Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals; Nicky Hopkins - piano; John Kahn - bass; Ron Tutt - drums; Guest: Matthew Kelly - harmonica
The Grateful Dead had been in retirement from touring for over a year when Jerry Garcia put together a hot little quartet with British piano virtuoso Nicky Hopkins. The group, which also featured Garcia's longtime cohort John Kahn on bass and drummer Ron Tutt, only existed for a few months. They primarily concentrated on material from Garcia's three solo albums, with a smattering of Nicky Hopkins' compositions and interesting covers thrown in for good measure. These two nights were a feast for Deadhead ears, as Kingfish, featuring Bob Weir, and Keith and Donna Godchaux's Band, with Bill Kreutzmann on drums, opened these shows, providing the local Dead fans the opportunity to catch up on five out of the six primary Dead members' recent activities.
While the first night was a rather relaxed affair, this second night finds the group playing with a considerably higher level of intensity. Appropriately enough, they kick it off with Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock." Right off the bat, the band is inspired to jam and Garcia and Hopkins trade solos and improvise around each other for a remarkable 14-minute take on the song.
They follow up with "They Love Each Other," a song from Garcia's new album, with an arrangement that shows Garcia's growing interest in reggae music. The cover of Irving Berlin's "Russian Lullaby," which follows, is mildly interesting. This song was recorded in an up-tempoed, bouncy arrangement for Garcia's second solo album; accompanied by the Great American String Band featuring David Grisman the version was quite enjoyable. The radically slower arrangement played here, however, tends to drag. They get it back together for Hank Ballard's "Tore Up Over You," which is a solid, rocking performance with the group obviously enjoying themselves. Garcia takes numerous hot solos and Nicky Hopkins is in his element pounding out barrelhouse piano throughout. One of the unquestionable highlights of the night.
With the upcoming holidays on their minds, the group doodles around on a humorous instrumental take of "Jingle Bells," and then fires off into Nicky Hopkins' "Birmingham." An enjoyable rendition of the Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" is up next, followed by a rocking "Money Honey," performed much like the version on Ry Cooder's classic album Into the Purple Valley. This inspires some excellent, rollicking jamming that lasts almost 15 minutes.
Finally we reach the end of the night and the band really cuts loose. Beginning with a loose jam on The Rolling Stones' "Lets Spend The Night Together," they veer off into space and out of the haze. Nicky Hopkins kicks into his signature instrumental, "Edward, The Mad Shirt Grinder," a song he had originally recorded during his tenure with Quicksilver Messenger Service.
This shows Hopkins' frenetic and intricate piano work at its best, and Garcia obviously having a lot of fun. The slower middle section features some respectable slide work from Garcia and the reprise showcases everyone jamming at full capacity. A remarkable ending to one of the best shows this particular ensemble ever played.