View From The Vault I

Grateful Dead

In the tradition of the Dick's Picks series, the Grateful Dead are issuing videos of their live performances, originally shown on the big screens beside the stage for the people way in the back. The first of the appropriately entitled View From The Vault series is from their July 8, 1990 appearance at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA. The DVD includes additional footage from July 6, 1990 at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, KY. Having witnessed a number of grades, bootlegs and the endless line of legitimate Dead video, I can safely say this is four hours of some of the finest footage I’ve ever seen.

On film, the Dead are nothing spectacular to look at; the mood, however, that encapsulates the band’s legacy still manages to translate appropriately to celluloid. There’s something to be behold, watching Jerry Garcia pour over his guitar, winking to keyboardist Brent Mydland — who would die from a speedball overdose a mere 16 days after this performance. The two sets captured here are filled with blistering performances of Dead classics.

Opening up with “Touch of Grey,” the first set plugs along fearlessly, patched together with covers like Dylan's “Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues” and “Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried.” As usual, the Dead really come to life during their second set. The camera focuses in on Garcia, uncharacteristically mamboing while the beat perks up for “Samson and Delilah.” From there, we are treated to seminal versions of “Eyes Of The World,” “Estimated Prophet,” “Terrapin Station,” “Black Peter” and “Throwing Stones.” Set two finishes up with another Dylan classic, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.”

The extra filler from Kentucky is a free-for-all with the beautiful “Standing On The Moon” slipping easily into “He’s Gone” and off into a Dead super jam. Judging by the quality of the sound and picture of this disc, the View From The Vault series could prove to be the most accurate depiction of what the Grateful Dead were actually like, up close and in action. And while that may not be the best visual in the world, Deadheads are certainly rejoicing.

~ Shawn Perry

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