little with “Dupree’s Diamond Blues,” a recently revived classic that dates back to the late ’60s. A rousing “Let It Grow,” heavily fueled by the percussive tandem of Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, then ends the first set that seems to celebrate almost ever era of the band’s musical catalog to date.
The Grateful Dead‘s final set in Binghamton starts off in traditional fashion with a “Help On The Way” that unfortunately sees Jerry revert back to some fumbled lyrics. Its traditional tag-team partner “Slipknot!” gives Garcia a chance for redemption as he delivers a mesmerizing guitar solo atop another full bed of sound with constant accentuating flares thrown about by Mydland and Weir. A jazz-like jam evolves from this for a bit in a “Slipknot!” that gets stretched out nicely before rounding back into form. The abrupt segue into “Franklin’s Tower” then rounds out the second set’s triumphant opening trifecta. Garcia has no issues with the vocals here and throws in a few exuberant, rapid-fire guitar runs for good measure that surely enthralls the Broome County crowd.
A second set “breather” of sorts then ensues with another traditional Dead sequence. Bob Weir takes lead on “Lost Sailor,” a song the Dead would only continue to play for a few more years after this. Another abrupt segue then serves as the lead-in to “Saint Of Circumstance,” completing the longtime song pairing that had been a regular part of the band’s live repertoire since 1979. This paves the way nicely for “Terrapin Station” as the Grateful Dead delight Binghamton with yet another classic.
The song’s drum-heavy ending, as it had and would continue to do many times going forward, serves as a natural entrance ramp to the evening’s “Drums” > “Space” sequence. To little surprise, after the band reemerges on stage, so too does “The Other One.” At several points moments earlier, drummers Kreutzmann and Hart seemed to be fashioning a similar-sounding drumbeat to the iconic one that begins this song.
In vintage Dead fashion, the intensity of “The Other One” is juxtaposed nicely by the fairly mellow, in comparison, “Wharf Rat” that follows. This gives Garcia one last chance to deliver a couple of choice solos with a nice, jazzy backdrop of sound provided by the rest of the group. As “Rat” dwindles out, the opening chords of “Not Fade Away” start up as the Dead begin to close their final Binghamton gig. At its conclusion, the crowd shows its appreciation and continues singing “Not Fade Away’ all the way through the encore break, something that would become commonplace for this song throughout the rest of the band’s career.
As a result, the encore begins with the Dead reciprocating and playing an NFA-reprise in response back to the crowd. Fittingly, the show then ends with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” With a setlist featuring two songs with the words “It’s All Over Now” in it, it’s almost as if the Dead knew this is the las time they would ever grace the Parlor City.
Grateful Dead – Broome County Arena – Binghamton, NY 4/12/83
Set 1: Alabama Getaway-> Greatest Story Ever Told, Bird Song, New Minglewood Blues, Peggy-O, Cassidy, Loser, It’s All Over Now, Dupree’s Diamond Blues, Let It Grow
Set 2: Help On The Way-> Slipknot!-> Franklin’s Tower-> Lost Sailor-> Saint Of Circumstance-> Terrapin Station-> Drums-> The Other One-> Wharf Rat-> Not Fade Away
E: It’s All Over Now Baby Blue