A return to Shakedown Street is always a welcome thing. There aren’t a ton of versions to choose from but those that are available aren’t anything to shake a stick at.
In fact, I was rather surprised that I found this version so interesting. There was a discussion in an earlier post about the issues surrounding this first Road Trips release. I went back and listened to it to see what I thought upon further reflection and this track jumped out to me as a really strong one.
That’s one of the things that I really like about a band that has such a vast amount of released material. It provides ample opportunity for reflection and comparison. This constant re-evaluation and re-assessment is part of the fun of being a Deadhead.
Things start to get interesting during the first instrumental break. Jerry not only plays with notes but plays with the space between the notes really nicely here. The cliche that sometimes it’s not what you play, but what you don’t play applies here. The vocal riffing on the chorus sees some call and response between the singers and Garcia’s guitar, as well as a bit of ad libbing from Senor Weir. Brent starts to lay down some funk with the clavinet. Where was that before? THAT is what this song needs rather than plinky keys. Jerry starts to poke around in his own right and hits his stride pretty soon thereafter. But man alive, Brent is just killing it on the clavinet. Don’t get me wrong Jerry plays some nice stuff here, but he comes across as a bit restrained. Of course, with Brent doing his thing and doing it well that stands to reason. Brent eventually switches back to keys and Jerry starts to exert himself more since there is more room to do so. There’s a really cool build up sequence right around the 12 minute mark with highlights from all three melody instruments. This leads to a fiercer jam for a bit, before they lay back in the groove again. No one seems to know which way to go until it’s finally decided to hit the main theme again and bring the song to a close.
Complete Setlist 10/25/79