This version was special for a couple of reasons. First, these shows at the Hampton Coliseum were “stealth” shows. Apparently the Dead scene in Hampton had gotten out of hand in the eyes of local officials, and while the band wasn’t barred from playing the arena they did have to employ some guerrilla tactics. These two shows, 10/8-9/89 were announced on short notice and billed not as the Grateful Dead, but as Formerly The Warlocks. Perhaps this mega prank contributed to the energy on display during these shows.
The other significant note about this Help/Slip/Frank is that it was the first one played since 1985. You might think that after a 4 year hiatus a complex tune like Help/Slip might be prime for a few trainwrecks, but I don’t hear any here. Really, this was the first time the Dead played this sequence with that 89/90 sound – you know that really full sound? Personally, I’m a big fan of it, which likely helps explain this selection.
Later era Slipknot!s did not have the same level of complexity in later years that it had in ’75-76, and that is true here as well. They essentially cut out one of the diminished runs, but the song still rocks. The Slipknot! jam build nicely. Phil is really working hard here. Brent adds in some MIDI horns to give things a bit of a different sound, this is especially noticeable right before the segue into Franklin’s.
Franklin’s bounces right out of the gate. It’s pretty evident that everyone is full of energy and having a good time. Brent is really on fire, running up and down the keys like a mad man. He joins Jerry for the “listen to the music play” line and the crowd roars their approval. Garcia winds his way through his next solo and Brent adds some nice figures throughout. He’s really hitting the note here. They bring it down for the final verse. Phil vamps and once they get to the final chorus things start to build again. Billy and Mickey seem to be attacking their kits, and Jerry unleashes another frenzy of well-placed sound from his fretboard. The cacophony subsides, and Phil noodles around in the forefront until everyone brings the song to its conclusion.